|Yap, the "Stone Money Island"|
Part of the Federated States of Micronesia, Yap is situated in the Western Carolines, between Guam and Palau. It is off the main tourist route and is made up of four main islands - Yap Proper, Tomil-Gagil, Map and Rumung, plus ten small islands, all within the boundaries of a beautiful coral reef.
The landscape consists of rolling hills with lowlands covered with thick jungle-like vegetation. Most of the coastal areas are mangrove with occasional coral beaches. Like other FSM islands, there is a coral reef, so snorkelling is popular as is diving in the crystal clear lagoon with the giant manta rays which appear at certain times of the year.
The town of Colonia on Yap Proper is the capital and is slightly more urbanised than the village areas.
Yap also has 130 outer islands stretching nearly 600 miles east of Yap Island. Most of the outer islands are coral atolls and are sparsely populated by a people different from the Yapese in culture and language.
Three indigenous languages are spoken. These are Yapese, Ulithian and Woleaian. English is the official language, though some local government organisations still conduct business in Yapese language.
Because of its position, Yap was minimally affected when the Spanish colonised Micronesia in the 1500s, and again during German occupation from the end of the 1800s to the beginning of World War 1.
The same thing occurred during the Japanese occupation, so by Micronesian standards, Yap remains relatively unaffected by modern society. Most of the land outside of Colonia is private property so visitors are asked not to litter or to take pictures of people without their permission.
The stone money of Yap (largest in the world) though not legal tender in the international currency market, is still used as legal tender on the island. The value of these limestone, doughnut-shaped coins varies, though not according to size. Today the money is still owned but not moved, even though ownership may change.
Visitors can still see some of the traditional houses in the villages. The villages of Yap Proper still retain the foundations of meeting houses and platforms used by the elder male residents to discuss community matters.
Only a limited number of visitors come to Yap each year, so the people, who are naturally shy, are more responsive to those who respect their culture and customs.
All land and beaches on Yap Proper and the outer islands are privately owned by the traditional leaders and chiefs. If you want to get off the beaten track, request to explore further by asking permission from the tribal elders. You may have to pay a small fee for the privilege.
remains a distinctive destination because of the way the people value
their history. The traditional dress is brightly coloured loin cloths for
men and grass or woven skirts for women.
The official currency is the US dollar and credit cards are accepted only by the Bank of Hawaii, Manta Ray Bay Hotel, Yap Divers and the airlines, so travellers cheques and cash are recommended for hotels, restaurants, shopping, diving and other purchases.
|Woleai, one of Yap's outer islands,
has an appealingly simple lifestyle, friendly people and beautiful
beaches. About 800 people live on five of Woleai's 22 islets, some of
which are clustered together and joined at low tide by sand bars. Woleai
holds firmly onto its traditional ways: canoes are favoured over
motorboats, and there are rules against wearing T-shirts, pants, baseball
caps and other Western clothing. While foreign visitors are exempt from
clothing regulations, it aids your acceptance if you endeavour to wear
There are no formal commercial places to stay, but camping or homestays can usually be arranged. Woleai is accessible by plane from Yap or by slow and circuitous boat. Permission is necessary to visit Woleai (and Yap's other outer islands): make a request to the Special Assistant for Outer Islands Affairs in Colonia, Yap, at least a month before you hope to visit.
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