Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Magical Saipan Experience, MV 20

A few weeks ago I had one of those magical Saipan experiences. I made my first hike to Forbidden Island. This memory sits in stark contrast with this other idea I'm having about who is going to come see this beauty we have when word spreads about the violent attacks on tourists that are becoming a common headline.

First, the good news. I don't always appreciate how unique the landscape here is and how much beauty there is to see if I put the effort in to seek it out. Sometimes this place is so gorgeous that I can just step onto my balcony and see beauty in the spectacular sky above me -- all without much effort. This hike made me think of how long I've been here and not seen this amazing vista and how it should be trumpeted to all our visitors.

I'm definitely not in great physical shape. I'm on the wrong side of thirty with that train heading toward forty, but I'm not broken down enough just yet to turn down the invite from some friends who are trying to make a Forbidden Island hike a New Year's Day tradition. I brought my ten year old son on the hike, and safe to say it was a lot easier for him than me. I took the slow and safe route down, as I had no eagerness for any damaged body parts, and I wanted to appreciate nature and the beauty that was all around while avoiding a heart attack.

Upon arrival after the steep climb down, it didn't take me long to enjoy that crystal pool of blue water, which feels all the more relaxing after the journey down. There was no shortage of colorful fish to be seen through my mask, though I remained aware that there was indeed a bit of ocean current. Mindful of the deaths of some Korean hikers a few months back, I kept my distance from any cliff lines or anywhere a wave could sweep in.

After that swim and some snacks, we went to check out the Forbidden Grotto, which looks a lot like the famous Blue Grotto in Marpi only with a much lower roof and much smaller. A light shines in that creates a near mystical, other world, ethereal scene. A pinkish rock sits in contrasts to the various shades of blue accented by the changing angle of the sun's rays over the clear water.
Near the Forbidden Grotto is a half water filled cave system, not particularly deep, with a breathable surface. The water is perfectly still inside, at least when we were there. There are many unusual rock formations with the usual diversity of color and shape found in most caves. An oblong triangle gape in the cave lets a swimmer look out at the crashing waves and ocean. Outside this lookout is a ledge where some people lost their lives, so it was not a place I was eager to go out and explore. Saipan is an island that requires caution, a lesson I learned with two near death experiences in my first six months on island. I have had none of those problems since I learned that scary point.

Forbidden Island offers the type of scenery we must amplify and highlight. A small percentage of tourists ever make it out there. Some of that is due to the fact that it is a bit physically taxing I'm sure, but it is still quite a place to see and it should be seen -- ideally on guided tours.

In contrast, with the barrage of bad news that seems normal for this place these days, I'm not sure people quite understand that this recent series of violent attacks on tourists have the potential to be cataclysmic and completely destroy our tourism industry worse than any JAL pullout -- quickly. The CNMI doesn't have a reputation for being particularly exotic or high end, but it does have the reputation for being safe. In no time in this age of rapidly spreading internet information, that reputation can change and a country like Japan that has an extremely low violent crime rate simple won't tolerate it. Already a Japanese blog is spreading the word that the Eagle Rays are no longer to be found in Eagle Ray City. A law was recently passed to protect the Eagle Rays after several reported poaching incidents. These are man made actions in which we are doing harm to ourselves.

Nature has given us a beautiful island we should boast about, enjoy and be proud of, but it won't take too many greedy criminals to destroy this gift we've been given. We should get out and take advantage of the beauty around us, and at the same time, we should come down hard on those people trying to damage what we have been given.


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I don't understand why this didn't get any comments. I thought it was a great piece.

Maybe you should have said something inflammatory.

Jeff said...

People don't respond to positive stuff. My account on Rota didn't get any comments, either.