Up at 7 am on snorkelling day. A quick, convini sandwich breakfast as the diving school guy is picking us up at 8, outside our hotel.
At the port, we find there are only two other people on this trip. They are planning to dive whilst we are only going to snorkel. We set off and, surprisingly far from the shore, we finish pushing into our wet suits and take to the water.
This is my, indeed our, first experience of wet suits and it was colder than I had anticipated. Not seriously uncomfortable but a periodic shock as a wave sloshed down my neck and back.
The water is beautiful, the sandy bottom and the coral formations clearly visible. There are lots of fish – we find Nemo – and a host of others. Large turquoise blue ones, tiny bright blue ones, some with black and white stripes and the yellow ones with the long, extended fin, clearly, I am not a fish expert. The shark I recognized straight away even though it was very small.
We paddled around for about an hour. There was an option to spend more time, but we were both getting cold and there didn’t seem to be anything more to see.
Once back on the boat, we were pleasantly surprised by the restorative, warm shower sprayed inside our wet suit before we struggled out of them.
For people younger and the more experienced, I am certain the dive would have been adapted to suit.
We return to shore, not on Ishigakijima but on Taketomi-jima. This is, I think, where the image of Okinawa stems from – the low, single-story houses with pitched, red tile roofs, the coral stone walls lining the narrow, bougainvillea shaded lanes, plied by bullock carts.
Water Buffalo Carts
As our snorkelling package includes free tickets for a water buffalo cart ride and a rent a cycle, we indulge in these tourist treats. The water buffalo cart I can take or leave. We had already wandered around most of the route looking for the restaurant for lunch – another complimentary part of our package. The guide sang a couple of songs and played the sanshin; the water buffalo knew the way and how to navigate tight corners pulling a cart without guidance. All very nice, but I could not rise to this occasion.
Rent-a-cycle to the beaches
After the bullock cart, we claimed our free bicycles and rode down the sandy lanes to visit a couple of beaches from Nishi (West) Pier, Kondoi Beach and Kaiji Beach. These were just stunning. The tide was out so the water shallow and under the brilliant sunshine was a remarkable patchwork of blues, a blinding white sand, verdant vegetation, and a cloudless sky. January! There is snow in Asahikawa, Hokkaido.
We wander along a couple of beaches revelling in the sun, sea, sand, and coral fragments, before we return our bicycles and take the bus to the ferry port.
Ferry to Ishigaki-jima
The ferry, also included in the tour, back to Ishigakijima is very fast and not really like a boat at all. Everyone is seated inside, as if in a wide aircraft, where we watch a Crayon shin-chan animation on TV. There is no leaning on the ship’s rail watching the island grow smaller in the wake.
Back on Ishigaki-jima we walk to our hotel.
＊entrance Taketomi-jima fee ; 300 yen / adult
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.