Sunday, May 15, 2011

Okinawa Adventures - Day 4 Aka Island Part 1

Day 4 was another snorkeling adventure filled day with us starting the day at 7am. The local ferry (boat rather) departs from the main Zamami Island to Aka Island at approximately 8:30am which lasts for only about 15 minutes. We arrived quite early ensuring we didn't miss the boat. The only other passengers were a caucasion and a local man who looked like a fisherman. We realised that once we arrived at Aka Island, the caucasion man was picked up by a school bus and we thought he was an English teacher at the local school. What a place to teach!! 

Anyhow, the morning started beautifully and the weather also looked like it was going to hold up. Below is a picture of the boat ride to Aka Island..

The stern

The sun's amazing effort of shining through

Already on the boat, we could visibly see the ocean bed as we approached the wharf. The ocean was sa blue as blue and it was like an extended swimming pool surrounding the island. We knew we had to get a better view of the place so we decided to climb the bridge right next to the port that links two islands together. We also had some time before the local information kiosk opened to leave our luggage so this was the perfect opportunity. We climbed up the bridge and this was the jaw-opening view we encountered..

Battle up the bridge

Swimming pool!

A more scenic view
Apparently it was a common event to see turtles and rays swim through this channel. Obviously the water is so clear you can see anything swim through it. Don't think an ant can get past without being noticed!

After spending some time absorbing this landscape, it was time to check in our luggage and find the local store that offers bicycle rental. It didn't take long for us to find it since the town was so small and away we went to the first stop, Nishihama Beach. The ride only lasted about 10 minutes with some small uphill battles but since the roads were all concrete paved.. it wasn't a challenge at all. We parked our bikes by the side of the path and walked down a path where we could smell the ocean.. and BEHOLD.. Nishihama Beach!

Aka Island Nishihama Beach
Although I felt the beach was not as beautiful as Furuzamami Beach, I wish a had a better picture to do this place justice. I think I was so infatuated with the idea of snorkeling, I basically ignored everything else. But not all was lost as you will see later of the beautiful underwater community this place holds. The beach was layered with coral which made it somewhat difficult to walk on but the clinking sound as you walked on them sang beautifully.

Music to the ears
We snorkeled 3 times at Nishihama Beach that day and the dives got better each time. I think we just had to explore a little before we could settle and appreciate the aquatic life. Anyhow, these are some of the pics of the first dive to show the Nishihama Beach beach formation and characteristics.

Underwater coral island

Another table coral.. this one was big enough to sit more than 10

Clown Triggerfish
During our dives, we met many boats of scuba divers enjoying the views as we did and we bumped into one lone scuba diver (I thought divers shouldn't dive alone??).

Shall I jump?
The lone diver
One of my favourite pics

The picture directly above is probably one of my all time favourite pictures so far of the underwater world. I know it does not include any wildlife, coral, or anything remotely representing the underwater life, but the serenity and peace of this view is under the false pretence of the ocean's majestic power that engulfs the diver. I found this to be a poweful image..

Anyhow, we also took a picture of us with the scuba boat to demonstrate how far out we went from the beach to meet with these divers.
Thumbs up
Well, like I said, the first dive was just exploring the area although the beach is far too large to explore entirely. I didn't take many good underwater photo's this time but the second and third was much better. We needed to get some grub into our stomach so we decided to leave for lunch and maybe explore other beaches before coming back here.

Our lunch.. the Okinawa Soba (again). Man I love it! 

Part 2 will be posted shortly!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

The other perspective

Raving about my love of the underwater adventures to one of my colleagues, he asked me if I preferred snorkeling or scuba diving. This was rather an embarassing question as I have only really snorkelled and never scuba dived. I was someone who was confessing my love of the water and yet I have not tried to enjoy it in another perspective! I think one of the reasons why I never pursued the scuba license is because of the 'fuss' you undergo when scuba diving unlike snorkeling where it's just slip on the fins, mask, and snorkel and away you go.

To truly appreciate what I love, I am now determined to get my open water diver's license through PADI this year either in Hong Kong or somewhere like Okinawa (hopefully). This way, I can enjoy the underwater world from another perspective. Who knows, I might not like scuba at all and remain an avid snorkeler. I suppose I will never know until I try it out..

I am now trying to find a local scuba school.. and also looking at investing in underwater photography equipment. I really need to start saving..

If anyone reading this have any suggestions on where I can locate a good scuba diving school, please let me know!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Okinawa Adventures - Day 3 Agenashiki Island

We headed back towards the pier so that we could make our way to the smaller islands. The accommodation lady knew who to contact to take us to Agenshiki Island, which was only a few minutes away which meant we wouldn't need to spend so much time traveling since it was going to get dark in a few hours. The map of the island is below:

We jumped on a boat from the wharf and literally lasted only minutes. It costed us JPY1,500 per person return which we thought was a little hefty for such a short boat ride, but considering it is our first trip there, it was well worth it. Here is a picture of the captain of the boat..
Ahoy matey
Here is a pic of what we saw as we approached Agenashiki Island. Apparently we were the only ones on the island along with a few wild goats. I wonder how they got there? Anyhow, this reminded me of the movie 'The Blue Lagoon'. This island was ours for 2 hrs until we were to be picked up at 5pm.

Island Paradise
The first thing we noticed was that there was plenty of shale scattered all over the place. I assume island was formed from volcanic activity millions of years ago. The entrance to the beach was alot rockier than the other beaches but the water was just as clear. Here are some of the coral formations we encountered..

