You could be forgiven if world-class sushi comes to mind before great diving when you think about Japan! Japan is a hidden treasure for scuba enthusiasts, abounding with marine life and fascinating top-side excursions.
Okinawa is the namesake of an archipelago, consisting of over 160 islands stretching towards Taiwan. The Okinawa prefecture is often called the “Hawaii of Japan.” It has gorgeous white sand beaches, and if you plan your visit in the spring, you’ll catch an incredible display of pink cherry blossoms.
The dive sites offer something for everyone; however, most are best suited to those who have a dozen or so dives under their belts. Many dives require agility and skills to negotiate strong currents at deeper depths. For experienced divers, it is a destination you want to add to your bucket list.
White beaches and coral reefs teeming with life
About halfway up the 112 km long island, you’ll come to Onna Village. Onna is a great place to establish your base. It is beautiful, and you will thank me at the end of a long day of diving when you return to this unspoiled location.
Discovering the Blue Cave, delightful not deep
Many of Okinawa’s best dive spots are close to Onna. For beginners, diving the Blue Cave at Maeda point offers a magical experience with its fascinating rock formations and clear blue water. Blue Cave is formed from the large submerged limestone cliffs, giving the ambiance and mystery of a cave experience without any dangers or difficulties associated with cave diving.
The dive offers almost no currents at moderate depths. This stress-free dive will have you maxing out your bottom time and enjoying the diverse array of sea life. For underwater photographers, you’ll find the crystal-clear water and dappled sunlight perfect for shooting. I’ve captured great shots of batfish, parrotfish, sea snakes, squid, and octopi at this location.
USS Emmons, bears witness to the ravages of war
History buffs like myself will be fascinated to explore the wreck of the USS Emmons. In 1945, while minesweeping, the USS Emmons was hit by five kamikaze planes within two minutes. The ship burst into flame, the ordinance started to explode, and the US Navy, fearing losing the ship to the Japanese forces, intentionally sank the vessel. It was a disaster for the US, with the loss of 60 crew members in addition to the ship.
In 2006 the wreck was found sitting at a depth of 45 meters off the coast of Kouri Island, a fifteen-minute boat ride from Okinawa. It has become a popular dive for experienced divers who can handle the depth and the currents and is a dive you won’t soon forget. You can swim the length of the 106-meter vessel, in addition to exploring an engine block from a kamikaze plane and other war wreckage in the area!
When to go
Okinawa offers great diving all year-round. However, be aware that spring and early summer can present stronger currents and inclement weather. Summer months will offer you abundant sea life sightings from the reef regulars to schools of tuna and manta rays. Regardless of the season this is a destination you don’t want to miss.