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Guam Tourism

A great diving destination:

Guam is an eclectic place — a veritable melting pot of Micronesian, Carolinian and Asian cultures, mixed in with a bucket load of modern Americana. A tour round the is¬land may find you caught in a traffic jam on a six-lane highway at rush hour. All of the popular fast food restaurants are here, along with one-hour photo places and movie theatres with all the current hits.

But just half an hour later you could be rolling down a traffic-free road enjoying scenic hills and valleys covered with coconut palms and sword grass, and taking in a spectacular open view across the Pa¬cific. You may even have to brake for a boy riding a carabao down a quiet village street, lined with quaint, colourful houses.

Not only does Guam have a luxurious tropical atmosphere, but its central busi¬ness district is bustling with all urban amenities, and its agricultural areas in the north and south feature historical villages nestled in the quiet hills and valleys. It is just now rebounding from a major typhoon that stripped it of foliage, but jungle grows back quickly and divers have done reef re¬lief projects to remove the storm blown de¬bris. The island is now regaining its para¬dise image once again.

Rich underwater attractions
There are five galleon shipwrecks below the waters around Guam, one of which is currently being salvaged and with its silver and gold cargo is purported to be one of the 10 richest wrecks in the world. The water here is tropical, averaging about 25degC and a dive skin is normally all that's needed for warmth as well as pro¬tection from abrasions or stings. Guam is well-stocked for equipment and offers re¬pair and rental facilities. Photo enthusiasts should note that some Nikonos equipment is available on Guam but bring back¬ups if possible.

Guam is already a major destination for Japanese tourists, but its visitors' bu¬reau has started wooing other Asian trav¬ellers, most notably from South Korea, China and the Philippines.

Several new first-class hotels have opened their doors in recent years and other mainstays, such as the Hilton, have been in existence for more than 20 years. The majority of the hotels sit along Tumon Bay, a sandy, protected cove on north cen¬tral Guam. Two Lover's Cliff flanks the area to the north and the hotel district is expand¬ing south to the Agana Bay. Still, the is¬land is small and there are many quiet beaches such as the one below Two Lover's Point — just a few minutes away from the tourist beaches. Hotel prices vary from expensive penthouse suites to more moderate rooms (around US$65-per-night for a double). There aren't any budget ho¬tels to speak of, but many hotels offer "business rates". Professional Sports Divers in Agat Village offers a reason¬able package deal for visiting divers at the Westin Inn on the Bay that also al¬lows you to get a look at life in the south¬ern part of the island. The Guam Visi¬tor's Bureau will happily send out infor¬mation on request.

Diving variety
Guam has great opportunities for divers of all levels. There are introductory packages and scuba experiences for the uninitiated, and courses all the way up to instructor training for those with advanced skills. Almost every type of diving experience is available.

Most tourist divers to Guam will want to visit the World War II shipwrecks and novelty dives like the Blue Hole or the Crevice, which are known for their water clarity. Daily charters to the popular sites are available through the local dive shops, most notably Micronesia Diver's Associa¬tion (MDA), Professional Sports Divers, Coral Reef Marine Centre, Guam Tropical Dive Station, Scuba Company and Papalagi Divers. If you have your own equipment, check out the free guided beach dives at MDA on the weekends.

Boat diving is probably the safest way to ap¬proach the reefs, and there is a higher likelihood of seeing a wide variety of fish and other sea crea¬tures at popular sites, where fish feeding is prac¬tised. The Apra Harbour dives are all on hard coral reefs or shipwrecks. Most of them are a short ride from the docks and as the harbour is well-protected dives can be made there year-round.

Many reefs slope gen¬tly down to about 25m. The World War II ship¬wrecks can be found be¬tween 18-35m. The outer reefs provide a variety of underwater environments ranging from deep dropoffs to coral flats. Guam has had a siltation problem on some reefs due to rapid development, but many of the off¬shore reefs have escaped this blight and are home to a wide variety of fish and hard and soft corals.

Dive culture
On the Guam tourist boats, the ratio of divers to guides is normally between four to six divers to each to divemaster. They cater mainly to Japanese tourists, so Guam diving can easily become a cross-cultural experience. There are also a number of divemasters and in¬structors who work through the local shops to provide service on a one-to-one basis by using their private boats. If you have spec& sites in mind or want to keep your group small. ask the local shops about a private charter.

The larger charter boats also offer early morning single tank dives and afternoon/evening dives that include or deck barbecues and a night dive. Night diving off Guam is very good as a lot of unusual invertebrates hide in the hard corals by day and come out at night.

Blue Hole
Guam's Blue Hole is one of the island's finest dives. It is a long, perpendicular shaft that starts at the top of a sloping reef flat in about 20m of water. The shaft itself extends down to about 95m, but at 40m a large window opens in the outer wall, allowing the diver to exit and ascend after a free fall through the shaft. As the Blue Hole faces the open ocean, it is not unusual to see large fish here like barracuda and dogtooth tuna. Eagle rays have been seen gliding along the reef top and on rare occasions a whale shark has been sighted here. Dolphins and pilot whales have been known to join boats trav¬elling to the hole.

Hap's Reef
This is one of the better places where you can hand-feed a variety of tropical fish, and as it is in the open ocean in Agat Bay, a good variety of fish reside here.

Wild dolphins.
Guam's coastal waters are home to several pods of spinner dolphins which appear regularly in front of the beach and can be seen almost every day. Dolphin watching tours are available but usually the dive boats attract a pod. Unlike some Caribbean destinations, there are no trained dolphins to swim with on Guam. All dolphin encounters are in the wild happening.

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