Okinawa may not be at the top of your list when you think of bucket list diving destinations, but it should be.
Okinawa and specifically the Kerama Islands group is a national park. It’s revered by Japanese divers as a hot spot but largely ignored by the rest of the world. Admittedly by myself as well until I started doing research for an upcoming trip.
I’ve done over 120 dives and some AMAZING ones at that. I met my now-husband while diving with large schools of hammerhead sharks in the Coco Islands off of Costa Rica, dove with hundreds of hammerheads in the Galapagos, dove with Oceanic white tips in South Africa, explored the coral reefs of the Red Sea in Egypt, Belize and Honduras, and the Coral Triangle in Palau, the world’s first shark sanctuary. Besides being fascinated by what lies beneath the surface, I believe that divers can play a major role in conservation. Particularly when it comes to saving sharks.
So while I only did one dive in Okinawa, I can honestly say it was the best first dive I’ve ever done.
Normally, the first dive is not that exciting. It’s a safe place for the Dive Master to check out your diving skills. Then when you’ve got the dive master’s approval, you head to the better dive sites that are often more challenging regarding depth, current or a combination of the two.
My first dive in Okinawa was just a 5-minute boat ride from Zamami Island to Botsu-Butsu Coral in Gahi Island. I saw a sea turtle, several anemonefishes, aka clownfish, colourful nudibranchs, a large squid – the first one I’ve ever seen, Gobies and several sea snakes, which was also a first for me. And get this, we were only underwater for 36 minutes and only at a maximum depth of 19.1 m.
Had I not been so cold near the end of the dive, I would have wholeheartedly done another one. The water temperature was 22°C. While I was okay for most of the dive, I knew that the second dive is always colder. It was a tough call to make but one that the Divemaster Yoichi welcomed. He was also too cold for another dive.