Beautiful sea, sweet mango fruits, delicious local cuisine, a starry sky that you cannot see in Tokyo… Just thinking about Okinawa makes you excited. I will now introduce the experience of swimming together with sea tortoises near Zamami island, part of Kerama archipelago known for its beautiful “kerama blue” sea color!
50 minutes by Naha with a high-speed boat! Welcome to the astonishing kerama blue
Kerama archipelago consists of 5 inhabited islands – Tokashiki, Zamami, Aka, Geruma, Maeshima – and many smaller uninhabited ones. The second biggest island is Zamami. Together with the opposite Aka island, they were the primary location for filming the movie “Shiro & Marilyn” that was based on a true story.
You can reach Kerama archipelago by a high-speed boat from Naha’s Tomarin port. Take the monorail from Naha Airport, get off at Miebashi station and walk for about 10 minutes until Tomarin port. Both a high-speed boat and a ferry go to Zamami, but the high-speed boat takes as short as 50 minutes, while the ferry takes 90 minutes. Those who want to dive in the sea early should ride on the high-speed boat!
Fully enjoy Kerama's sea by joining a local diving tour!
There are many beautiful beaches on Zamami island. In the summer various rental shops provide snorkel sets and beach parasols, so that you can enjoy your Okinawan time leisurely.
However, the best thing to do in Kerama’s sea is to swim with the sea tortoises and learn more about their habitat from local divers! There are many shops which offer diving and snorkeling tours, so you might want to book in advance. By doing that you will also get a free pickup from Zamami port when you arrive there.
I recommend the “Nature Land Kayaks” shop which operates only on Zamami, because they will use a water-proof camera to take photos of you in the water during the best moments and then give the photos to you as a present. You would definitely want to have photos of swimming together with the sea tortoises!
First ride the kayak to an uninhabited island!
Since the water is so clear and transparent, you can see unique coral reefs and a variety of coral fish while rowing the kayak.
After arriving at the uninhabited island put up a tent to protect from the sun and start snorkeling! The instructor will explain how to do it if you haven’t had experience before. Dive in the sea and a breath-taking view will spread in front of your eyes. The sun rays make the water glitter and create an even better shade of “kerama blue”. Seeing all the colorful fish and corals you will instantly fall in love with Kerama’s sea. You will be excited and will swim around to see many fish from a short distance, but at some point you will become a little peckish. A freshly prepared lunch will be waiting for you at the beach. The menu changes by the day, but generally it will be taco rice, Okinawa soba, loco moco, curried pilaf or bitter melon pasta.
The moment you've been waiting for! Watching sea tortoises
The instructor knows everything about the behavior of sea tortoises, so he will find them according to the tidal currents of that day. You might want to scream of excitement when you see the tortoise, but don’t forget they are in their own habitat. Do not scare or stress them. Instead, you can slowly and carefully approach the tortoise to look at it. Its rounded shape will make you feel relaxed.
The type of sea tortoise that lives permanently around Zamami island is the rather large green turtle. If you’re lucky you might even see a turtle carrying 1-meter big shell, swimming freely as if flying in the sky and feeding on the seaweeds.
The instructor will concentrate on taking photos while being careful to the sea tortoise. It’s an unforgettable experience to have a photo of you together with the tortoise. Keep your excitement and return back to the kayak. The view of the late afternoon sun over the sea brings a different and peaceful atmosphere.
Stay one night at Zamami if you have time!
Although not as many as in Naha, Zamami island still has some hotels and boarding houses. As there aren’t restaurants around, it is standard to book your accommodation with breakfast and dinner. Everywhere you will be served delicious Okinawa cuisine.
On the photo you can see the dinner at “Natura” hotel. It has “gurukun” fried local fish, tempura (deep fried) of mozuku seaweed, salad of local vegetables and “goya champuru” (stir-fry fish with vegetables and bitter melon). The desert is “sata andagi” (sweet deep-fried doughnuts).
The best thing to do after exploring Zamami island is to eat Okinawan cuisine with relish. A fantastic day. The main island of Okinawa is great too, but there are even more exciting experiences a bit further, deeper into Okinawa prefecture. Definitely visit some of outlying islands, swim in the beautiful breath-taking sea, play with the coral fish, watch the sea tortoises and experience all the great things that these small islands have to offer!
If you stay at Zamami for the night, watch the sky!
The sea is spectacular, but so is the night sky. You can see all the stars in a panorama that exceeds your imagination.
You will be surprised at how easily you can see the Milky Way there. Not only the big and known stars, but the small glittering stardust is easily visible too. The view of the starry sky is astonishing even without any telescope.
You can’t see such a sky in Tokyo. Zamami is entirely surrounded by the sea and there are barely any lights at night time, so it becomes really dark. That is why you can see even the stardust so well. If you find a safe place that can’t be reached by cars, be sure to lie down and watch the entire starry sky. You will have the mystical feeling of floating in outer space.
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