In March I was beginning to tire of what seemed like constantly grey smoggy skies and cold weather in Shanghai, and the ocean was calling to me. I had an opportunity for a 4 day weekend, looked at a map to check out the closest options for diving, and booked my ticket for a sneaky dive getaway to Okinawa!
Japan may not be the first place you think of when it comes to diving, but this little island to the south resembles Hawaii far more than the snowy mountains of northern Japan. I flew into the capital city Naha and spent the night there, but really only had time for a quick wander along the main shopping street and a sashimi dinner. Naha had a bit of a grungy, seedy vibe with bars such as the one below on offer…
Overall, I wasn’t too unhappy to leave early the next morning on a ferry bound for the Kerama islands. My destination was the tiny Aka island and the Kawai diving guesthouse.
Kawai guesthouse is a family run hotel right on the beach and was the first dive company established on Aka some 40 years ago. The original proprietor has now retired from diving, but he continues to fish everyday and his son has taken over as divemaster… meanwhile mum serves up gourmet meals including fresh sashimi each night! I knew it was low season, and that Aka wasn’t the most buzzing island in the world… but I was taken a bit by surprise to realise I was the only guest at the guesthouse for 2 of my 3 nights there! I had been looking forward to chatting to some other travellers, but ended up enjoying a lot of quiet solitude and “me” time instead 🙂 While it would have been nice to have some dinner company, I certainly had no complaints about the delicious food for breakfast and dinner.
There was not a lot in the way of activities or nightlife, but I was happy to spend my time in Aka diving, snorkelling, reading, generally lazing around and enjoying the clean air and beach vibes. Oddly enough, the island even has deer wandering around and paddling on the beach. It was the perfect break from hectic Shanghai city life that I needed! I also loved seeing all the different ‘shisa’ – the lion/dog guardians warding off evil spirits from each home.
The diving wasn’t the most spectacular but there was plenty to see, including the most seasnakes I’ve ever dived with! There was also excellent snorkelling straight off the beach near the harbour, with several turtles hanging around.
After three days of island life, it was time to head back to Naha on the ferry and spend a few hours wandering around the many pottery shops and fascinating seafood market.
I declined to try the pig’s face, but the sashimi was delicious and very cheap! All too soon it was time to hop on the monorail to the airport and wing my way back to the smoggy city… *sigh*
More photos on Flickr here