Northern Mariana Islands – Mariana Archipelago

Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands, or Community of Northern Mariana Islands, is a small island nation in Micronesia, in the western Pacific Ocean in the Mariana Islands archipelago. It has the status of an unincorporated territory freely associated with the United States. Territory is 477 km². The capital is Saipan, on the island of the same name.

The Mariana Islands archipelago consists of 15 volcanic islands, the largest of which are Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. However, only 14 islands belong to the Northern Mariana Islands, while the fifteenth, Guam, the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands, is considered a separate territory belonging to the United States.

The Mariana Islands are an island arc located in a tectonically active region in the western Pacific. The archipelago is located 2,500 km east of the Philippines and the same distance north of Papua New Guinea. The islands extend for about 800 km.

Geologically, the islands can be divided into two groups: the older southern one (Rota, Tinian, Aguihan, Farallon de Medinilla, Saipan) and the younger northern one (the rest of the archipelago). All islands of the northern group are stratovolcanoes. Most of the islands are surrounded by coral reefs. The reefs of the southern islands are older and better developed. There are about 50 underwater volcanoes in the area of the islands and 11 volcanoes form islands.

To the east of the islands lies perhaps the most famous local geographic landmark, the Mariana Trench, 11,775 meters deep.

Climate in the Northern Mariana Islands

The climate of the Northern Mariana Islands is tropical and trade winds.

The rainy season lasts from July to December, the average temperature at this time is +33 … +35 ° C. There are tropical storms and typhoons in the Pacific Ocean from August to November. The “dry” months on the islands are from December to June, because of the sea breeze, the average temperature at that time is +27 … +29°C. The average annual temperature of the sea water is +25°C.

The best time to visit the Northern Mariana Islands is from December to March, and the tourist season on Saipan lasts all year.

Population of the Northern Mariana Islands

The population of the Northern Mariana Islands is 56,882 (2018). Life expectancy is 74 years for men and 79 years for women.

Ethnic composition: Asians (Filipinos, Chinese, etc.) 56.3%, peoples of Oceania (including Chamorro) 36.3%, mixed origin 4.8%, whites 1.8%, others 0.8%.

Most believers on the islands are Catholic (Roman Catholic Christianity). Part of the population identifies with denominations of East Asian origin.

The official languages are English, Chamorro, and Carolingian.

Money and currency of the Northern Mariana Islands

Currency: United States dollar (USD), 1 USD = 100 cents. Bills in denominations of US$1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 are in circulation, coins are penny (1 cent), nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents), quarter (25 cents), half dollar (50 cents), and 2 and 1 dollar.

Japanese yen and Korean won are accepted almost everywhere.

Bank branches are open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some bank offices on the outer islands may have their own schedule.

Most hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies and dive centers on Saipan, Tinian and Rota accept plastic cards. ATMs can be found in bank branches and major shopping malls. On the outer islands can face problems when trying to pay anything with a plastic card, because often small private shops do not accept payment cards.

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Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars are accepted for payment everywhere, and it is not necessary to visit a bank, because most hotels, restaurants, and large stores cash them on the spot. If you are going to visit small islands during the trip, we recommend to reserve necessary amount of cash in advance.

VAT and Tax-Free

When you pay for services in hotels a hotel tax of 10% is charged. Other commercial taxes, including VAT, are not applicable.

Communications in the Northern Mariana Islands

The telephone code is: 1 – 670.

Ambulance, police, and fire departments are 911.

How to phone

To call from Russia to the Northern Mariana Islands, you need to dial: 8 – dial tone – 10 – 1 – 670 – the subscriber’s number.

To call from the Northern Mariana Islands to Russia, you need to dial: 011 – 7 – city code – subscriber number.

Sea and beaches in the Northern Mariana Islands

The southern group islands (Saipan, Tinian and Rota) have beaches with fine white sand. The Northern group islands – the beaches here have black volcanic sand.

Safety in the Northern Mariana Islands

The Northern Mariana Islands are considered a safe country to visit. The crime rate is not high, and the situation with personal safety is quite calm. There is petty theft, currency fraud and other offenses, not outgrowing, however, the usual local size for the islands.

