Resort Report: Manta Ray Bay Resort

The Place to be for Mantas and More

Divers come to Manta Ray Bay Resort in hopes of seeing the resort's namesake marine animals. And it's an almost certainty that they will come face to face with manta rays when exploring the waters of Yap Island. But this destination is not a “one hit wonder,” as there's much more than mantas to discover on the reefs and walls where the big rays are found.

The Resort

Manta Ray Bay unapologetically caters to divers. The property sits directly on the waterfront, with a centrally-located dive center, and a fleet of dive boats waiting at the adjacent pier. Reminders of the underwater world are ever-present throughout the resort, as each of the 35 rooms in the three-story hotel is named for a different fish, and showcases a unique themed décor that includes artwork of that species, along with delightful details such as hand-carved doors and hand-made bedspreads. The resort offers a range of accommodations, from well-appointed standard rooms to ocean-view suites that pamper with amenities such as king-sized beds, private patios, plunge pools, and even a private rooftop soak tub. All rooms include a full complement of expected creature comforts such as air conditioning, in-room refrigerators, TV/DVD and Internet access.

Manta Ray Bay is the creation of Bill Acker, who came to Yap as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 70s and fell in love with both the diving and a local woman. He put down roots on the island and opened the resort in 1986. Over the years, he and his staff have made continuous upgrades to the property, with the goal of becoming one of the world's premier diving destinations. Among the more recent enhancements to the property are a new lobby, an infinity-edge swimming pool and the opening of the on-site Taro Leaf Spa. A signature feature of the resort is the Mnuw, a 120-foot traditional sailing schooner now moored permanently in front of the hotel. This classic vessel has been transformed into the resort's dining area. To facilitate morning boat schedules, breakfasts are served buffet style. The kitchen provides full menu service for lunch and dinner, along with catering and special dinners on request. The upper deck of the Mnuw holds the Crow’s Nest Bar, which is the ideal place to mingle and relax after a day on and under the water.

The Dive Facility

Yap Divers is the resort's on-site dive center. This full-service shop is both a PADI 5 Star Dive Center and an SSI Silver Diamond resort. Each guest is provided with an individual storage area adjacent to the dock, and photographers can make use of lockable camera storage cabinets and dedicated work and charging stations. The center offers nitrox, stocks a full complement of rental and replacement gear, and employs a dedicated service tech to handle repairs or adjustments. Arriving divers are always greeted by the staff, which provide detailed briefings before each dive trip, and take pride in attending to each diver's individual needs. The staff handles the daily setup of regulators and BC, which means guests, need only handle a compact dive bag containing mask, fins and other related items.

Yap Divers operates a fleet of eight twin-engine dive boats ranging from 21 to 38 feet in length. This allows the resort to accommodate anything from private charters to larger groups who want to dive together. All boats carry radio, oxygen and emergency medical kits for safety. One additional advantage these boats provide is the ability to navigate a mangrove channel that runs through the center of the island. This route significantly reduces travel to some of the prime dive sites around Mi'l Channel, which is one of the primary areas where manta rays gather.

The Diving

Yap is known as one of the world's premier destinations for encounters with manta rays. The rays are present year-round, with some seasonal variation between specific sites.  Bill Acker and his dive team are the acknowledged experts on local manta behaviors, and they have learned which sites to target each day, based on water conditions, tides and time of year. The sites where mantas are most likely to be encountered are the cleaning stations. A manta dive at a cleaning station usually involves hovering in place and waiting for the mantas to appear. Most of these sites are at depths of 40 feet or less, which yields long bottom times, and plenty of chances for sightings.

Mantas may be the main attraction, but there's a lot more to Yap's underwater scene. There are more than 50 named sites around the island, offering everything from channel drifts and wall dives to shallow reefs and critter-rich macro sites and muck fields. Yap Divers typically offers two-tank morning dives, plus an afternoon dive and regular night dives. They also stage a shark feed that draws dozens of gray reef and blacktip sharks, as well as clouds of reef fish, which dart about gobbling up the scraps missed by the big predators. Just minutes from the resort, there is a shallow site where mandarin fish stage their evening courtship rituals, and night dives provide a chance to find leaf fish, ghost pipefish, and many other unique creatures.

Yap is a destination worthy of at least a full week of diving, plus a day or two ashore to discover the island's unique culture, which includes the famous stone money. The island is served by flights from the US West Coast through Hawaii and Guam. A popular option for many travelers is to create a combination itinerary that takes in both Yap and Palau. If you are ready to plan what many have called the trip of a lifetime, give us a call at 800.330.6611 or drop us a line at sales@caradonna.com to start planning your own manta encounter.