Digging into anything and everything that makes the CNMI tick beyond politics...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Under the deep blue sea

FOR a non-diver or non-swimmer, the surface of the ocean may seem nothing but a long expanse of water with a terrifying mystery in its depths but here is a chance to prove that underneath those rolling and crashing waves, there’s a whole world down there.

Diving into the blue depths of the Saipan Lagoon does not necessarily require you to be a certified diver, or an expert swimmer. You can explore the depths and stay dry aboard the “Deepstar”, Saipan’s newest and only submarine tour.
A motor boat transported us to the submarine moored a few miles off Managaha Island on Saturday. From a distance, we could see the Deepstar bobbing on the water, looking seemingly small and I had doubts about going down in it.
I braced myself and descended 12 steep rungs through the main hatch into the interior of the submarine. I was in for a surprise.
The belly of the Deepstar was comfortably spacious and air-conditioned. Plush seats lined both sides of the submarine and we quickly filed in.
With hatches closed and cleared to dive, we descended to the bottom of the blue lagoon, the flashing numbers on the monitor telling us we were already from 16-20 meters deep.
Gone was my initial fear of the water as I peered through the large viewing portholes into an amazing aquamarine world filled with coral formations, schools of colorful, tropical reef fish and diversified marine life.
The view down is something I only saw in the movies. The tour gave us a chance to view the sunken wreck of a Japanese warship and the remnants of an airplane from the World War 11.
Diving into the deep sea aboard Deepstar submarine is the perfect way for those who don’t want to get wet yet curious of the underwater. Indeed, it’s a memorable experience especially for those who have no idea of the spectacular beauty that lies at the bottom of the ocean.Going down the steep ladder to the belly of the submarine
An audio narration translated in different languages gave us an idea where of where we where and what we were seeing during the tour.
Deepstar is fully certified and inspected by the American Bureau of Shipping, and United States Coast Guard, says Pacific Subsea Saipan Inc. vice president/general manager, John (Jack) McClure.
Pacific Subsea Saipan is the largest marine tour operator on Saipan. Over 17 years providing marine tours, Subsea has served over one million passengers aboard their various vessels.
Any trip to Saipan won’t be complete without going on a submarine tour that is recognized through out Asia as a “must-not-miss” tour
Pacific Subsea has 30 reliable people behind its force, sharing the same goal of providing guests an experience of a lifetime.
Deepstar has a capacity of 48 passengers and makes several dives a day on an hourly schedule, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. McClure said they also offer services like providing Managaha transfer vessels. Guests feast on the wonderful display of marine life through the viewing portholes (http://www.mvarietynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2875%3Aisland-explorer&Itemid=23)

For more photos click here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Hike to Old Man by the Sea

Island explorer

The spectacular rock formation resembles the figure of an old man crouching on the seashore, and this is the first thing that catches your attention the moment you emerge from the thicket and step into the grassy clearing. We were at the Old Man by the Sea, drenched with sweat and our lazy bodies a little bit shocked by the unexpected hike.

The trail is a little bit challenging because we presumed that the Old Man by the Sea is that accessible anytime that when you stop your car, you’re there but we were wrong. A short hike is necessary (that is if you call 30-45 minutes jungle trek a short hike).

The trail involves going up steep slopes and going down cliffs which could get muddy and slippery if it rains. There are portions where you have to hold on to ropes or hang on to the roots of the trees for support, and you have to duck to avoid having your hair or your head get entangled with the low twigs. If you don’t pay much attention to where you’re going, you may get confused and lose your way in the thicket but you will find the trek well worth it when you get there.

The beachside is spectacular with unusual rock formations and huge waves washing over the rocks, a perfect place to commune with the sun, sea and sky, indeed. Here is one haven where you can sit for hours, forget time as you relax and listen to the sound of the waves breaking on over the reefs, or wade in the cold, knee-deep waters near the shore.

Legend has it that an old man was fishing at this beach one day, and he cursed the ocean for not giving him any fish. The ocean reached up and plucked the old man away, but his image was left on this rock as a reminder for everyone to respect the sea.

For those of you who have only seen pictures of the Old Man by the Sea, get up and visit the place because the lens could not exactly describe the breathtaking splendor of the beach. Take some drinking water, snacks, sunscreen or a hat. A set of and extra clothes could come in handy so you’ll be free to go for a dip.

The Old Man by the Sea is accessible by following the Talafofo Road toward Kingfisher Golf Course in Capital Hill. The trail begins just after the Egigi Road intersection and before the San Igancio Road intersection. There is a parking space on the side of the road.

Marianas Variety
(www.mvariety.com) June 11, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A living memorial on Saipan

Island explore
ONE of the must-visit sites on Saipan is American Memorial Park in Garapan, a huge park which serves as a bank of World War 11 memorabilia and a recreation park rolled into one.

National Park Service Ranger Nancy Kelchner said AMP gets a fair share of about 10,000 tourists and about 50 field trips a year.

“Majority of the tourists who drop in are from Japan, Korea, China, Mainlanders (U.S.), Russia and other countries, while the field trips are from the different schools in the CNMI and Guam,” Kelchner said. She said the AMP is designed to be a living memorial for all those soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the island.

The AMP Visitors Center and WW11 Exhibit Hall just turned three years old on May 28 but already, it is gaining a steady stream of visits from locals and tourists.

A brief tour of the Exhibit Hall brings poignant memories of what transpired during the bloodiest battles fought in the island during the World War 11. You can’t help but feel goose bumps as you go through the pictures, recordings and artifacts on display, remnants of the bloody war that claimed thousands of lives years ago.

The Exhibit area has three sections--the Pre-war life, At War on Saipan and After the Battle section. Here is one hall where the chronology of the battle was recorded with artifacts that were mute witnesses of the actual events. Exiting the exhibit hall brings you to an atrium where you can reflect on the war and its impact on the islands. Opposite the reflection wall where you can see the Court of Honor and the Marianas Memorial is the Recovery Wall where colorful pictures are depicted indicating the “recovery from the ashes of the war”. This is indicative that there is life after the war.

A small library is available to help researchers and scholars, a bookshop containing English and Japanese books, videos and other merchandise related to the WW11 and the National Park Service, a 120-seater auditorium which is available for meetings, conferences, film showings, lectures and presentations.

Within American Memorial Park are amenities that the community finds useful like the Amphitheater, Micro beach pavilion, a jogging bike path under the shades of the ironwood trees, Marina and Microbeach restrooms, tennis courts, the Carillon Bell Tower where you can sit for meditation or relaxation, and the whole park which is also home to mangrove forests, native birds and other species.

The Visitors Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday. Admission is free for everybody. For more information, please call (670) 234-7207, fax 234-6698, or email amme_administration@nps.gov.