discovery of saipan, the main island

The eleventh installment of Pacific Minigames takes place in the Northern Mariana Islands, an organized unincorporated territory of the United States. Focus on Saipan, the main island hosting the most athletes from the 20 countries competing this year.



The Mariana Islands are located east of the Philippine Sea, north-northeast of Guam. An organized unincorporated territory of the United States incorporated as the Commonwealth. The archipelago consists of 15 islands, including three main ones: Saipan, Tinian and Rota. According to the last census in 2016, there were 53. 467 inhabitants. A population nearly half of which is made up of Asian Americans and Oceanic Americans.

Saipan, the largest island in the archipelago, covers an area of ​​115 km2. It is on this island that the Mini-game competitions are mostly held. Here the American identity is shown everywhere. From buses to commercial signs, including cars.


American influence in the Northern Mariana Islands, on Saipan.



©Alix Madek / NC 1st

Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan

Buses in American colors, on Saipan.



©Alix Madek / NC 1st

Saipan is the most populated island of this archipelago, colonized by the Spanish 500 years ago, then by the Germans and Japanese in the 20th century. In 1944, during World War II, it was invaded by the United States. 29,000 Japanese soldiers are killed. The war on Saipan claimed the lives of 4,000 people on the American side, among the first people – the Chamorros. The American Memorial Park recalls this history.

Mariana Islands Saipan 3

The American Memorial Park commemorates the history of Saipan.



©Alix Madek / NC 1st

On the nearby tennis courts, the Mariannes have not forgotten anything about their painful history. But they prefer to look ahead. “If you look back in the past, the history is quite dark, with a war,” launches Colin Sinclair, professional tennis player from Marianne. “The territory is now American, since 1975. I was lucky to grow up here and experience this island life like an American. Today it is a very beautiful island with heavenly beaches. You must come and find out.”

Colin, in his own way, made the name of the Northern Mariana Islands sound. From the territory of Saipan, he entered the ATP track. His best ranking: 400th in the world. This year he won 2 doubles titles and a singles final. Before finding his favorite places at home. “There is Managaha, an island from which you can see the beaches of Saipan in the distance. Beautiful place. And then the Grotto, northeast of the island. Very beautiful underwater cave. You can dive in and go out into the ocean.” specifies the athlete.

Another historical site, but this time in the north of the island, The last Japanese command post, which recalls this history marked by war.

Mariana Islands Saipan 4

The last Japanese command post, north of Saipan.



© Agata Calandro / NC the 1st

Still to the north of the island, the cliffs of Banzai Cliff offer a unique panorama of the deep waters of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Northern Mariana Islands

Banzai Cliff, north of Saipan.



© Agata Calandro / Nc the 1st

The first inhabitants settled in Saipan over 4,000 years ago. The first people, the Chamorros, were joined by the Carolinians from Micronesia. Their descendants continue to perpetuate their values.

Respect is central to our culture.says Jorge Castro, host of the waa mini-game contest.If you go to a local festival, you will see how young people take their elders by the hands and bring them to their noses. We are very respectful, very proud. We love to represent our culture. We have a small population, but we can play these mini-games. We want the world to know about our hospitality like nowhere else“.

Many Filipinos live in Saipan and settle there to work. In the evening, families get together to have a barbecue together by the sea, like here in the center of Saipan.

Mariana Islands Saipan 5

Two residents of Saipan, originally from the Philippines, meet at a barbecue with family and friends.



©Alix Madek / NC 1st

Mariana Islands Saipan 6

Many people from the Philippines come to work in the Northern Mariana Islands.



©Alix Madek / NC 1st

Mariana Islands Saipan 8

The main street of Saipan is surrounded by a paradise beach.



© Alix Madek / Nc la 1ere

Most of the Mariannes turn out to be of the Catholic faith, but a small part of the inhabitants also profess the Protestant faith. Other religions practiced: Buddhism and Shinto.

Saipan Church of the Mariana Islands

Cristo Rai Church on the island of Saipan.



© Alix Madek / Nc la 1ere

In the heart of the market near the city center, freshly cut coconuts, fruits and vegetables of all kinds, spring rolls and Thai noodles are proudly displayed.

Mariana Islands Saipan 3

Market in the center of Saipan.



© Agata Calandro / Nc the 1st

Mariana Islands Saipan

Saipan market women.



© Agata Calandro / Nc the 1st

Mariana Islands, Saipan 10

Homemade meals take center stage at Saipan Market.



© Agata Calandro / Nc the 1st

Find Martin Charmason and Christian Favennec’s report:

In the center of Saipan stands a building of disproportionate size and glittering gold decorations. Is this the high seat of a local institution? No, this is a Chinese casino that closed due to the health crisis.

Mariana Islands casino in Saipan

A Chinese casino in central Saipan closed due to a health crisis.



© Alix Madek / Nc la 1ere

Mariana Islands Saipan Casino 2

Giant dragon statues sit on a throne in the lobby of the casino, which is now closed to the public.



© Alix Madek / Nc la 1ere

And, like in some US states, cannabis has been freely available in the Northern Mariana Islands for almost a year. Cannabis is legally sold there in specialized stores, right in the center of the city.

Mariana Islands Saipan Cannabis Shop

Cannabis has been legal in the Marianas for almost a year now.



© Agata Calandro / Nc the 1st