FEATURE by John Fillmed

The island of Stone Money and home to the giant Manta Rays, YAP is a tiny island located in the Micronesian Region of the Pacific Ocean. YAP has suffered under five occupations, has fought to retain its culture and traditions and is famous for it's Stone Money, an estimated 3000 piece of which were quarried in Palau and transported to Yap over 270 nautical miles of open ocean. The largest of the stone money - over 15 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick and weighing over 2 tons today, lies in the village of Riy on the forbidden island of Rumung. This stone money can be viewed by special arrangment but cannot be photographed.

Yap still holds the secrets of celestial navigation which made it possible to navigate the sea without any man-made navigational instruments: just the use of natural phenomena - wind, currents, clouds, stars, and birds. Yap has made it possible for other Pacific islands to find their roots of navigation and to prove that the population was not shipwrecked but traveled there. The art of celestial navigation, the secret of carrying tons of lime stone on small boats, and the organizations that ruled Yap thousands of years ago, can still be encountered and experienced today.

In the only town in Yap, Colonia, the marina is home to numerous fiberglass boats with 4 stroke engines and canoes made of breadfruit wood and tied together with coconut fiber rope, evidence of the old and new coexisting together. The traditional canoes are still in use today in the outer islands of Yap. They carry passengers and food between the islands, an efficient and non-polluting way of keeping trade alive.

Today Yap is struggling to find a way to retain its culture while developing a sustainable economy that iis based on US dollars. There have been many clashes between the two eonomic and political forces, some good some bad.. There is one thing though that is helping Yap to enjoy a small cash flow - The Giant Manta Ray. Yap is home to over 30 species of manta ray. Scuba divers come from around the world to have close encounters with these giant creatures. While the mantas can be seen all year round, they are in abundance between December and May, when they are mating.

Scuba diving is a sport that attracts about 5,000 visitors a year. It is a clean sport that does not pollute or harm the environment. It is with similar kinds of development that Yap can manage to both sustain its culture and improve its economy.

A Yapese family which has taken this concept to heart recently opened The Pathways Hotel. The hotel features artfully built local style cottages thatched with coconut rope lashings and intricate patterns of reeds, bamboo, and nipa leaves. The property utilized 75% of local resources in the building process. It is a great place to experience the culture, do some diving, and enjoy the ambiance of Yap.

To enquire further about Yap and The Pathways Hotel: Pathwaysres@mail.fm