When visiting the country is recommended to be guided by common sense – do not leave valuables and documents unattended, it is not recommended to deliberately demonstrate their wealth or to visit certain areas alone and at night, especially the Philippine neighborhoods.

Recommendations and tips for the Northern Mariana Islands

All drinking water on the islands comes from natural sources or through rainwater harvesting and is practically safe for consumption within populated areas. However, it is recommended that only boiled or bottled water be used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice, especially during the first week of your stay.

There are no dangerous animals on the islands. However, there are many poisonous or fairly aggressive sea creatures in the surrounding waters, so special attention should be paid to the bottom and water column when swimming and diving. The dorsal spines of many bottom fish are poisonous, and the needles of sea urchins and sharp edges of coral massifs leave non-dangerous, but rather painful and long unhealing wounds. It is recommended in all cases of diving in unfamiliar areas to consult with local residents or diving instructors.

When photographing locals you should always ask their permission beforehand.

The attitude to clothing is quite democratic. In everyday life, you can do with a light dress and even jeans, although in the local hot climate jeans are not the best choice. The most suitable clothes for recreation – a T-shirt and shorts. Beach suits outside the coastline are not recommended, and too open bikinis may also be frowned upon.

Entertainment in the Northern Mariana Islands

Popular activities in the Northern Mariana Islands include diving, snorkeling, trekking, windsurfing, and golf.

Diving, Saipan’s main dive site, Grotto (underwater access to the ocean through underwater grottos), is the world’s most beautiful underwater architecture. The water temperature in the coastal waters of the islands is comfortable all year round and does not change depending on the time of day. Perfect transparency allows you to see all the beauty of the underwater world.

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Snorkeling – the best places for snorkeling are Saipan – Managaha Island, Tiniane – Tachon Beach, Rota – Corell Gardens in Sasanaya Bay.

Trekking – All three main islands of the archipelago are good for hiking. The main route on Saipan is the Laderana-Tangka Trail through the Marpi Commonvelt forest. Tinian has an excellent trail along the shores of Kammer and Taga south of San Jose.

Windsurfing – the best place to go surfing is Micro Beach on Saipan.

Golf – There are several golf clubs on Saipan: Kingfisher Golf Links, Coral Ocean Point, Lao Lao Bay Golf Resort, Marianas Country Club.

The island’s golf courses are very different technically, but have one thing in common – beautiful ocean views and gorgeous tropical nature. The clubs here require the same punctuality as most clubs elsewhere in the world. All clubs require you to dress appropriately for golf. Tops and flip-flops are not welcome.

How to get to the Northern Mariana Islands

There is no direct flight from Russia to the Northern Mariana Islands.

The shortest route here for tourists from Russia is through Southeast Asia.

Saipan International Airport is located on the island of Saipan. This is the main air gateway of the country.

Flights here are:

Fly Guam from Guam, Hong Kong (seasonal flights)

Sichuan Airlines from Guangzhou and Shanghai (charters)

Shanghai Airlines from Shanghai (seasonal flights)

Rota International Airport is located on the island of Rota.

Visa and travel to the Northern Mariana Islands

Citizens of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus need a visa to travel to the Northern Mariana Islands in 2022. Visa-free travel to the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as Guam and Saipan, was abolished on October 3, 2019.

Northern Mariana Islands.

Northern Mariana Islands

Entry clearance.Passport

To travel to the islands, a tourist must obtain an entry permit in advance. If you go on a tour, this was handled by the tour operator. If the tourist traveled on his own, he had to submit documents to the U.S. Department of Immigration.

Rules of entry and crossing the border

At the border control you will need to show in addition to the visa the following documents:

  1. passport
  2. return air tickets
  3. Filled out migration card (forms I-94 and I-736), forms are usually given in the plane. Here you can download a sample of completed Form I-736, I-94

The Northern Mariana Islands are under the US jurisdiction, Russians are required to obtain US visa to stay in their territory.

Mariana Trench

The Mariana Trench and Everest are names that most people remember from their high school geography courses. The first is the deepest point on the planet, the second is the highest mountain. The height and depth are measured from the level of the ocean. In terms of absolute value, the deepest depression overtakes the highest peak by a significant margin.

