A foray into Wing Beach


Typhoon Goni wind-swept and drenched Saipan this weekend. Enduring the wind and rain indoors, as recommended by Gov. Inos when the typhoon was upgraded to Condition 1, I took time to recall less than a decade ago venturing into Saipan’s Wing Beach. I was told that snorkeling was splendid, with colorful fish on the numerous corals that blanketed the area. I was not disappointed. 

I learned that the area is a protected nesting site for turtles on shore to lay their eggs in season and, although I had not seen any of the famed wu gui (turtles), they do come ashore, also at Obyan Beach.

The visit to Wing Beach was spent on its northern coral reef where it got rough on the coastline heading toward Banzai Cliff. The current that pulled into the deeper slope was strong, but I knew enough to body surf on the waves to get back to the reef without battling the current and swimming against the tide.

The snorkeling was priceless, floating over the corals at a couple of feet of water above wonderland before luxuriating on the open areas where boats came into, or previously operated a small “wharf.” There were cement pillars on the shore. On the corals, I was a voyeur of Mother Nature’s splendid handiwork.

Fast-forward a decade later. It must be my age for I found it difficult steadying my footing on the sand, let alone on the corals. Tide was down so the water above the corals had my tummy scrapping the sharp edges of the corals. Were it not for the thick shirt I wore, we might be in a bloody mess.

Well, we were anyway. Bloodied, that is. 

I remember running a six-week training design in Ijede south of Lagos in Nigeria by the Lagoon for community development workers, and I made sure everyone took their prophylaxis, especially the PCVs from Ghana. The foreigners were oriented on the necessity of taking their drugs.

In Northern Luzon, my Dad trembled under the sheets while sweating in the tropical heat, compliments of mosquitoes. This time, though cognitively clear, I did not heed my own advice and was lax in my own medication until the third week when I began to have cold sweats.

The volunteer nurse in our group let me smoke some of the ganja abundant in the area of the training center “to relieve pain.” My only experience at the time with the weed was in Jamaica where the plant also grew profusely around the Parish on the Blue Mountains. I took more than a drag as 11-year-olds were clearly already into the habit. The THC from the cannabis was an upper at the start when I was fresh; after the training when I was weary, the weed liberally went down the line during the closing celebration but it was a downer. In the middle of a six-week training design, I found myself overwhelmed and tired. The ganja made me climb the walls.

A replay occurred at Wing Beach. I made sure my companions were properly rubberized with gloves and shoes, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. They had no problems concentrating on the view of the abundant parrotfishes swimming around. 

But casually, I wore a pair of island zori (flip flops) and I was sorry. It did not take long before the thong snapped and I slipped my footing on the corals. I broke the fall with the left palm, and nine sore spots later, I was a bleeding mess.

I was conscious of toxic corals that may be in the vicinity and when the blood coagulated too fast for comfort, I took an old pocketknife and made sure the pricked and scratched spots had blood properly flowing. My left palm looked from the bleeding like it just survived a grinder.

I do learn my lesson fast so the following day, I hied to the store to buy me a pair of rubber shoes so I can walk on the corals without trying to figure out how best to spread the weight; picked up a pair of rubberized gloves so I can crawl on top of the coral without worrying about scratching the palms. I thought of knee and elbow pads but they only had the basketball variety.

This time, though, I skipped Wing Beach. Getting there meant driving through the bumpy road that the nearby resort’s all-terrain-vehicles go through. The rut on the road was best left to look wild. At first, I was impressed that a group with helmets would bicycle to the secluded area until I saw them on their all-terrain-vehicles in the parking lot.

This time I took guests to the resort beach and since the tide was coming up (it was at ebb tide the day before), we had a good swim through the numerous ponds with parrotfishes. I ventured into the coral reef to see if any shells wandered over the reef. A couple did and this time, I did not hesitate to take them home for hors d’oeuvre!

Wing Beach is recommended for tourists, though I’d make sure that those who go into the water to snorkel are safely equipped and properly guided. Ditto for the resort beach nearby. It is worth the trip to the beaches if only to frolic with the parrotfishes. That’s if typhoon Atsani following Goni do not stir the waters too much.

Oh, leave the spear gun behind!

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at pinoypanda2031@aol.com.

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