For our birthday trip this year we went to stay in Zamami, one of the Kerama Islands in Okinawa.
I had a birthday!! To celebrate we went to Shiarahama beach, probably the most famous/popular beach in Kansai.
We randomly came across a sign for an observatory deck on Akashi bridge the other day.
The first beach we visited was Mibaru, it was about an hours bus ride away from Naha, and cost ¥760 each way.
The beach was pretty quiet, to the left were some sunshades and water sports, and to the right, nothing! We went right and set up camp under a little cave. The water was warm and clear, we swam out to the big rocks and touched them, but left pretty quick when we spotted some crabs! There was a small shop selling ice cream at the entrance to the beach which maybe had a bathroom too.
For Js birthday we took the ferry to Aka, it took 90mins to cross and cost about ¥2130 each way.
We cycled to the main beach Nishibama which was a lot busier, but still only about 50 people.
Ocean Expo Park (the aquarium) also had a small beach. It was pretty lively full of families, but the water was clear and warm so I enjoyed dipping my feet and having a beer.
For my birthday I booked a scuba diving experience. I want to do my PADI at some point but its quite expensive and would have taken 3-4days of our 6 night holiday. So instead I did the diving experience with Piranha Divers. I was a little worried as after booking didn’t hear from them, I didn’t have a time or location for the dive. I sent a few emails asking for more info – what I should bring etc but didn’t really get much information. By the time I arrived in Okinawa I had a place and time, Family Mart in Moon Beach between 9.30-9.45am. Still no answers to how long I would dive for, if my partner could join me on the boat (probably) or what to bring. I was a bit concerned that it was not a professionally run establishment, but the website looked reassuring and the reviews on TripAdvisor excellent. I decided it was too late to change companies so just to go with it!
We had to take a long bus from Naha to Moon Beach, and after an initial mix up got on the right bus. It cost over ¥1000 each way and took 1.5hrs. When we arrived it was 9.47am and there was no sign of Jan my contact at Piranaha divers. We waited. I emailed to say I was there, and tried to phone. There was no number on their website but after a quick google I got a number. I was just calling as a white van rocked up. Hi, jump in quick he said. So we did!
We drove just down the road to a small marina. Jan started unpacking and preparing the gear. I was given a wetsuit that was a perfect fit, and shoes that fit me perfect too! I had to sign a disclaimer saying if I died no one could sue Jan or PADI. It was ok but felt a bit nervous, like it had happened a few times before and was a real possibility lol!
We jumped on the boat which was being shared by 3 diving companies. We kind of got the ok for James to be onboard, then after a short while we were off. As we went Jan explained safety points and how to dive to me and another diver (a young boy!). It was very quick and rushed, but I think all the main points were put across, and I had to confirm I understood. I started to feel nervous, would I remember to clear my nose properly, what hand signals to use, to remember to breathe?! The equipment was pretty heavy but secure and looked pretty trustworthy.
I got loaded up, and Jan showed me how to hold my mask and pushed me overboard!
You can see a short vid of that below!
First he took me down, little by little, my ear started to hurt so I indicated it to Jan and he pulled me up right away to clear my nose again, the pain went away so we went down again. He kept checking I was ok. At the bottom he showed me to hold on to a rock while he went back up to get the boy. There were so many fish already even a little bit under the surface. When he returned he pulled us along from above by holding on to our tanks. I didn’t have to do anything but look! We saw shoals of rainbow fish, ‘bad fish’, green & yellow fish, and black and white stripy fish! It was great. A large angel fish swam right by my nose! Jan pulled us around and around making sure we saw lots of different types of fish, and checking regularly that I was ok. After a while just as my goggles were beginning to fill with water we surfaced in the Blue Cave. It was pretty busy in there with lots of other divers and snorkelers so we didn’t stay long maybe only 30 seconds before Jan said, ok, ready to go again? He took us back down and this time we didn’t spend as long exploring, just went back to the boat. He took the boy up while I waited, and that was the best bit, being ‘alone’ under the sea with just the fish.
I got back on the boat and unloaded, the other divers were back too and we set off again for Moon Beach. In total I was under the water for 40minutes. When we were nearly back Jan asked if I wanted to dive again, sure I said, and he was like ok next dives in a bit. Oh… I didn’t want to make James wait for me again, and couldn’t really afford another ¥10,000 to do the same dive back to back. I said no thanks I best not, but Jan seemed really disappointed in me, like I’d personally offended him.
All in all I had a great time scuba diving with Piranha Divers, it was a great first real experience, I saw lots of beautiful fish and coral and felt well looked after and safe with Jan in the water. You can tell how passionate he is for diving, and that we wants everyone to love it as much as he does. In total it cost ¥11500 for diving and the boat, we left around 10.30am got back about 12.30pm and I had 40mins in the water. I hope some day I can go back and do it again!
We spent a few days at the beach last week in Usami.
Beach culture was a lot like that in the UK – umbrella hire, ice cream and inflatables. I didn’t see many people playing in the sand making sandcastles but it is more dirty volcanic sand rather than golden sand.
The sea was super salty and the waves could knock you over – infact I got flipped upside down by strong waves a number of times!
The next town along was having a summer celebration, we saw some fireworks from our bedroom window the first two nights and decided to walk around the bay and investigate the third night.
So glad we did! There was a real festival atmosphere, yukata, food stalls and lanterns.
These lanterns were put in the water and floated down towards the sea.
It was so pretty and serene just sitting on the banks with the locals eating kakigori and watching them float by.
A round of spectacular fireworks went off again just at the mouth of the river.
The following day we were passing through again on a trip back from Mt.O-muro and heard drumming in the distance.
And the grand finale!
I really enjoyed myself in Usami and the celebrations in Ito were really special. Our hosts were very sweet and doubled our room size for us and presented me with a yukata for relaxing in when we said goodbye.