The Mariana Trench on the world map should be sought in the Pacific Ocean northeast of the Philippine archipelago (southeast of the Japanese islands), it is a semicircular trough of about 1,500 km long, directed by its convex part to the east. The deepest point of the trench is called the Challenger Deep and is 10,994 meters deep.

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Mariana Trench

The Mariana Trench is named after the adjacent Mariana Islands, which extend along the western part of the trench. The island of Guam, the closest to the Challenger Deep, is located 340 kilometers northeast of it. The coordinates of the deepest point in the world’s ocean are 11°22’23.9″N, 142°35’30.1″E.

The trench lies at the junction of two tectonic plates, and its relief is a relatively flat strip of seabed no wider than 5 km between two steep slopes. In some places, the bottom has a stepped structure and mountain ridges along its length. The water pressure at its lowest point is about 108 MPa, which is 1,072 times higher than normal atmospheric pressure.

The depression was first discovered by the English sailing corvette Challenger during the world’s first comprehensive oceanographic expedition in 1875. The depth was then determined twice with results of 8,367 m and 8,184 m, which allowed the depression to be called the deepest on the planet. In 1951, the British research vessel Challenger II surveyed the ocean at these locations.

Using an echosounder, a depth of 10,899 m was recorded. This point was named after the ship. Over the following years, new measurements were taken, the depth was corrected several times in both directions, the last value of 10,994 m was recorded in 2011.

The difficulty of measuring the depth of such scales with an echo sounder consists in the dependence of the speed of sound waves in water, on its properties (density, temperature, chemical composition, impurities). These properties are different depending on the depth. In order to obtain accurate values it is necessary to take water samples from different depths, analyze them and take the data into account in subsequent measurements.

Diving into the depths of the Mariana Trench

Diving deep into the Mariana Trench

In 1960, the bathyscaphe Trieste with two explorers aboard (US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss oceanologist Jacques Picard) dived to the bottom of the Trench (10,915 m) for the first time. Autonomous dives were then made several times by unmanned vehicles, and the Japanese Kaiko probe in 1995 took its first soil samples from a depth of 10911 m.

In 2012, renowned director James Cameron made the first-ever solo dive to the bottom, staying there for a total of 6 hours. Subsequently, a 3D film about the history of this dive, titled “Defiance of the Abyss”, was released. It is worth mentioning that the famous traveler Fedor Konyukhov in 2022 also declared his intention to dive to the bottom of the trench.

Fauna of the Mariana Trench

At a depth of more than 1000 meters sunlight can not penetrate, there is eternal darkness. Along with the enormous pressure this makes living conditions in the abyss extremely difficult. Nevertheless, the Mariana Trench is inhabited. The bottom is covered with silt, which, according to the first samples taken, is saturated with shell organisms, and huge armored amoebas (up to 10 cm in diameter) were also found here.

In addition to protozoan barophilic bacteria, crayfish, gastropod mollusks, holothuria, and fish live here. Even during the first visual observations from the bathyscaphe “Trieste” small fish resembling flounder were spotted. The specificity of the conditions makes the appearance of many local fish striking: they have huge teeth, eyes rotating in different directions (or their absence), instead of fins can be sharp spines.

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Deep-sea dweller of the Mariana Trench

A deep-sea dweller of the Mariana Trench

Worms up to 2 m long can also be found here, which have not been identified yet. At such depths, there is no algae, and the food source for the protozoans is detritus falling to the bottom. Recent studies have shown that the bodies of local small crustaceans contain many heavy metals, extremely poisonous to normal living cells.

In general, the fauna of the Mariana Trench is poorly understood, with many scientists believing that species long extinct on Earth can be found there.

For example, the teeth of the giant shark, the megalodon, have recently been found. It is believed that these monsters, which weighed up to 100 tons, became extinct about 2 million years ago, the age of the teeth found ranges from 11 to 24 thousand years.

Studies are constantly accompanied by various mysterious stories: on the monitors appear indistinct huge dragon-like shadows, there is a loud metallic rattle, and once, according to the team of the German submersible Haifisch, on the monitor of the infrared camera they saw a creature, clawing teeth in the bathyscaphe, it had to be scared off with an electric shock.

