This scene occurs repeatedly on a daily basis at the Grotto.
First a look from above!
How does it look down there?
Then, lets go!
But wait, first we need a picture to take home!
Hundreds of divers a day come from around the world to repeat this pre-dive ritual and experience one of the most unique cavern dives anywhere on the globe.
It's easily accessible by car - that's of course followed by a 100 plus stair decent into the depths of what used to be a huge limestone cave. Today the one time roof acts as an entry and exit point for divers, swimmers and snorkelers. In a single day it is not uncommon for more than a thousand visitors to enjoy this incredible place, one way or another.
Thankfully, some years ago people recognized the importance of this site and made it a marine sanctuary.From DFW website.
"Designated as a marine sanctuary for the conservation of wildlife and marine life. The site will serve as a natural laboratory for continued propagation of wildlife and marine species, which gradually and naturally can re-populate depopulated areas. The sanctuary will also provide a laboratory for students, teachers and research groups to study wildlife and marine species".
Unfortunately, despite the fact the Grotto, including the cliff line above, is protected by law another activity is also carried out here all too frequently.
Thankfully, Saipan is lucky enough to have a few divers concerned about the negative impacts of fishing and harvesting the reefs, including damage to the corals lining the walls that tourists pay good money to see. Harry Blalock and Mr. Lee from Dive Saipan (below) frequently take time out from their dives to pull mono filament fishing line , hooks and primitive sinkers from the area - otherwise, along with dead coral, this may be all divers would see.
On Monday many members of Marianas Dive opted out of our monthly clean up for various reasons including the conditions at the Grotto. It was a rough day and the high waves brought strong surge especially in the first 30 feet outside the cavern where most of the fishing line is found. After these two guys had scoured the wall between hole one and hole three my dive added little to the pile they amassed but, with a few lingering scrapes, I will attest first hand to the strength of the waves pounding the coast line!
Now that we've managed to "clean" the area we are hopeful that a repeat clean up in 2 or 3 months will yield little, if any, evidence of continued fishing. However, I suspect this will not be the case and efforts will need to continue. Not only to educate but, to also push for increased enforcement and consistent sentencing for those caught breaking the law and in fact the back of our economy. If there is to be a future dive and tourism industry on this island people need to get serious about protecting the resource that everyone depends on - AND QUICK.
For more on the Grotto visit here and buy this DVD to see first hand the unique underwater world deserving of our protection.