Sunday, May 16, 2010

Scuba diving in the Kerama Islands, Okinawa

Me (on the left) with two diving buddies

While in Okinawa, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience the islands' world class SCUBA diving. I was able to do three dives in the Kerama Islands while we were there, and it was awesome. I am truly, truly blessed.

When Joe had told my supervisor about the cheap plane tickets we got to Okinawa, her husband decided to get in on the action as well and planned a weekend down there, so he was my diving buddy. It was nice to be able to dive with a friend (especially one with a camera equipped to take pictures underwater — all these pictures are his). We rented our equipment from "marine club an", a one man diving shop that I can highly recommend. The owner did not speak English, but he was super nice and patient, so we managed well enough.

The Kerama Islands are a 20-mile boat ride from Okinawa's main island, and they're known as one of the top dive sites in the world. I didn't bring my camera because I didn't want to chance it getting wet, so I wasn't able to photograph the stunning islands we were diving around, but it truly looked like something out of a calendar — emerald water, rocky islands rising sharply out of the sea, pristine beaches on deserted islands.

Say hello to Nemo!

Being early March, the water was around 72 degrees, chilly enough to require a full wet suit, including hood, and gloves. With the wet suit on, I didn't feel cold.

Visibility was 20-25 meters (21-27 yards), which was much better than what I experienced last fall in Kochi-ken, though not as good as it can get in Okinawa. We were diving to a depth of 10-20 meters (32-65 feet). One interesting feature of the dives around these islands were the huge underwater cliffs.

Black-headed sea snake — yes, highly poisonous.

I saw a number of the same fish that I saw in Kochi-ken, though not all. The indisputable highlight of the diving though? Swimming with a sea turtle.

When we arrived at the site for the second dive, the guide told us that this was an area where the sea turtles liked to go, but we needed to get our gear on quickly and get in the water, because they would swim away once they saw lots of divers in the water (We were on a large boat with divers from a number of dive shops). We did and sure enough, soon after our dive began we saw one lone sea turtle swimming our way.

It was a really surreal feeling to witness this. He swam past us, slowly and surely, flapping his fins as though he were flying. He paid us no mind as he passed by. I swam toward him to get a good look and got within a few feet of him. Incredible.

The other awesome find on this trip was a couple of whitetip reef sharks. Don't worry, they weren't exactly man eaters — maybe 3 feet long. The guide led us to them in a cave on the bottom of the ocean and shined a light on them. They were just hanging out motionless on the sea floor.

Here's me holding a long, black sea cucumber handed to me by the guide. It was squishy like a sponge.

And a few last pics:

Yellow oxfish

Turkey moray eel

Moon grouper

1 comment:

AdelaideBen said...

I don't dive, but in reading this I sooo envy you. Must have been great.