SEEING it from the lookout, the small island on the east coast of Saipan looks like a little piece of chipped rock pushed into the sea.
The access road to Forbidden Island from the main road in Kagman is quite challenging, especially if you do not have four-wheel drive. Some sections of the road resemble a dried-up riverbed with deep crevices, and thick shrubs cover sharp turns. You may end up narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a vehicle driving in the opposite direction.
Looking down from the lookout, you may think that reaching Forbidden Island is easy and requires no sweat at all, but those who have been down there before know better.
Crossing the small gap of knee-deep water between the beach to the island is something of a major feat as the rocks are sharp and the current strong.
You also have to make sure you’re back on the beach before the tide comes in. Fighting the strong current is no joke. Forbidden Island has already claimed many lives.
The trek, in short, is not for everybody. It is not for the weak of heart or those scared of heights.
You start the downward trail by entering deep into a jungle of tangan-tangan, stepping on loose rocks that may suddenly roll beneath your feet or fall from above.
The final few yards of the trail are the most challenging. The loose earth and rocks almost make it impossible to get a foothold or a handhold. A piece of rope tied to a tree helps hikers, but you can’t hold onto it forever. You have to let go, prevent yourself from tumbling down the rest of the trail and landing on the sharp rocks below.
Then there’s the return trek which is no less challenging. The weather can also play a big role. If you go down on a rainy day, the trail will be slippery and muddy, but if you go on a bright sunny day, the blistering heat is almost too much to bear.
Just try to forget for a few hours why the island is named “Forbidden” and enjoy the trek. To a lot of people, the island’s name incites curiosity just like anything else that is forbidden.
Designated as a sanctuary for the conservation of wildlife in April 2001 through Public Law 12-46, Forbidden Island offers a superb hiking trail, with spectacular views of an endless stretch of the ocean and blue sky, great snorkeling nooks, pristine hidden pools, and a cave which I have yet to explore.
It’s an unforgettable experience for hikers, and though you may come home with scratches, bruises, and sore muscles, it’s definitely worth it.