Agenashiki Island Coral

Colony of blue green damselfish
I'm beginning to think I need to start learning the names of the main or the most common tropical fish so that I can identify it in my blog! Give me a fish that can be caught on a fishing line and I can name it in a blink of an eye, but for the tropical fish, I'm left clueless. Homework for me.

Table Coral
We also met a few table corals large enough to seat 6. Along the reef there were a few of those scientific research layered boxes which I believe was left to keep a track of marine life at this reef. Even though we saw some coral stunners, the majority of the reef had dead bleached coral which was depressing to see. The locals blamed it on El Nino where the change in balance of temperature have led to this.. truly sad..

A strange coral formation was the one below. I don't believe it was naturally formed as the underlying foundation seems man made. Maybe I am wrong but I still found this interested as it resembled a multi-layered flower.

3 layered cake

Agenashiki Island was home to many species of sea cucumbers. I took so many pictures of these that my partner struck me for each one I took. There weren't the common black sea cucumbers and the colours/textures were mesmirising.

Hyper coloured sea cucumber

Star struck

An unexpected encounter was with the black headed sea snake that was common in these areas. Like the turtle, I did not expect to see these up close but to tell you the truth, I wasn't too sure if I wanted to be too close as they are infamous for being extremely venemous. However, they just did their own thing strolling around and we went on with our business. We waved our farewell and departed in opposite directions..

Blacked headed sea snake
We did manage to bump into a few more of these sea snakes and felt more at ease with each one. 

Anyhow, before we knew it, our 2 hours were up and we needed to get out of the water. Here is a picture of my partner just relaxing from an exhausting snorkel. I think she was looking for some prawns/shrimp?

Where's the shrimp?
We were picked up at 5pm as promised and headed back to the main island. Once we returned, we washed up (as well as our gear) and made our way opposite the accommodation to fill our starving stomachs.

Maybe it was because of all the fish we saw but we felt like eating fish. Luckily for us, they had some seasoned grilled fish that was locally caught in the morning! Accompanying the fish was the fried karage chicken, sour seaweed dish of some sort, and the Okinawa soba which I missed taking a picture of. I must've been too hungry. This was all topped off with the local Okinawa Orion beer ;) 

Chicken Karage to die for.. went beautifully with the local beer

Freshly caught seasoned grilled fish

What a great end to a perfect day! Day 3 was a long day but one to remember. We encountered so many things that we did not expect and these will be forever cherished. I will go back to these places again but it is just a matter of when.

My next post will be about Day 4 with our trip to Aka Island which is about 15-20 minute boat ride from the main Island. Stayed posted for more pictures and our underwater adventures!


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Okinawa Adventures - Day 3 Furu Zamami Beach @ Zamami Island

After our escapade with the sea turtles and devouring the hearty lunch in town, we decided it was time to visit the main beach, Furu Zamami Beach that we've heard so much about.The owner of our accommodation again offered to drive us to Furu Zamami Beach which only took 10 minutes. We have to remember that the locals only drive at 20km/h so really, it's much closer than described. 

Thinking that we couldn't possibly be surprised by the beauty of Furu Zamami Beach due to our earlier visit to Ama Beach, our breaths were once again stolen away. The sand was almost pure white and I believe this is because of the white coral that has dissolved on the beach leaving white powdery residue which combined with the sand.

Our first breathtaking view of Furu Beach
This was our first view of Furu Zamami Beach from the wooden resting ledge/verandah and as we walked down the stairs closer to the water, we were filled with excitement. Walking on the dead coral on the beach, you can hear the sweet tinkling sounds of coral hitting against each other creating musical harmony. It reminded me of wind chimes..

View from the rocky ledge on the south side of Furu Zamami Beach

Another beach shot

The coral formations began almost immediately from the beach so you didn't need to swim far to get a glimpse of the abundant aquatic life. Below are some of the coral spectacles we encountered..
Standing out of from the crowd

The beach was also renowned for large colonies of clown fish that inhabit the coral reef and below was one of the larger species that approached me without fear. I wasn't sure if this was an aggressive standoff to intimidate me or if it thought my camera (Canon D10) was food because of the blue shade that could be mistaken for the scales of fish. Funny thing was, it was only this species that behaved this way. I must've stepped into their territory and it was telling me to back off.. well it worked!

Twoband anemonefish: What are you looking at!

Blue and brown striped slug
I saw this blue and brown striped slug on the sea bed.. actually there were hundred scattered all over the place. It was quite difficult to see from the surface and I only noticed it when I dove down to visit the sandy bottom. Another creature that caught my attention was this unique type of sea cucumber. It was fat as hell! I also recall it to be over 30cm. I was so tempted to hold it but of course I had to hold back.  

Sea cucumber
While I was on the ocean floor, I was hypnotised by the beauty of the deeper blue. The clarity of the water and the soft white sand must've done the trick as you can see below. This was a scene I only saw on TV and I took every opportunity I could to enjoy this view..

To infinity and beyond
Saw a huge sea cucumber

Simply had to take a pic with it
Some of you may know that I want to get into freediving and this was the perfect opportunity for me to test my knowledge of what I learnt from reading the 'Manual of Freediving'. Certainly have improved in technique and my awareness of my surroundings. Anyhow, back to my trip. 

We stayed at Furu Zamami Beach for a couple of hours but decided that we could explore some of the smaller islands that were close by since it was only about 3pm. It was going to get dark at 6pm so we had another 3 hours before we hit the sack. This post will have to be saved for another day since there are so many photos to choose from. 

Overall, I found Furu Zamami Beach to be my favourite beach from all the sites I have visited. I don't know if it is because of the white sand or the clarity of the water but from what you have seen from the photo's above, the deeper blue was just so mesmerising that it keeps drawing me in. I will definitely visit again!