Now that you know the history of Taga, you know why the most popular beach in Tinian is called Taga Beach. It is basically across the street from the Tinian Dynasty hotel and casino so it’s a popular tourist destination too. Just 1/4 mile south of Taga Beach is Tachonga Beach where tourists can go during the day to rent jet skis, learn how to dive, and rent snorkels.
On my first day, I had a chance to drive around during my lunch hour since I packed my lunch with me from Saipan. The sun was out and the waters were sparkling so I made my way over to Taga Beach. In the mid-day sun no tourists were out although there were some locals taking their lunch break by the beach.
The waters, just like in Saipan, are the clearest water that I’ve ever seen. The novelty of this beach is partially that the sands are really quite smooth. There aren’t many rocks or coral pieces on the shoreline nor are there really any when you first enter the water. (Also, because the surf comes in and it’s not so flat, there aren’t any of the sea slugs either!)
Taga Beach has this manmade platform flanked by latte stone shaped fencing. At the end of the platform, the water is deep enough that you can jump off directly into the water. I’d estimate the height of the platform as about 10 feet. Not on the first day, but on another day when I visited there were plenty of other tourists around and I took the plunge off the platform. It reminded me of my swim team days and going to the big local pool where they had diving teams and platforms at that height (and higher).
After seeing this during the day, I knew I had to get in the water after work that day so I grabbed my snorkeling gear and changed, applied copious amounts of sunblock and went to Tachonga Beach. I decided to start off here because there’s easier access to the water here rather than going down the stairs (or jumping off a platform) to get into the water at Taga Beach.
When I parked, I saw portraits being taken — the fact that these two girls were in what I would consider full bridal gowns made me a bit confused. Were they getting married? (There was another older man with them both, but they didn’t seem young enough to be his daughters either). They posed in the tall grass for what I can only assume will be some memorable portraits (although wonder why they didn’t turn around and walk on the beach at least!)
At Tachonga, I jumped into the water and snorkeled out. There’s an area between Tachonga and Taga where the coral is and this area is teeming with fish. One of my favorite things is seeing a whole school of tiny fish swimming around together and there were plenty of little schools of fish around.
And then, out of the corner of my eye I saw something swim by quickly.. a sea turtle! I literally spoke out loud into my snorkel while my face was under water “a sea turtle!” to no one in particular since all the tourists on the beach probably don’t understand English. It swam away so quickly that by the time I had stood up to excitedly tell someone around about this, it was gone. (I explained this to the tourists on the beach in Mandarin but they looked at me and were like.. no, we don’t want to swim in the water. I was like.. WHAT?! I just told you I saw a sea turtle right here about 15 feet from where you are standing and you don’t want to get wet so you are just standing there?)
I kept swimming around and looking at a lot of the cool fish (I say this all the time — snorkeling here is like you are in a humongous aquarium — like Nemo’s aquarium except a million times better) and then I spotted another sea turtle surfacing and diving in the distance. It was really quite majestic to watch. As that turtle swam off into the distance, I happened to look down and see ANOTHER sea turtle nibbling on some of the algae covering the coral. This one was literally about 10 feet below me (perfectly clear visibility) so I got to follow it around for awhile. I’m not going to lie — I basically stalked it. It was such a treat to watch the turtle go about it’s daily business — eating, swimming about, surfacing and diving down again. The turtles were all about 3 feet in length from my estimate. I went back on a separate day to swim and tested by theory that maybe I was hallucinating and it was just one turtle that I kept seeing over and over again although I swore they were in different places — and I saw two at once!
(View from Tachonga Beach)
See the tourists — and if you are wondering, yes.. they are wearing matching shorts and Tshirts. I took this picture obviously when I came out of the water. I wanted to insert an arrow in the middle of the picture saying.. ‘turtle sighting here.’
Honestly, after the excitement wore off (it took awhile for it to wear off!), I realized that most likely this is a commonplace thing in Tinian but just that I hadn’t talked to people about the snorkeling in Tinian so didn’t know. It’s okay if everyone else that goes to Tinian sees turtles — because I didn’t know to expect it, it was so much more of an exciting surprise.
I sat and watched the sunset here (secretly reliving my turtle sightings).
And courtesy of my favorite new function on my iPhone – time lapse camera (came with iOS 8) – a video of sunset!