Diving Okinawa

The diving adventure’s calling got stonger as I moved towards the south west of Honshu. On Saturday 6th of November I finally flew out of Hiroshima to Naha. The morning of the flight wore my signature. Sleeping over due to a long night out, the original plan to catch the airport shuttle was thrown over board immediately as I started to doubt I’d even make it by cab. Out on the street after quickly grabbing all my stuff I had a taxi driver who didn’t speak a single word of English. Somehow I could prevent for him to drive me to the wrong airport and made him speed, as Japanese are good in reading body language and I’m pretty shure he got my nervous impatience checking his watch regularely on the way to the airport. Once again I and even my luggage made it onto the plane on time. It was clsoe though.

After a short two hours flight the plane landed in Naha on Okinawa. With little more than a diving shop’s number in the hand I started to figure out what to do. A call at the diving shop helped and I jumped on a bus to go north. That’s how I ended up in Chatan town and diving with Reef Encounters. As you might already figured, this post won’t be about much more than diving. I spent a week on Okinawa with days showing following a certain pattern: Sleep – Dive – Eat – Drink

The first day of diving on Sunday already brought two novelties to my short diving curriculum. As we only did shore dives where I did my certification, Dahab in Egypt that is, the boat diving was a first, but the more exciting premiere was the wreck diving. It was still impressive, although we had to go to another one than planned due to serious swells. We’d catch up a couple of days later though.

My first wreck dive (Photo courtesy of Toyo)

After some more very nice boat dives further up north from Chatan on Monday, Tuesday brought a disappointment. After two days of not so nice and partly very rainy days Tuesday seemed to finally bring perfect sunny diving weather. Or so I thought… The strong winds and tricky swells left behind by the vanishing typhoon didn’t allow any diving. Thus I ended up spending the afternoon in Naha, which was alright.

Shop in Naha. Notice the Alcohol Jars with Snakes in them: the local specialty Habu-Sake

The cancellation on Tuesday also had me to cancel my tentative plans to fly down to Yonaguni. This island offers some very good dives and is the most western point of Japan. But with expensive flights and still heaps to discover around Okinawa I decided to stick around there. This decision would turn out to be very good!
Wednesday we got well compensated for the day before and I was very happy I dind’t get in any plane that morning. We went out with the boat for the day on a sunny day. There around the Kerama Islands we were lucky to see a Manta Ray in one of the dives, but it would even get better the next day.

Just hovering (Photo courtesy of Toyo)
First Manta Ray Sight (Photo courtesy of Toyo)

Thursday was to become my absolute highlight of the week. The first dive at the so called Twin Rocks was fantastic. Awesome diving spot, lots to see and at the start we went to visit a baby reef shark. But the most amazing part was to come, and that not even with any scuba stuff geared up! On our way to the second spot we came along two boats anchored along an island. There was obviously something there worth seeing. We quickly found out what they were here for as we spotted the dorsal fin and the wingtips of a Manta Ray at the surface. There was even more than one there. But we had just come out of a dive, were not even ready to snorkel and the engine noise scared them away. But only temporarily. They would come back and by then we were ready to jump in and swim right next to them!

Snorkeling with a Manta Ray!

Friday brought some more excellent boat diving off the coast. And we went back to that other wreck. That was one very impressive deep dive. The wreck is about 45m long, unfortunately one can only spend a short time down there, as its located at 40m depth. Due to less clement weather the last two days only allowed dives from the shore, but these are also very good spots right there off the sea wall.

That’s for the diving part. Just some more pics…

Got to love those Christmas Tree Worms
Interesting Nudiebranch, got the latin name somewhere... (Photo courtesy of Toyo)
Baby scorpion fish, do see it? (Photo courtesy of Toyo)

For the sleeping I got booked into a simple hotel whose best feature was that sleeping with the open window the waves would lull me into sleep. Next to it there are a couple of bars and restaurants, with Me Kara Uroko being my absolute favorite place as my daily visit, with a single exception would underline.

View from the hotel room
Part of the lovely staff at Uroko. Kudos go also to the guys in the kitchen who do delicious dishes!

Well, this all led to changes in my original plans to visit at least Beijing on my way back. I’ll do that, but only with an overnight stay at the airport… I guess that’s the price of being flexible and short-term planing. on such short notice it had been to expensive to make a brief stop in Beijing just to rush through the two major sights. The tentative plans of a short visit in Seoul and Xi’an before and after Beijing were discarded almost as soon as I got to Okinawa. The good thing is that it’s leaving me more time for Fukuoka, where I got yesterday and which is my last destination Japan. Also I have more time in Hong Kong, which I pretty quickly left when I got there on my outward trip.

Yes, so this was most probably the last entry written from within Japan. I hope you enjoyed reading my posts as much as I did enjoy the trip through the country. I’ve got a couple of days more here before heading for Hong Kong and then back to good old (and cold) Switzerland.

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