Okinawa conjures images of an exotic island paradise that became entangled with the USA’s involvement in the Pacific War of WWII. The cluster of the some 160 islands which make up the Okinawa archipelago is starting to nudge travellers radars as the world’s perception starts to alter for the better. Foreigners are learning of the pristine white sandy beaches, stunning turquoise waters and colourful marine life contrasting with dramatic rugged scenery.
Still home to over 100,000 US troops, Okinawa is a far cry from the culturally rich traditions mainland Japan has to offer, but you do not go to Okinawa for the culture. You go for the diving.
The outer islands, almost flecks of sand and coral scattered throughout the South China Sea, although expensive to reach, is where possibly the best diving in the world can be found. Diving on WWII ship wrecks and amongst vibrant corals and flamboyant marine life, the high visibility and clarity of the water is second to none.
For those who are strapped for time or cannot afford to reach the remote outer islands, there is still an assortment of wonderful dive sites close to the mainland accessible from the Okinawa’s capital, Naha.
A 60 minute boat ride from the harbour will take you to the Kerama Islands, a designated National Park surrounded by waters known as ‘Kerama Blue’ offering some of the clearest waters in the world with visibility of 50-60 metres.
The knot of 20 islands and clusters of uninhabited islets that make up the Kerama’s are bursting with unspoilt nature, tropical vegetation and are laced with powder white beaches, speckled with coral – some of the best beaches Japan and Asia have to offer. The shimmering emerald waters are truly transparent. This pocket of the world is a true ocean paradise.
Beneath the surface, is a diver’s mecca. Underwater scenery that could rival that of a tropical aquarium. Colours so rich at depths of 20-30m, it’s like someone has slipped an illuminated vivid lens into your mask. The sun shimmers through the crystal clear waters as rainbow fish dart around you. Orange, pink, yellow. It’s almost like someone is splattering paint around you. Anemones sway in the gentle current as shy clown loaches peer out cautiously, skinny eels weave through nooks and crannies, iridescent star fish cling to the sunburnt rocks.
The coral is opulent and grand. Undamaged, rich and healthy. The wealth of aquatic life is unlike anything experienced before. The waters are warm and inviting and teem with an abundance of sea turtles that regularly glide past majestically, so close you could touch them, completely ignorant of divers’ presence. The winter months draw in the humpback whales seeking warmer waters, a true spectacle in itself to witness from an underwater perspective.
The seascape of the underwater world is truly something that needs to be seen to be believed. It is a world some see only in pictures, the underwater world filled with the wonder and mystery of the unknown. The reefs, the colours, the fish, and the pure enjoyment of discovery are only some of the reasons we scuba dive.
To scuba dive is to have a quest for adventure and the waters of Okinawa are filled with just that.
Written by Lisa Pagotto – www.crooked-compass.com
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