The Grotto, Saipan

The Grotto, Saipan


Site Review by
 Seth Bareiss
Date: 08/22/2004


Site Condition
(1=worst, 5=best)

Name:  Seth Bareiss Entry:    2.00
Email:   Click Here Bottom:    5.00
City:   Phuket Reef:    4.00
State:   Phuket Animal:    4.00
Country:   Thailand Plant:    1.00
Diving:   18 years Facilities:    3.00
 Dives:   2000 Solitude   2.00
    Roads:    5.00


*Average:    3.30
A classic must-do dive. The long 100+ step staircase and short hop to the jumping platform are tough on anyone with weak legs. DO NOT allow snorkelers outside the entrance cavern. Reason: if you're without SCUBA gear, it's easy to go out to the open ocean, but near impossible to come back in. Have at least 800psi/70 ATM in your tank when you come back into the main cavern, so you won't short-change the safety stop or get stuck on the surface outside the cavern with no way back in. This site is often divable when the rest of the island is battered by typhoon conditions. Visibility is the best in Saipan-- typically 100' and more. Watch your depth gauge carefully when outside on the deep sea cliff-- it's easy to go too deep without noticing, because of the deceptive water clarity. Expect a school of barracudas outside the right-hand ext, a small whitetip shark ("Otto") in a small cave at 70' between the two main exits, and frequent turtles & napoleons outside the left-hand exit. Lighting is spectacular, particularly in the left-hand exit. Convenient rope & buoy for safety stops. Exit is accomplished by holding a rope and waiting for a wave to sweep you up onto a small level rock shelf-- a bit tough. If you're extremely good on air, investigate the "batcave" about 100 meters to the left of the left-hand exit, out along the seawall. The Grotto, like all Micronesian dives, is best done in the very early morning in order to see the most big animals. This dive is almost, not quite, a religious experience. Of course, it can't compare to anything Palau offers, but is definitely THE dive to do in the Northern Marianas Islands (Guam/Saipan/Tinian/Rota). The place will be mobbed by throngs of Japanese tourist-divers and local dive enthusiasts, between 8am and 5pm. Get there at dawn for the best experience, but even if morning's not your thing... DO the Grotto, if you're ever in the Northern Marianas with a pair of healthy legs. Warning: There's no bathroom & the emergency phone often doesn't work. There have been thefts there, though not many. Most dive vans there will have a cell-phone, if you need it. Saipan DOES NOT HAVE A RECOMPRESSION CHAMBER. The nearest is in Guam, far to the South, so take extra precautions against decompression sickness.    

Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:    4.00
Beginner:    2.00
Intermediate:    5.00
Advanced:    5.00
Night diving:    1.00

Seasonal Information

Season:    Summer
Year:    1997
Visibility:    5.00
Current:    4.00
Surf:    4.00

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