Southern Japan is not usually the first destination for divers arriving from Europe. I have been dreaming of Okinawa Islands for quite long, but I’ve been planning a road trip on Japan main island as well. During our journey to Japan we actually combined these both plans.
We ended up traveling to Okinawa in mid-October, which is autumn in the islands. It’s still warm after a hot and humid summer, but typhoons are not so common anymore. Actually one very strong typhoon hit Japan just before our arrival, but it didn’t hit Yayeama Islands.
Diving conditions in Ishigaki
October is autumn season in Ishigaki, but it’s still nice and warm. During our stay, the sea water temperature was 26 degrees (Celsius) and air temperature 28 degrees. We got some rainy days but also sun – there can be some rain around the year on this lush green island. The dive sites we explored were easy: the maximum depth was usually 18 meters and at some macro sites only 13 meters. Usually there was a very mild current or no current at all.
The season was changing during our stay and we got some strong north wind which restricted our chances to go to some dive sites. Especially missing the magnificient Manta Point was a sad. We have seen mantas before, but every diver knows that it’s miserable to miss them because of weather conditions! There were also lots of dive sites which were exposed to hard north wind and we couldn’t travel to outer smaller islands at all. Anyway, because I love this place I have my plans ready for the next trip!
Ishigaki’s amazing dive sites
Ishigaki’s underwater scenery is much more tropical than one may expect. We saw similar elements than we have seen in Indonesia: bright coloured feather stars, anemones, schooling snappers, an octopus, huge batfishes, green sea turtles and even a reef shark. Dive sites we visited during three days were very diverse: coral dive sites, macro sites with sandy bottom and topography sites with large rock formations and swim throughs.
We dove near southwestern side of Ishigaki, near Taketomi Island and nearby Kuroshima. Kuroshima Nakamoto Cave and Turtle Paradise were my favourites with +30 meters visibility and dramatic underwater scenery.
I’m more keen on wide angle photography, but at Little Creatures’ Home and at dive sites near Taketomi I really hoped to have a macro lens with me. Those dive sites are sandy bottom sites with awesome macro life, such as ghost pipe fish, electric clam, fire goby, and tiny upside-down jellyfish.
On the first day we explored nice coral cardens Osaki Purple Queen and Nagura Coral Garden near Ishigaki. Somehow a banded sea snake is very common here and we saw at least five of them at Nagura Coral Garden!
Where to stay in Ishigaki?
We decided to stay in a guesthouse near Ishigaki town, because it was the easiest option for us as scuba divers. Most of the scuba companies are situated in the southern coast of Ishigaki (near town), in Kabira Beach, or some scuba companies are located in Iriomote Island. We decided to choose Prime Scuba Ishigaki, which was a very convenient and professional dive company.
Even though there are no beaches in Ishigaki town, delicious Japanese restaurants are one very good reason to stay in the town. For beach seekers, a white sand Taketomi Island is only 15 minutes boat trip away from the town. The Kabira Beach is an amazing white sand beach, but it’s not possible to swim there because of pearl cultivation. I’m happy that we didn’t choose the accommodation near that beach!
Staying near Ishigaki town is also a budget friendly option, because Japanese beach resorts can be pricey. An affordable guesthouse costs around 60 euro/night and having a kitchen made cooking breakfast easy. For longer (+1 week) stays, I would recommed to stay first in Ishigaki town (and dive!), and then choose couple of islands nearby for a beach holiday.