Popular Saipan tourist dive spot closed temporarily

THE GROTTO: Saipan's Grotto is filmed by popular Japanese online diving outlet Oceana on March 27, in preparation for a June feature on diving in the Mariana Islands. Officials have closed the popular tourist site due to environmental concerns. Photo courtesy of the Marianas Visitors Authority

SAIPAN – Marianas Visitors Authority board member Chris Nelson has expressed concern about a report that the Department of Lands and Natural Resources is planning to close the Grotto in Marpi without prior notice to travel and tourist service providers.

He said MVA should help spread this information to its travel partners. “Tour buses that access that area, they need to alter their routes — and then the people who want to swim there, and the divers, especially the divers,” he added.

Nelson added that many tourists visit the island to see the Grotto.

The MVA board on Tuesday asked MVA Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo to discuss the issue with DLNR.

In an interview, Iakopo said the Grotto should be closed at least once a week.

“The Grotto is very popular and to give it a one day rest each a week will help preserve the site,” she added.

MVA board chair Marian Aldan-Pierce, for her part, said the temporary closure of the Grotto is “a good idea.”

“We are concerned about the environment and we want to make sure we are preserving the Grotto (for future generations),” she added.

She noted that the Grotto is just one of the island’s many other scenic spots.

Agreeing with Nelson, Pierce said MVA should help disseminate the Grotto temporary closure notice to travel agents.