Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Scuba diving in Kashiwajima

Eye to eye with a lion fish.

A couple of years ago, my friend (and fellow Wide Island webmaster) Joshua Zimmerman showed me and other fellow JETs his videos of SCUBA diving around Japan and Southeast Asia. I was in awe. It looked so adventurous and exciting, and I remember feeling a bit envious of him.

And so last Christmas on our trip to Thailand, I followed in Josh's footsteps and planned a jaunt to Koh Tao, where I learned how to SCUBA dive (dirt cheap, too, I might add) at Ban's Diving Resort. Since taking the classes and doing a few dives to get certified, though, I hadn't gone diving anywhere else.

So when my supervisor offered to take me along with her and her husband on a diving trip a couple weeks after we returned from Seoul, I jumped at the chance.

On Oct. 11, they picked me up at my apartment at 5 a.m., and we proceeded to drive about seven hours to Kashiwajima, a small island on the Pacific Ocean in Kochi prefecture.

View Kashiwajima, Japan in a larger map

Kashiwajima is a popular dive spot, so there are lots of little dive shops on the island. Our dive shop, Hello Marine, was connected to a small inn, so we stayed the night there and they provided all meals and rental equipment.

We did a total of four dives while we were there, two each day. I'll admit, I was very anxious about doing these dives. It had been more than nine months since I'd gotten certified and I was worried I'd screw something up putting my equipment together, or that I'd have a problem underwater, say, with my mask flooding and not clearing, a big problem I'd had in Thailand. As it turned out, however, the dive shop owner was a very kind, mellow old man and he was very patient helping me get the equipment together. And the mask was a nice fit.

Being October, we needed to wear full wet suits and gloves, though at around 75 degrees I think the water was a bit warmer than the outside air. Every part of our body was covered from the neck down. With all that protection, I never felt a bit cold in the water.

It took a while to relax underwater. I spent most of the first dive in survival mode, worrying that my mask might leak, that I might suck in some sea water and choke underwater or that I might inadvertently run into something painful and/or poisonous, like the spiky black sea urchins that were everywhere.

Wakanoura moray eel and those pesky black sea urchins. (Look closely and you can see the urchin's little red eye!)

Striped catfish — poisonous enough to occasionally be fatal to humans.

After a while I chilled out a bit and really started to pay attention and enjoy the experience. It really was like a whole new world, with so many entirely new and novel fish I'd never seen before.

Shortspined cowfish

Diagonal-banded sweetlips (?)

Scarbreast tuskfish

Painted flutemouth

Rockmover wrasse

White spot-tailed morwong

No idea what these are, but they're very sparkly, aren't they.

I was simply excited to see the clownfish (Nemo!) and puffer fish (of which there were many), though I imagine to more experienced divers these are probably pretty common sights that don't warrant much excitement. At first I played very nice and kept my hands to myself, not wanting to touch anything for fear of getting hurt. But after that first dive my supervisor reassured me that if I could manage to agitate one of the puffer fish a bit, he'd puff up real big for me, but he wouldn't hurt me. After that I spent a little time on each dive chasing them around like a toddler after the family cat. But it was futile. They always managed to glide about just a few inches ahead of me.

Emperor angel fish and some other pretty orange fish.

Moorish idol

Just as good as all the brightly colored fish was all the amazingly well camouflaged sea life. Some fish blended into their surroundings so well that even when the dive master pointed at them three feet away from my face, I couldn't see them right away. After staring for a while wondering what on earth he was pointing at, I'd finally realize there was a big fat fish resting right there on the rock in front of me and I hadn't actually seen it. Now that was cool.

Hairy stingfish

Frogfish. He'd blend in quite well on a black rock, I suppose.

The dive master took us to one spot in particular just so we could see this one very tiny, rare crab. Well, actually it was a lobster. A "pink squat lobster" to be exact. But it's actually more like a crab. A hairy crab.

Pink Squat Lobster. See him staring at you, down there at the bottom, with his beady red eyes? Boogida!

Our deepest dive was around 15 meters (about 50 feet) and the conditions were much calmer than they were in Thailand. Then, it had been windy and stormy, so the waters weren't very clear and there was a strong current. The visibility in Kashiwajima was only slightly better than Thailand, though — around 5 to 10 meters (approximately 15 to 30 feet), due to a typhoon that had passed through a few days before our arrival. Normally the visibility in that area runs 30 meters (close to 100 feet), but the storm stirred up the waters. This disappointed my supervisor, but since I'm a beginner I was totally oblivious to the sub-par "vis" (as they call it) and was just thrilled I was seeing so many cool fish.

Lion fish — one of my favorites. Its stings are very painful but luckily it's not aggressive.

Here's a picture of me under the sea.

Me! I'm staring at something on a rock.

All the pictures in this post were taken by my supervisor or her husband. They've got nifty underwater cases for their cameras so they can take pictures underwater. When I become more comfortable SCUBA diving, I'd like to get one of those so I can take my own pictures.

My friend Josh went SCUBA diving at Kashiwajima a couple years ago and he even shot some video underwater. How cool is that? If you want to get a better idea what it's like to be down there, check it out (Coincidentally, the water was a little murky on his trip, too, due to a typhoon):

The above video is from Josh's first visit to Kashiwajima. At his request, I'm also adding his video from his second trip there last year. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Joshua said...

I'm glad your trip went well. Though the video you put up was from my first trip to Kashiwajima. The second trip I went on has much better video.... (put that video up instead!)

Kudos on the diving!