- Category: Around the Islands
25 Sep 2014
- By Junhan B. Todiño - firstname.lastname@example.org - Variety News Staff
TODAY, the cruise line Silver Explorer, heads to Pagan from Chichijima, about 1,794 kilometers from Otaru Prefecture where it started its 11-day voyage to the northern frontier of the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands.
When it left Otaru on Sept. 19, all 80 guests on the Silversea expedition, also known as “The Volcanic Islands of Japan and the Mariana Arch” expedition, were introduced to Japan specialists who will accompany them in Japan.
Today is the eighth day of the Silver Explorer’s voyage and its second day in the remote archipelago of Chichijima where the guests explored the “father island” — the largest in the Ogasawara family of islands and yet another fantastic avian destination in Japan.
The guests already enjoyed visiting the Onuma Quasi National Park that encompasses a lake area of marshes with 126 inlets and 18 bridges that connect various islets. The ship arrived in Hakodate on its second day in Chichijima.
Silver Explorer arrived in Miyako-jima on Sept. 22 and guests had a preview of Pagan as they approached this small volcanic island. Theywent ashore for a nature walk led by an ornithologist and geologist and some local guides.
Again, they had a glimpse of what they would be seeing on Pagan when they stopped over on Hachijojima, a volcanic island with two mountains on Sept 23. The expedition team enjoyed a nature trek at Mt Hachijo-Fuji where they explored the seashore, a black plateau created by lava during a volcano eruption.
On Sept. 24 the Silver Explorer reached another volcanic island, Torishima, which is known as Bird’s Island in Japan. The guests were not allowed to land but they circumnavigated the island while listening to an ornithologist talk about the endangered short-tailed albatross.
They arrived at Hahajima’s Bonin Islands also known in Japan as the Ogasawara island group on Sept. 25. The guests were very eager to get a glimpse of the bottlenose and spinner dolphins as well as sperm whales. Only at this time of the year can these sea creatures be seen from the island.
The expedition team spent the day at sea. With binoculars and cameras in hand, the guest enjoyed watching seabirds. They also heard informative lectures that should prepare them for the upcoming ports-of-call and the adventures that lie ahead on Pagan.
On Sept. 28, the 10th day of the voyage, the expedition team is expected to reach Pagan. The guests are planning to observe one of the more recent lava-flows. “To get there, we will follow an old runway used by the Japanese during the 1940s where the remains of several bunkers and planes can still be seen,” their itinerary states.
While on Pagan, the team will walk through the forest to the edge of the most recent lava flow, then hike up the ridge for a scenic view of two lakes.
On the following day, Silver Explorer will arrive on Saipan and passengers will tour the island’s World War II sites including the Last Command Post, Banzai Cliff, Suicide Cliff and Bird Island.
During lunch, the cruise ship will sail south toward Tinian and the guests will have time to swim at Taga Beach. They will also see the prehistoric latte stone pillars of the House of Taga and World War II sites, including the airfield where the atomic bombs were loaded onto aircraft headed for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
On Sept. 30, the expedition team will arrive at Apra Harbor on Guam where the passengers will head to the airport for their flight home.
Jerome Aldan, who helped prepare the Silver Explorer visit to Pagan, said there will be two staffers with the Northern Islands mayor’s office who will join local residents on Pagan to greet the guests. The staffers will leave Saipan on Sept. 27 aboard the Super Emerald.
“We continue to consider the Marianas Visitors Authority our partner in moving the Northern Islands forward as a tourist destination and MVA has offered to provide us with welcome signs that will be placed on Pagan,” Aldan said.
He said the visit of Silver Explorer has strengthened the collaboration between the government and the private sector.
“This is the first time that government agencies and the private sector are really collaborating with the Northern Islands mayor’s office on this type of tourism activity which makes it very significant,” he added.
In the past, he said other vessels would just stop over at Pagan without going to Saipan first as the port of entry.
“We see this as a change in how things are done and the office is now more active than ever when it comes to the Northern Islands. It is a way of promoting our islands in the north and providing for a smooth transition with the regulatory agencies and private sector so that future developments of this sort will be easier to plan,” he said.
According to Aldan, the Northern Islands mayor’s office has been working closely with cruise line officials, particularly Inchcape Shipping Service which facilitated the travel two years ago.
On this trip, Aldan said, government agencies are very much involved, adding that two customs officers, two quarantine officers, two representatives from the Bureau of Environmental Health, two personnel from the Northern Islands mayor’s office, one officer from the Fish and Wildlife Division, two PDI ground tour agents, and one Inchcape service agent helped organize and facilitate the cruise ship’s visit to Pagan.
“I hope this sends a message not only to the military which is proposing to use Pagan as a live-fire and live bombing exercise area, but also to our leaders that the Northern Islands have a lot of potential if they are taken more seriously. The beauty of Pagan should not be destroyed. If the military were present, I believe they would see and even feel the impact and importance of this visit by Silver Explorer and consider other areas for its training exercises,” Aldan said.