Mariana Islands

There are 15 large islands; there are also several small rocks and reefs. The population is about 215,000. The nationality of the natives is Chamorro, which is also the name of their language. It is believed that the Chamorros are descendants of ancient settlers from the Philippines. Currently, the true representatives of this people almost no more, all who call themselves Chamorro, are mestizos.

Mariana Islands

The nationality of the Mariana Islands is not as easy to determine as it may seem. The southernmost island, Guam, has an independent status, it is an unincorporated organized territory of the United States, that is, the island is not included in the United States, but its territory is considered American, and the islanders (more than 180,000 people) have U.S. citizenship. The capital is the city of Hagatna, located on the west coast.

The Northern Mariana Islands constitute a separate administrative entity, the Commonwealth, with a government status completely similar to Guam (loosely associated with the United States). The main island is Saipan, and the capital is called the same.

The first Europeans to discover these lands were members of Magellan’s crew, who dropped anchor here in 1521. The encounter with the natives ended with the loss of the ship’s boat. Annoyed Magellan gave the archipelago the name “Islands of Thieves” (de los Ladrones, Ladrones) it existed until the early twentieth century.

The islands were immediately declared property of Spain. A few decades later, colonizers began to come here. As is often the case, the missionaries were the first to arrive. They gave the territory the modern name in honor of the Spanish Queen Mariana, since then, the Mariana Islands on the map called it. Colonization did not go smoothly. As a result of armed clashes and prolonged repression, the indigenous population was reduced 30 times in 200 years after Magellan’s visit.

Northern Mariana Islands.

Northern Mariana Islands

In 1899 the Northern Mariana Islands were sold to Germany, and at the beginning of World War I Japan occupied the entire archipelago. In 1944, U.S. troops landed on the island of Saipan, there began a long bloody battles with many casualties, only local residents died about 40,000 people.

The Americans set up a military base on Tinian Island from which the bombers that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki took off. After the war the archipelago was for some time under the United Nations administration and in 1947 it was turned over to the United States.

U.S. citizens do not need a visa to visit the Mariana Islands, and having a U.S. visa in your passport serves as a pass to these territories and for citizens of other countries.

The US dollar is the currency.

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Features of tourism

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All of the islands are of volcanic origin. Most are surrounded by coral reefs. A tropical climate with little seasonal fluctuations in temperature, characteristic natural landscapes, beautiful beaches, the presence of attractions and historically significant places make the Mariana Islands attractive for recreation and tourism.

The latte stones of the ancient House of Taga, Tinian Island, Mariana Islands

The latte stones of the ancient House of Taga, Tinian Island, Mariana Islands

The archipelago is visited by more than half a million tourists a year. Among the surviving monuments of local culture, the most famous are the latte stones, most of which are on Guam, but there are also some on the northern islands. These are stone pillars up to 3 meters high with a peculiar mushroom-shaped thickening on top. The appearance of these statues is very reminiscent of the Easter Island statues, their purpose is not yet reliably established.

Among the places of interest are also the residence of the ancient king (House of Taga), the Franciscan Church of Borja with a century-old bell, many well-developed hiking trails. Local coral reefs are attractive for diving. The proximity of such a geographical feature as the Mariana Trench excites divers. The national cuisine is very diverse, which is due to the mixing of the traditions of many nations. Traffic on the islands is right-hand drive, bus service is developed, and it’s easy enough to find a rental car.

Guam and Northern Mariana Islands airports


The most common airport of the Northern Mariana Islands is Saipan (Saipan International Airport, SPN). This island is the center of resort life, the best hotels and beaches are on the west side, and the eastern coast is rocky and steep, from these descents comes the Mariana Trench. Some international flights also arrive on Rota Island (ROP).

Guam has its own international airport (GUM). Most hotels and beaches are on the east coast. The island has many golf courses and luxury hotels. To the northeast is the large U.S. military base Andersen, which, along with tourism, provides a major contribution to the island’s economy.

The predominant composition of tourists is Japanese. This country provides up to 90% of all vacationers, which is due to the relative proximity and well-established air connections. Japanese tourists like to visit the islands during the rainy season (from June to September), the heat in this period is not very intense, and the rains are abundant, but short-lived. More and more tourists from Russia and other post-Soviet countries appear.

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