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Micronesia

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Micronesia

The area of the Pacific that is home to the islands of Micronesia is expansive and has a list of adventures to match. A hotbed of activity during World War II, these islands are home to some of the world’s most famous wreck dives. Truk Lagoon tops the list with more than 100 wrecks from “Operation Hailstorm” including the 500-foot Shinkoku Maru and 437-foot Fujikawa Maru. In addition to World War II wrecks and incredible reef diving, the Palau archipelago has unique excursions including Jellyfish Lake, where you can swim or snorkel among millions of non-stinging creatures, an experience not-to-be-missed. Micronesia’s culture also runs strong throughout the islands but perhaps Yap provides the one of the best opportunities to experience their unique way of life. Here you can stroll down stone paths through villages where mammoth exhibits of stone money denote wealth and social standing of its owner. But as incredible as this cultural experience is, it is the diving around Yap that attracts most visitors and the opportunity to dive with its population of resident manta rays. Divers can supplement their manta encounters with incredible wall, pass and cavern dives.

Micronesia Information

Diving in Palau, Yap & Truk

The Republic of Palau is Micronesia's western most island chain. The tightly clustered Palau archipelago, consists of over 200 islands covering a distance of around 125 miles. Palau is the home to one of the world's unique phenomena, the Rock Islands.

The Rock Islands are Palau's crowning glory. More than 200 of these jungle-topped knobs of limestone dot the waters for a 20 mile stretch south of Koror. Their bases, having been worn away by tidal action and grazing sea creatures, are narrower than their tops, causing them to look like emerald-hued mushrooms rising from the turquoise sea.

Palau has three ocean currents converging in its waters to bring in some of the most varied and dazzling marine life in the world. Palau is the last word in underwater wonderlands: it offers an endless variety of sites to dive - from caves to walls and major drop-offs, to tunnels, channels and shallow reefs, where you can enjoy great visibility and an almost limitless variety of marine life. Dive sites like Blue Corner and German Drop-off are known far and wide, as some of the best dive spots in the world.

Palau also features some of Micronesia's richest flora and fauna, both on land and beneath the waves, including the world famous Jellyfish Lake, which has millions of non-stinging jellyfish pulsating through the water.

The weather is hot and humid, with annual rainfall around 150 inches. The flora and fauna are tropical, but Palau is best known for its 70-mile-long barrier reef which encloses spectacular coral reefs and a lagoon of approximately 560 square miles, a divers' paradise. Palau's water temperatures remain above 82°F year-round, much to divers' delight.

Yap's famous manta rays and the diverse marine life that make their home in Yap's coral reefs and tidal channels have made Yap one of the fastest growing diving destinations in the world today.

The clear waters and sheer drop-offs make for a spectacular variety of diving experiences, but the divers all come for one thing: Yap is the world capital of manta ray diving. More than 45 individual mantas have been identified and given individual names, each easily recognized by the distinct markings.

Mantas are by no means all that Yap has to offer divers. Yap is located below the Pacific typhoon belt and for the same reason the mantas are on show year-round, divers can dive all year in consistent conditions. Reef sharks and big oceanic greys regularly patrol Yap's fringing reefs and have made several new sites and walls popular on the east and southeast coast. These sites also offer caverns, large gorgonian and fan corals, numerous varieties of reef fish and schools of tuna and jacks. Eagle rays also school in several areas in shallow water providing yet another exciting photographic and diving experience for divers visiting these legendary waters.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements

A valid passport with 6 months validity remaining is required for Yap & Palau. Other required items include a return ticket, confirmation of hotel reservation, and another form of picture ID required.

Check Micronesia's entry and exit requirements here.

Immunizations

Vaccinations are not required Yap or Palau. Check with the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel here.

Culture and Customs

The people of Yap are proud and secure in their culture and traditions, which have been incorporated into daily life in the 21st century.

Village life centers around majestic Men's Houses where the local Chief conducts village meetings. Cooking is done over open fires with meals of reef fish, yams and bananas as the staples.

Dance is a living art form in Yap with each village presenting dances to the High Chiefs on Yap Day (March 1). Dancers in richly appointed costumes of hibiscus and flowers perform exciting and graphic tales of the culture and history of Yap. Stone money and Shell Money are still used in traditional exchanges and a council of High Chiefs still yields great influence and respect among the people.

The name Palau may be derived from the Palauan word for village, beluu (Pelew). Some trace the name to the Spanish word for mast, palao.

Palau comprises several cultures and languages. Ethnic Palauans predominate, inhabiting the main islands of the archipelago. Descendants of the Carolinean atolls, especially Ulithi, settled on Palau's southern atolls.

Most of Palau's important cultural symbols are derived from its chiefly past, in particular the gable of the community meetinghouse, bai. This impressive thatched building was the center of political, social, and artistic life. Today the decorated bai gable is used in most national and state seals and to decorate Palauan buildings.

