|The Mariana Islands have beautiful and biodiverse coral reefs that provide excellent recreational diving and snorkeling opportunities. / Courtesy of Marianas Visitors Authority Korea|
By Jun Ji-hye
The prolonged global COVID-19 outbreak has led to social distancing, forcing people to refrain from going out and reducing face-to-face meetings. This has brought a lot of changes to people's daily life, and travel is no exception.
As people have put more importance on safety, health and contactless activities when deciding where to go on vacation, they have paid more attention to travel to refresh their tired bodies and minds in nature with family or close acquaintances, or travel pursuing a lifestyle of wellness.
According to a travel behavior and planning survey issued last September by Consumer Insight, a travel research agency, travel for the purpose of enjoying natural scenery and relaxing increased from 42 percent in January to 52 percent in July last year.
In line with these changes, the Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) Korea introduced nature-friendly activities that can be enjoyed in the Mariana Islands with minimal contact, while enjoying the natural environment of the Marianas from the sky to the sea.
The Marianas consists of 15 islands including Saipan, Tinian and Rota. The islands have been especially popular among Korean travelers as the destinations can be reached within four hours by plane.
Dive into underwater universe
According to the Guinness Book of Records, Saipan has the world's most equable temperature, averaging 27 degrees Celsius year-round, allowing tourists to enjoy the mild tropical climate.
The stable temperature and fresh sea breeze make diving trips more comfortable, and most of the dive points are close to the island. Tourists can enjoy the unique terrain as well as colorful underwater worlds with beautiful coral reefs and tropical fish.
In particular, Korean tourists can take diving lessons with instruction in Korean, making it easy for beginners to dive into the beautiful waters of the Marianas.
Saipan's most popular dive site, The Grotto, which is considered one of the top 10 diving spots in the world, is a huge limestone cave where divers can enjoy both snorkeling and diving.
In addition, Tinian Grotto, the most popular cavern dive in Tinian, has three main entry points into the cavern and boasts a fantastic water color.
On Rota Island, along the way to Senhanon Cave known as Rota Hole, people will see various beautiful and magnificent views, and mysterious beams of light filtering through the depths.
Snorkeling in crystal clear ocean
The Marianas has some of the most beautiful and biodiverse coral reefs in the world, providing excellent recreational diving and snorkeling opportunities. The waters of the Marianas offer exceptional underwater visibility in addition to year-round warm water temperatures.
From white sandy beaches to vibrant coral reefs, a variety of underwater scenery with hundreds of marine species can be explored.
A maritime heritage trail in Saipan also offers the unique opportunity to explore historical relics from World War II.
On Rota, it is recommended to explore Teteto Beach, Coral Garden or Guata Beach.
|The Marianas is one of the best places for star gazing to enjoy the beauty of starlight. / Courtesy of Marianas Visitors Authority Korea|
The Marianas with its pristine nature is a wonderful place for stargazing. The good climate also affords lots of nights with clear skies.
All the major guiding stars such as Arcturus, Altair, Sirius, Deneb and Regulus appear in plain sight.
Looking up at the beauty of the night sky on the Marianas will enchant tourists.
Stargazing is not only entertaining but is also educational, especially for children who can watch and learn about meteor showers.
Great places to enjoy stargazing include Banzai Cliff on Saipan, Taga Beach on Tininan and Poniya Point on Rota.
Thrilling ATV tour
|Tourists can enjoy off-road driving with ATVs in jungle, beache and green field area of the Marianas. / Courtesy of Marianas Visitors Authority Korea|
In the Mariana Islands that are rich in jungles, beaches and green fields, tourists can enjoy stunning views while driving off-road on all-terrain vehicles (ATV).
Adventure lovers can take an ATV ride around the unpaved roads or jungles, and breathe in the spectacular ocean views from Mount Tapochau that offers a 360-degree view of the entire island of Saipan as well as Managaha Island while moving through the green hills.
ATVs do not require a license for operation.
ATVs are available in Tinian and Rota as well, allowing tourists to experience beaches and jungle areas where the natural beauty of the islands is best preserved.
The Marianas officially allows foreign nationals to enter amid the pandemic, but all visitors, including Koreans, are required to comply with several mandatory requirements including a five-day self-isolation period. More information can be found on the MVA website.
The MVA said it is currently taking advantage of the lull in visitor arrivals by joining hands with public and private sector partners in giving major tourist sites in the Marianas a facelift in order to strengthen safety and practice good hygiene so as to accommodate travelers in a safer environment.
It added the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has mobilized every possible means to prevent the virus spreading in the Marianas, which has a population of 58,000, including the import of 60,000 COVID-19 diagnostic kits from Korea last April.