(This article was first published at the Marianas Variety Guam weekend edition page 6 for April 12, 2015)
IF you ever get the chance to visit Rota, dubbed as the untouched gem of the Pacific located at the southernmost part of the Northern Mariana Islands, prepare to be surprised. The island has much to offer especially to first-time visitors, and here are nine things you must not miss:
1. Go fishing. Swim, dive or snorkel. Rota boasts of pristine blue waters and spectacular dive spots that have kept visitors coming back for more for years. Find long stretches of white, sandy beaches that you can have all to yourself, and breathtaking fishing cliffs like As Matmos and Poña Point where annual fishing derby tournaments are hosted.
2. Play golf
Rota Resort & Country Club boasts of world-class golf courses that is one of the main attractions of tourists in the island.
3. Bird watching
A few minutes from the Rota International Airport is the I Chenchon Bird Sanctuary, one of the most popular sites on island that continues to draw thousands of visitors each year. Perched on top of a cliff with a spectacular panoramic view of the ocean, I’Chenchon Park Bird Sanctuary is one of the designated wild life conservation on island that gives visitors the chance to watch hundreds of thousands of birds in their nesting places.
Get your camera or videocam ready and prepare for a showoff from any of the birds anytime, and bring home wonderful photos of Rota’s feathered species.
4. Back road driving
Once of the must-not-miss adventures on Rota include driving through the back roads and see the other side of the island. Rent a car and drive your way around. Follow the roads to wherever it leads and carry on from there. Start from the airport and drive on to Sinapalo and all the way to SongSong Village. Don’t stop and get ready for thrilling adventures as you drive through the jungles and emerge back to Sinapalo to where you began.
5. Visit historical, cultural sites
Rota carries its own share of historical and cultural wealth. Driving around the island will lead you to some very interesting historical sites starting off with the Cave Museum along the way to Songsong, the Tonga Cave which Japanese soldiers used as shelter during the World War 11, the Japanese canon right on the road just a few miles from Songsong village proper, the remains of a Japanese sugar mill which existed back in the 1930s. You will also get to see lots of cultural sites like the Latte Stone site, and more.
6. Climb the Cake Mountain
Rota’s popular Cake Mountain draws hundreds of mountain climbers each year. Named because of its unique shape that resembles a wedding cake, the mountain rises 470 feet above sea level and is Rota’s most popular landmark.
7. Ruins and abandoned buildings
There is a mystic beauty in ruins, and the island just has plenty of these abandoned structures. Explore, close your eyes and try to visualize what life was when those structures were still teeming with life and activities.
8. Bike around the island
Rota presents its own share of challenges for bikers from paved roads to deep jungle roads, rocky paths and almost non-existing trails with spectacular views along the way.
9. Try a deer dish.
Rota is popular for its deer meat, and you must not leave the island without trying one of the locally prepared dishes. Check any of the restaurants in Sinapalo or Songsong and ask for deer meat dishes.