Guam is an island in the North Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines. It is the largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands archipelago. The terrain is of volcanic origin, surrounded by coral reefs. Guam has a relatively flat coralline limestone plateau (source of most fresh water), with steep coastal cliffs and narrow coastal plains in the north, low hills in center, and mountains to the south. The highest point is Mount Lamlam at 406 meters (1,332 feet).
The biggest environmental problem is the extirpation of native bird population by the rapid proliferation of the brown tree snake, an exotic, invasive species. The decimation of the bird population has lead to a 40 fold increase in the number of spiders, compared to nearby islands. As of 2013, the latest plan to reduce the snake population was to airdrop frozen mice stuffed with acetaminophen (toxic to snakes), sporting cardboard wings (to get hung in trees) – believe it or not. There are two highly polluted federal Superfund sites in Guam, both groundwater and soil under the Air Force base and the capital city are chemically contaminated. The Guam Environmental Protection Agency is officially responsible for the island’s environment; whereas, the Department of Agriculture, Division of Aquatic & Wildlife Resources (DAWR) is responsible for the island’s native animal life on land and sea.
Guam’s major protected areas include the War in the Pacific National Historical Park, the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, and the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the world’s oceans, and the deepest point is known as Challenger Deep. Other protected areas include the ecological reserve at Orote Peninsula and the marine preserve at Pati Point, as well as the National Natural Landmarks at Facpi Point, Fouha Point, and Two Lovers Point. The United States Coral Reef Task Force is concerned with the protection of the island’s coral reefs. The Coral Reef Initiative of Guam was formed to work with the International Coral Reef Initiative. The Guam DAWR maintains a Marine Preserves website covering the recreation ecology of the island’s marine protected areas. The Guam Reef Life website by biologist Dave Burdick includes a virtual tour of the island’s reefs. The Guam Beaches website is author Tim Rock’s review of the island’s favorite beaches.
The Natural Resources Atlas of Southern Guam website provides detailed information on the watersheds of southern Guam. Of all places, the Guam Hilton has installed the island’s first zipline at Zip Guam. Atlantis Submarines – Guam offers undersea tours. Seawalker Guam Tours specializes in helmet diving, and Real World Diving Guam is a Snuba surface-supplied diving specialist. Dive shops include Guam Tropical Dive Station and the Micronesian Divers Association.
The Micronesian Chamorro people were inhabiting Guam when Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521; though, Guam was claimed for Spain in 1565, and Jesuit missionaries moved in a hundred years later. Religious conflicts soon lead to the Spanish wiping out more than half the native population. At the end of the 19th century, the United States took over Guam during the Spanish-American War. The Japanese occupied Guam for most of WWII. Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi became famous for hiding out on the island for 28 years after U.S. forces regained control in 1944. Guam was not offered civilian government until 1950. Tourism development was not allowed until 1963, when John F. Kennedy removed Guam’s security clearance. As of 2013, large numbers of U.S. forces were scheduled to pull back to Guam from increasingly problematic Okinawa.
Traditions Affirming our Seafaring Ancestry is a native Chamorro cultural group that builds traditional outrigger canoes at Ypao Beach canoe house. The Department of Parks and Recreation, Historic Resources Division is in charge of the preservation of historic properties. The National Register of Historic Places in Guam includes sites such as the WWI era SMS Cormoran shipwreck, Ilik River Fortifications I and II, Orote Field, Piti Guns, Plaza de España in Hagatna, and San Dionisio Church Ruins. Museums include Guam Museum and the Pacific War Museum. The Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities maintains an Artists Directory, available online. The Guam International Film Festival has become an annual event. The SandCastle Dinner Theater is popular with visitors. Oddly enough, “gun tourism” has become popular with Japanese tourists, attracted to the forbidden fruit of shooting at Guam ranges.
- Tourism and the Military Build-up on Guam: Adapting to Change by FR Schumann, 2012
- Heritage Tourism Planning Guidebook: Methods for Implementing Heritage Tourism Programs in Downtown Hagatna, Guam by F Schumann, R Aguon, B Hoya, K Pangelinan, J Quidachay, 2011
- Historical ties and cultural connections between Guam and Chichijima: implications for tourism by FR Schumann, 2010
- Private and Public Sector Collaboration in Guam’s Tourism Industry: Is Guam Prepared for the Future? by FR Schumann, 2008
- Star 2006: Survey of Attitudes Towards Tourism: Residents of Guam by T Iverson, 2006
- Tourism, the Environment, and the Military: The Case of Guam, 1962-2002 by MG Blackford, 2006
- STAR 2000: Survey of Tourism Attitudes, Residents of Guam by T Iverson, 2000
- Tourism and community development in Guam by RA Stephenson, TJ Iverson & H Kurashina, 1999
- Enframing I Taotao Tano’: Colonialism, Militarism, and Tourism in 20th Century Guam by K Camacho, 1998
- Coastal Zone Management: Striking the Balance Between the Environment and Tourism Development on the Island of Guam by W Kwan, 1997
- The economic impact of tourism in Guam by G Hiles & R Webb, 1995
- The impacts of tourism on the environment: a case study of Guam by K Roos, 1995
- Tourism Development of an Island Destination: A Case Study of Guam by Y Kano, 1994
- Guam: new horizons for Japanese tourism by BG Karolle, 1991