‘Forbidden’ angles

IMG_5983The Forbidden Island is just one spectacular plateau that looks like it was sliced it off from the main island and pushed a bit off the shore but there is more to this slab of a rock than meets the eye.

I have seen the Forbidden Island from the overview and close from the base of the island before. The chance to see it from above and from the other side came last month when I was invited to an aerial tour of the island, and that was the first time I saw the top of the island from above. It was looking at this landscape from a whole new perspective.IMG_4028

I asked our pilot if he can maneuver the four-seater plane above the Forbidden Island as low and as close as we can get while I took photos of this popular piece of rock that jutted out like a crouching reptile.

The top of the plateau is rocky but some portions are flat and covered with green and it looks like you could spend a night camping there, but getting up to the top of this island is a whole new difficult story. It is almost next to impossible, especially if you are not that daring and you don’t have the right equipment.

The Forbidden Island is one of Saipan’s must-not-miss sites if you want to say you’ve been to Saipan. A trek down to the island itself requires at least 45 minutes, a sturdy pair of shoes, comfortable clothing and lots of guts. The jungle trail going down is easy, the trees providing shade from the heat and the only challenge you meet are the pine needles that make the pathway slippery. IF

When you emerge into the clearing where the jungle ends, that’s when the real challenge begins and it’s already too late and too far to go back. If you are scared of heights, just proceed with caution and focus on the road. If you can avoid it, try not to look the sides of the path where you will see yawning cliffs or you’ll get dizzy and give the adventure up.

Don’t underestimate this small slab of rock. It isn’t named Forbidden for nothing. It has claimed numerous lives in the past.

I’ve tried climbing halfway around the island and had to go back minus the soles of my shoes with numerous cuts and scratches in my arms and legs. I didn’t take the option of climbing straight up aided by a rope because it looked so hard and steep but the group I was with had to come back when our trek ended in a dead end. Fighting the strong currents of water when the tide is coming in is another challenge you have to consider when you go to the island.IMG_5989

The challenge actually starts when the paved road in Kagman ends and you take the rough road that answers more to the description of a river bed gone dry. The road is only ideal for four wheel drive vehicles and most parts of the road are like giant potholes, with elbow-sharp turns that could send you hurtling down deep ravines if you’re not careful but it’s worth the trip.

This article was also printed at the Marianas Variety


One night on Forbidden Island

THE word “forbidden” kept ringing in my ears as I frantically grabbed footholds and handholds among the sharp, jutting rocks. It was getting dark and I was trying to stop the uncontrollable shaking of my knees and the rising fear that one false step could send me hurtling down the steep cliffs resulting in serious injury, or even my end.

We were on Forbidden Island on the east coast of Saipan, shoes and jeans dripping from the knee-high water we had to wade through to reach it.

I had thought about  visiting the area for the past two years and so there I was, finally. Our group split into two, the more daring ones going up to follow the eagle trail while the others followed the almost equally hard turtle trail set by hashers Dan and Eric.

After an eternity of hardship, the leader who was ahead of us shouted “dead end” and we started the more agonizing trek back.

Forbidden Island provides the daring with a stunning view, great snorkeling nooks, pristine hidden pools and a cave.

But in the falling darkness, it looked eerie, devoid of any form of life save for the bird and a few plants that were able to tough it out.

I looked at Forbidden Island with a new perspective. It’s different when you just look at it from the view deck above than when you explore it and come back with blue, red and violet bruises on your hands, arms and legs, and knowing panic when you see your buddies fall on the sharp rocks and get up with huge bloody gashes on their legs.
The trek to  Forbidden Island is quite challenging and is not for everyone, especially those who are afraid to fall or who have fear of heights.

Going down, you have to hold on to pieces of ropes tied on tree branches or stumps, or grab stones for footholds and handholds which could roll down any minute. You have to find the trail amid tall tangan-tangan and thick bushes.

The dying embers from our bonfire cast an eerie glow as we gathered our things to leave the  area at past 9 p.m.

We still had to survive the upward trail, with only flashlights to guide us back to the parking lot. We left the site with the waves in their seemingly endless race against each other, crashing into the rocky shores.

It’s been six days since then and I still feel the muscle pains, but it was worth it. If you haven’t been to Forbidden Island yet, you’re missing a lot. (This article was first published HERE.