Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Beach Time on Saipan

I always have slightly mixed emotions about trade wind season on Saipan. Yes the cool breezes are definitely a welcome relief from the scorching heat that we experience through the summer, and I do love going out and watching the big waves rolling in and crashing on the reef line. But the diver and underwater photographer in me realizes that it means that conditions will be much more challenging, and because of strong currents and surge it means it will be much more difficult to steady the camera and get good pictures. I had a friend call me the other day and tell me about an experience he had as a result of some pretty strong rip currents. Conditions can change drastically at a dive site from day to day or even hour to hour with changing tides and currents. The power of the ocean is not something to be trifled with and deserves your utmost respect. Especially during trade wind season, be sure to always dive with someone who is very familiar with the tides and changing currents at the various dive sites. This is a very familiar site along many of the island beaches. A family enjoying some time in one of the natural swimming holes. It's a great way to beat the heat and just have some fun on a Saturday afternoon. You see the water cascading down the table rocks in the top of the picture. This shot is from Marine Beach in Kagman. The beauty on the beaches is not confined to the water though. These beautiful purple flowers and plants grow naturally along many of our beaches and are actually a very important part of the environment. These plants and their root systems help to keep the sand in place and from being eroded and washed down into the ocean. That is important because the sea turtles need the sand on the beaches in order to come up and lay their eggs and then bury them in the sand. The more you learn about the ecosystem and our environment the more you begin to realize that all of the things that occur there naturally are there for a reason.
You can find wild flowers like this one all over the island. This particular one was on the road leading back to Wing Beach. It is part of a vine that was crawling up the shrub trees on the sides of the road. I couldn't quite reach it to get a good picture, so I backed my pick-up up a bit to it and then got out and stood on the sides of the bed to get a little closer to it. I still wasn't real happy with the angle, but considering all the wind and the circumstances, not a bad shot. Another of the little flowers that makes the drive back to Wing Beach so enchanting and magical. It's very easy to just drive past all these flowers and never even notice them, but it's very rewarding if you take time to stop and take a look. Since I don't have my dive camera at the moment, I figured I might as well showcase some of the sights that you see on the way to the dive and at the dive site itself. This is the view looking down the beach at Wing Beach. I don't know what those concrete pilings are or what they were part of originally, but they are one of the distinguishing sights that let's you know you're at Wing Beach. This is also a favorite beach for those who want to just catch a few rays of sunshine or take a refreshing dip in the ocean, especially if you're looking for some peace and quiet and a spot where you can have a stretch of beach all to yourself. This is looking out of one of the many little caves that dot the cliff line at Wing Beach. It's a very cool spot if you feel like climbing around on the rocks and looking in all the various little nooks and crannies. One thing about crawling around in this little caves though is you need to watch out, because you're bound to bump into one of these. Now he could probably care less about me, but it totally creeps me out to have one of those guys crawling around on my shaved head. But again, if you take the time to look at them up close, some of the spiders are pretty cool creatures and very intricate. As you move further down the beach at Wing Beach, you get away from the sand and come to the rocky cliff line. There are always little critters that like to hang around these rocks in the water, everything from eels, to starfish, to sea cucumbers to mantis shrimp. The beauty is not only under the water, and maybe I just had to have my underwater camera taken away for a couple weeks to focus on what else is out there.