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Cave Nita
Photograph: Courtesy of Okinawa Convention & Visitors BureauCave Nita

Dive into Okinawa

A marine paradise

Time Out Hong Kong in partnership with Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau
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Okinawa is a tropical sea paradise and a world class diving destination, home to vibrant sea life and abundant coral. It is comprised of 160 islands, and endowed with beautiful nature fostered by the warm, subtropical climate. Once Ryukyu Kingdom – an independent kingdom which lasted for about 450 years from the 15th century –Okinawa welcomed the knowledge and skills gained through its exchange with Japan and China, as well as other East and Southeast Asian countries during the Great Trade Era. This has resulted in a unique history and culture that is distinct from the rest of Japan.

At the root of Ryukyuan cuisine is gratitude and respect for the climate, and the natural resources of the islands. The combination of the unique Okinawan climate (different from mainland Japan), and the wisdom gained through daily life has created the cuisine of the local people. They gathered ingredients from the surrounding areas and cooked by stir-frying, stewing, squeezing, and steaming. The Okinawan diet is based on the philosophy of Ishoku Dogen – a belief that daily diet has a direct link to good health and well-being.

Diving in Okinawa
Photograph: Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau | Taketomi Submarine Hot Spring

Diving in Okinawa

World recognised for being a beautiful resort island, you can find great food, well preserved culture, world heritage sites, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and of course world class diving spots throughout. The warm Japan current creates the perfect environment for coral habitat, around 400 species out of the world’s 800 species inhabiting the waters around Okinawa, drawing divers from around the globe. Its crystal-clear waters allow divers to truly appreciate its stunning underwater seascape – from dynamic terrain to jewel-toned fish.

Kerama Islands
Photograph: Courtesy of Zamami Village | Kerama Islands

Kerama Islands

Kerama Islands are located about 40 kilometres west of Naha City, Okinawa Main Island. The islands consist of over 20 big and small islands that are famous for its crystal clear waters, abundant in colourful sea creatures and coral reef. Depending on which island you are heading to, it is a 35 to 50 minute boat ride from the main island. There are many diving spots where the water is shallow so it is perfect for beginners. In addition to diving, snorkelling, and sunbathing on the beach, Kerama Islands offer an excellent opportunity for whale watching as they serve as a breeding ground for humpback whales from December to March.

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Ishigaki island and neighbouring islands
Photograph: Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau | Manta Scramble

Ishigaki island and neighbouring islands

Ishigaki island is the main island among Yaeyama islands, and is the site of the region’s major airport with direct flights from Hong Kong. Aside from diving, people can also enjoy island hopping, the view of Kabira Bay – which was awarded three stars by the Michelin Green Guide – and delicious Ishigaki beef. Manta Scramble is famed for its congregation of manta rays. If you’re lucky, you could be surrounded by ten mantas or more! Just off the coast and a 15-minute boat ride away lies Taketomi Island. On the north side of the island is the Taketomi Submarine Hot Spring where hot spring water gush out of the sand at a depth of 20 meters.

Yonaguni Island
Photograph: Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau | Hammerhead Rock

Yonaguni Island

In between Ishigaki Island and neighbouring country Taiwan is Yonaguni Island. Sitting at the westernmost point of Japan, Yonaguni Island is where people can view the last sunset in Japan. Horseback riding on Yonaguni horses – which are designated as a natural monument by Yonaguni town – is also another activity you can enjoy here if you’re taking a break from your ocean adventures. There are direct flights from Okinawa main island and Ishigaki island to Yonaguni island. The waters surrounding Yonaguni are known for being one of the few places in the world to encounter a group of hammerhead sharks. There is even a chance to see a group of over 100 hammerheads swimming, especially off the southern coast of Irizaki, the western end of the island, a place all divers yearn to visit. 

Advanced divers can explore the mysterious submarine ruins lying on the seabed of Yonaguni Island. Discovered in 1986, it’s still uncertain whether they were naturally formed or built by hand. The lying megaliths have a total length of approximately 100 meters, a width of approximately 60 meters, and a height of approximately 25 meters.

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Snorkelling in Okinawa
Photograph: Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau | Snorkelling in Okinawa

Snorkelling in Okinawa

Without needing to go further offshore, the waters in Okinawa are clear enough to offer a view of colourful fish even in shallow water. Some diving shops also organise snorkelling tours in which participants can take a boat to explore various snorkelling spots. There are some dangerous creatures, rip currents, and prohibited areas in the sea that you should keep a safe distance from. Ensure that you wear a life jacket, and use a guide, or seek advice from professional diving shops who are knowledgeable about the area.

For more information about Okinawa, head to Visit Okinawa.

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