OUR TRIP TO NORTH MARIANA ISLANDS
Last January, at the Paris diving show, the Spotmydive team had the pleasure of receiving an invitation to visit the Mariana Islands. We quickly realized that none of us can accurately place this destination on a map, or summarize the rich history of this distant archipelago. The only thing we knew was about its proximity with the deepest place on earth: the Mariana Trench.
The Mariana Islands are about 24 hours away from Paris, our trip started at Charles de Gaulle airport heading to Saipan, our final destination. The shortest way to go to Saipan is taking a flight to Seoul first and then a flight to Saipan. Quite a few airlines serve this destination, we had the chance to fly with ASIANA AIRLINES, which offers quality service at attractive prices.
Arrival in Seoul after a first flight of 12 hours, we take advantage of the transit time (6 hours) to quickly leave the airport to the seaside via a monorail train. If you want to eat, many restaurants offer very tasty local cuisine.
After a second flight of 4:30, we finally land in Saipan, capital of the Mariana Islands and largest island of the archipelago. Like any American territory, specific entry procedures must be done before arriving on site. An ESTAT form or a Visa must be done and complete online. After customs pass, we board on a minibus direction our hotel. We will be staying for the duration of the stay at the Fiesta Resort, a large resort located by the sea.
For this first day, two activities are included in the program. The first is to ride electric bicycles to travel north of the island. The electric bike is really a great solution, allowing us to climb the steepest roads with great ease. You will find during this escapade some magnificent points of view like Suicide Cliff. As this name suggests, it is a cliff where Japanese soldiers cornered by the Americans have come to throw themselves into the void in number.
The afternoon was dedicated to snorkeling at Grotto, a natural pool surrounded by rocks and connected to the sea by three impressive exits. We reach this tourist site by 116 steps. Once down, you will have to step over an arm of water to access a big rock that will allow you to jump into the water in perfect safety. This place is quite spectacular, we hope that the access will be regulated in the future to avoid hordes of tourists in this rather confined space. We did some scuba diving here also, bellow you will find more information about this impressive dive site.
A few minutes’ drive from the hotel, we find on the reef, three Sherman tanks of the second world war. How did they get there? What is their story? We will not discover it but these unusual subjects gave us the opportunity for a small photo shoot.
On this second day in Saipan, serious things begin. Two dives are on the program. Accessible from the shore, the Lau Lau Beach dive site allows you to dive several times without taking the same route all this to a maximum depth of 18 meters.
The launching is quite similar to the Egyptian reefs on which one walks to access deeper basins. Once at the edge, we put the fins and we throw ourselves into the water. The first water ride takes us to a spectacular mackerel bench that occasionally forms almost perfect balls.
In this magical aquatic ballet, two turtles come to greet us and pose for our underwater photographers. The second ride is more like an adventure in natural casings formed by corals. This submarine labyrinth becomes a playground where we go from one tunnel to another. This dive site is really ideal for beginners and underwater photographers who will find many topics including the fish ball is the high point.
Just before we left for Northern Mariana Islands, we had the chance to receive the new Hugyfot Vision underwater camera housing for GoPro6. As you imagine, we were very excited and impatient to test the performance and compare with the previous model we own.
Once again, Hugyfot, propose a jewel of technology! With a huge 7 inches screen, now you cannot miss your framing. The product is super easy to you and the videos quality are impressive. Hugyfot improved incredibly the design, the housing is elegant, robust and handy. We could not expect something better!
Our second dive trip takes place this time by boat. Arrived in front of a dive center, two zodiacs and our equipment await us. After only six minutes of sailing, the ship is tied to the rope of a buoy. First good surprise, this coral reef goes down to 45 meters deep. Once on the reef, a graceful turtle asks us to follow her to the depths. Once at the bottom of the reef, three moray eels sharing the same hole look at us with curiosity. A white tip shark passes in front of us and disappears quickly in the distance. Joining our group, we see dozens of butterfly fish swirling around the divers. This show becomes a real photo shoot for the greatest pleasure of specialists.
This second immersion promises to be quite spectacular given the information gleaned on the internet because it is one of the few places where we can see groups of dozens of eagle rays. Once under water, the visibility is quite spectacular, at least 50 meters. After kicking around some potato corals, the first ray eagle appears on the horizon. Rather shy, it leaves us after few minutes, bad news for our photographer friends. Not to far, a white tip shark greets me and lets itself be film without fear. On our way to our starting point, three eagle rays came to us during our security stop. This dive was very nice even though we did not see the school of eagle rays. As it is said so precisely, underwater diving nothing is acquired. We will have other opportunities.
This is our last day of diving, two dives in Grotto are on the program. This time we will see the caves from under the surface. Of the three tunnels that open towards the sea, the first dive directs us towards the right part of the cave. The halos of light are strikingly beautiful. We take a few tunnels to find ourselves in front of a reef sinking into the depths. The visibility is quite exceptional at this place with at least 60 meters distance. Our group bypasses large rocks to join the cave again by the second access. The time is suspended and it seems that the dive lasted only a few minutes. Correction done looking at my computer: 45 minutes. The dive was amazing !
The second dive makes us follow this time the reef on the left of the cave. Once outside, a first tunnel crossed leads us to a steep wall. Along the way we can see a new cave appearing in the distance. The guide takes an abrupt turn to the left and rushes into a small, rather narrow cavity lodged in the wall. Once followed for 2 minutes, it opens like magic in an immense cave calleded "bat cave". Huge beautiful gorgonians hang on the walls and make the scenery spectacular. This second dive is even more impressive than the first with this unexpected spectacular cave. Another rather amusing spectacle awaits us at the security level, hordes of tourists floating above us with a rather rough grace.
This fifth day is devoted to other activities in order to give us enough time between the last dive and the next plane. In the morning, we have the chance to go for a Buggy ride. After a few laps in rocky trails, we take the treetop route to Mount Tapochau. This place allows to admire 360° all the beauties of the island. For the record, this place was a strategic point during the Second World War when the US Army came to take over the 40,000 Japanese soldiers this island and its summit of 475 meters. The last activity of the day embarks us on a giant catamaran sailing to the island of Managaha. During this escapade, meals, songs, dances and sunset enliven our trip.
We had a great time in Saipan, discovering this unknown destination was a real pleasure for us and we would definitely recommend it! We warmly would like to thank all the people that make our trip incredible, thank you Helene, Isabelle, Ji-Young and Asiana Airline for taking us of the Spotmydive team :) THANK YOU!