Respect toward elders and leaders is still pronounced. In particular the head is considered sacred and should not be touched.

Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access

Electricity in Yap & Palau is 110 Volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. If you travel with a device that does not accept 110 Volts at 60 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter.

Micronesia has a modern, fully and reliable digital telecommunication system, integrated with US facilities for direct dialing, including free use of 800 numbers. International direct dialing is available from your hotel rooms.

Several cybercafés are in and about the main square. Common operating hours are Monday through Saturday from 10am to 8pm.

Water Quality

Yap's drinking water is safe to drink. The water system is tested continuously to ensure the safety of the drinking water.

In Palau the water is mostly safe to drink in major hotels and resort, however it’s always best to drink bottled water. A jug of drinking water is usually supplied by hotels and bottled water is sold everywhere. In the tropics it is always important to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids to avoid dehydration.

Language & Currency

Yap:

There are four indigenous languages in Yap: Yapese, Ulithian, Woleian and Satawalese. English is the official language of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and is commonly spoken and understood. Many elderly Yapese are fluent in Japanese.

The official currency in Yap is the US Dollar. Yap is famous for its Stone Money which is still in use for traditional exchanges such as the purchase of land or in village ceremonies.

There are two commercial banks in Yap, the Bank of the FSM and the Bank of Hawaii. US currency is used. Credit cards are accepted by most hotels, travelers checks are recommended for purchases at restaurants and for shopping.

Palau:

The official language of Palau is English and Palauan.

Currency is the US Dollar (USD). There are banks in all the major tourist areas, where credit cards are widely accepted.

Micronesia follows the American custom and tipping is an accepted practice in restaurants, hotels, baggage handling.

Time

Yap Standard Time is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+10). Yap & Palau do not observe Daylight Saving Time.

Palau is 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+9).

History, Art, and Culture

The Yap people share their culture, dances and history of their stone money. Underwater, the Manta Rays draw divers from around the world.

Dance and handicraft skills are an artform on Yap. It is through dance that the legends are passed down, history recorded and entertainment traditionally created. The costumes and dances of Yap are lively, colorful and complex, and children begin to learn these important Yap traditions from an early age.

Respect of local traditions and manners are expected and politely observed. Womens' thighs should be covered.

Palau was initially settled more than 4,000 years ago, probably by migrants from what today is Indonesia. British traders became prominent visitors in the 18th century, followed by expanding Spanish influence in the 19th century. Following its defeat in the Spanish-American War, Spain sold Palau and most of the rest of the Caroline Islands to Germany in 1899. Control passed to Japan in 1914 and then to the United States under UN auspices in 1947 as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Four of the Trust Territory districts formed a single federated Micronesian state in 1979, but this eventually dissolved as the individual districts--long culturally distinct--opted for more locally popular status. Palau approved a new constitution in 1981, subsequently signing a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1982. After eight referenda and an amendment to the Palauan constitution, the Compact went into effect on October 1, 1994, marking Palau's emergence from trusteeship to independence.

Location and Size

Yap is located in the Western Pacific stretching from 6 to 10 degrees North Latitude and 137 to 148 degrees West Longitude in the Western Caroline Islands. Yap is one of four States that make up the Federated States of Micronesia and is 450 miles southwest of Guam and 360 miles northeast of Palau.

Located in the western Pacific, the Palauan archipelago is the westernmost portion of the Caroline Islands, which are in turn part of the Micronesian geographical subdivision of Oceania. Palau is 722 nautical miles southwest of Guam. Palau's three hundred volcanic and raised coral islands and atolls rise up from the Philippine Plate, with the highest stone outcrops reaching about 720 feet on the largest island, Babel thuap. The islands have a total land area of 191 square miles.

The capital and major population center is Koror, the small set of islands to the south of the main island of Babelthuap. In 2004 the capital will be relocated to Melekeok on Babelthuap.

Population

Yap = approx. 11,200. Palau = approx. 20,842.

Dive primer
  • Water Temp: 79-82°
  • Visibility: 80-100'+
  • Wetsuit: 1.5mm to 3mm
Best time to travel
  • Year-round
Favorite dive sitesPalau
  • Blue Corner
  • Chandelier Cave
  • Blue Holes
  • Peleliu
Yap
  • Mi'il Channel
  • Lionfish Wall
  • Valley of the Rays
  • Yap Caverns
Truk
  • Shinkoku Maru
  • Fujikawa Maru
  • San Francisco Maru
  • Northeast Pass
Topside attractionsPalau
  • Jellyfish Lake
  • Kayak through the Rock Islands
  • WWII relics at Peleliu Island
  • Cultural and waterfall tours
Yap
  • Hike or bike the Stone Paths
  • Sail a traditional Yapese outrigger
  • Remains of a Japanese WWII aircraft at old airport
  • Visit the Ethnic Art Institute at Trader's Ridge
Truk
  • Explore historic WWII sites
  • Sapuk Lighthouse
  • Tonata Guns and Caves
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