My Rap on Yap

Writing about Palau yesterday reminded me of a story I once wrote for Continental’s inflight magazine on “8 Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of.” The main body of the story was on Yap. Smack dab in the middle of Micronesia, between Palau and Guam, Yap is known only to World War II history buffs and scuba enthusiasts. Large numbers of manta rays live in the crystalline 83-degree water offshore. Anchor at the edge of the M’il Channel and these graceful creatures will soon be hovering above your head, stretching up to 12 feet from wing to wing.

What those oxygen-tank junkies fail to notice is that terra firma is just as intriguing as the sea. The 12,000 or so Yapese still use stone money; massive disks with circles through the middle are littered about the island, leaning up against thatched huts. The islanders are also fond of chewing betel nut. Toddlers to grandmothers spit out the red juice, making the roads look like scenes from a gory thriller. For visitors, sliced papaya and coconut is a tastier alternative. 
Stone paths weave through jungles of hibiscus, wild taro, and bamboo. If you’re fortunate, you’ll be able to catch a traditional Yapese dance, where locals use bamboo sticks as a form of storytelling. Masks and other hand-carved objects created from hibiscus, coral limestone, and, yes, the spines of manta rays are on display at the Ethnic Art Institute of Micronesia. Ultimately, it is nature that beckons. Whether scuba diving or guiding a kayak through the lush mangrove forest to view fairy terns, this exotic locale nestled deep in the Pacific will leave you enchanted. Just keep it a secret.