Yap. Three little letters, one vowel two consonants and rolls off the tongue. Diving there had been on my bucket list for years, much like playing with mantas was a heartfelt desire. I should backtrack a bit. I have jokingly called mantas my “Sea Yeti” for years. Ever since I came to the CNMI and Guam I had been trying to see my mythical creature. A creature that kept eluding me. One I was sure was laughing from behind the large coral heads, waiting until I turned my head to move to the next coral head. Always in my periphery but never in focus. I took it as a challenge and started diving three or four times a week on Guam, dusk and dawn dives. But to no avail. My husband saw a manta……….. in the wild………. and he does not even DIVE. He saw it snorkeling, I was right behind him but missed it. All my friends had seen them, multiple times. It became a running joke. The Manta Club, a club I was not in. I started to think of it as a bigger joke, like a conspiracy joke. There really was no manta, it was another diver off in the distance with underwater bat wings. It was a cosmic joke. All the websites were fake. All the documentaries were fake. Other people’s pictures were fake. Thus evolved my Sea Yeti story.
Then Yap happened. I can’t lie, that first dive of the trip, I thought I had made a terrible mistake. The weather was not what it generally was for that time of year and it was a long boat ride; and it was rainy and windy. Forty-five minutes in, we were almost to the dive site when the boat captain decided it was too choppy. So, back towards the mouth of the channel we went. The rain was pelting so hard I could not look forward. I put my raincoat on, but that didn’t really help. We were moving so fast and the rain was coming down so hard it was stinging my back and I was miserable. I thought to myself, WHAT HAVE I DONE?
Our diving done, I went to wash my camera and it was broken. No idea how. But I was devastated; it was the first day of diving for Pete’s Sake. I knew this pretty much guaranteed I would get to see my Sea Yeti. I would not be bested by fate again, I WOULD have my proof and I had thought ahead and brought an older back-up camera. I went to bed with it charging and awoke ready to start the day. I got ready and excitedly got my gear ready in the boat. On the way to our dive site I went to take a picture of the mangrove waterways we were zooming through and……… dead battery. No idea why it had not charged, but nothing to be done for it now. That first dive was incredible, aptly named “Manta Alley”. The visibility was horrible and I swear the mantas took that into account and came extra close. I looked around, a bit envious of everyone getting such incredible photos, but then looked up as one went just feet above my head and thought, I have the best picture.here.in.my.mind. The Sea Yeti has been proven not to be a mythical creature but a beautiful and shy creature that reminds me of my beloved bats……just underwater.
Want to go with us? Sign up for Manta Mania 2018: https://micronesianconservation.org/jen-manta-mania/
This post is dedicated to Gabe Craig, who fought a long battle with cancer. He spent time diving in Yap in 2016 with family before entering his final year of treatment. At Manta Mania 2017, a new juvenile male manta was discovered and named after Gabe. Although Gabe is no longer with us, he lives on in this new manta spirit. Rest in Peace, Gabe Craig.