The Digital Shootout 2006 is run by Backscatter and Light & Motion,
with support from Wetpixel.com, Sam's Tours, and the Palau Pacific Resort
April 12-16: Yap Extension
Traditional bamboo-stick dance, Kadai Village
After our wonderful time diving in Palau, a dozen Shootout participants flew
50 300 (or 400 or whatever) miles to Yap in pursuit of manta photographs. We were hosted by the Manta Ray Bay Hotel and Yap Divers, and had the pleasure of meeting Mike Veitch, who is one of our moderators here at Wetpixel.
Unfortunately, the Shootout participants only had fleeting glimpses of mantas during their three days of diving, and I only had a single good manta pass during my 6 days. But such is the nature of nature. Last year at this time, mantas were seen in groups of up to 30 (!).
On Saturday, we headed out to Kadai Village, where Stan (our village host) showed us the fruits of a cultural preservation non-profit that has been trying to keep elements of the old ways alive. During our short stay, we enjoyed fresh fruit and coconut juice, conversation with Stan about Yap's history and culture, a coconut tree climb by a local boy, and a traditional bamboo-stick dance. We shot about a billion photos.
After everyone else left, I took advantage of Yap's wonderful mandarinfish dives, where single coral heads were producing 6 or more of the beautiful little dragonets, all mating around sunset and then again swimming up into the water column once darkness had settled in (attracted to the lights, perhaps? this is strange behavior for mandarins). They slowly rose up through open water and settled, using both my camera and mask as shelter; it was all I could do to make sure that they were all returned to the safety of the branching coral! I had never seen anything like it.
In the south outside the lagoon, Yap has a vertical wall with thousands and thousands of pink anthias milling about, darting into crevices and slowly spreading back out radially after each sign of danger. Small groups of blue jacks patrolled the wall's ledge, regularly kicking off blindingly-quick attack runs through the schools and into the holes in which the anthias had retreated.
Both above and below the water, Yap is as different from Palau as any two islands could be. I can't believe they are so close to each other, and definitely am going to return to try for mantas again.
Underwater Photos by Eric Cheng
Topside Photos by Eric Cheng
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