Rota, the nearest island to the northern end of Guam, is incredibly scenic and barely populated. The island is known for its ex¬tremely clear waters: visibility of 30m is the norm in the Sonsonaya Bay and off the Wedding Cake peninsula.
Rota is also known as the friendliest island in Micronesia — which is quite a record to hold — and its residents always seem to be smiling, which is part of an island tradition.
The island is also blessed with an abundant supply of eye-popping scenery, both above and below the sea. Sheer, rough limestone cliffs rise from the sea on the east side while the west has beaches with badland formations that run right out to the water's edge.
Mark and Lynn Michael of Dive Rota run a cozy business. Their dive shop is located on the waterfront, just minutes from the World War II shipwreck Shoun Maru. The PauPau Hotel also offers diving. The hotel mostly caters to Japanege groups and offers a more expensive package than you get from Dive Rota.
The freighter Shoun Maru sits upright in the bay and still has a cargo of trucks and bicycles. Its sides were blasted open by salvage operators in the 1960s leaving its huge engines exposed to the sea.
Because of the clear water, cave ex¬ploration isn't as trickyor risky as usual. You enter the Senhanom Cave from the sea and then rise to an open chamber lit by the sun. The falling sun hits the cave at just the right angle and sends incredible rays of light shooting through the water in a spectacular show of colour and form. Dive here at about 2pm for the best effect.
Like Senhanom, other caves house a variety of marine life. Pearlman Tunnel is one such site, and is home to a couple of whitetip sharks. The silhouette of the sharks swimming nervously back and forth can be seen as the diver enters the cave.
Rota's main attraction has always been its friendly people and quaint charm, but some new spots have popped up to add to this including the Rota Resort, which features a hotel, golf course, restaurant and lounge. Figueroa's Bar and Grill is also a new ad¬dition to Rota's scene and a lively place to watch sports or have a tasty meal. You can also enjoy a cold beer from what is claimed to be Micronesia's largest selec¬tion, while munching free peanuts and tossing the shells on the floor. There is also an inn attached to this unique establish¬ment and inclusive packages from Dive Rota are available.
Other beach bars and small. reason¬able hotels have cropped up recently of¬fering a relaxing and entertaining respite. There aren't many lights on Rota. so star¬gazers are in for a treat.