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BRRRR Okinawa
Author: (baracuda_smile), 07-01-2009

BRRRR Okinawa, Japan winters water are getting colder with temperatures down to about 75F.  I have not always been chilled by 75F waters but after living in Okinawa since 1997 I have accustomed to warm tropical waters up to 86F in the summer.


I grew up in North West Montana, USA near the Canadian border and winters could drop down to -35F.  I grew up as a cowboy and tough ranch work made me want to travel and see the world.  I joined the Army shortly after high school.  Since that time I have traveled to: Europe, Asia, Australia, North America, and Africa.  I have traveled extensively throughout Asia, to include: Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, Guam, Thailand and Australia.  Out of all these areas I have fallen in love with Okinawa, Japan.  Why do I love this 68 mile long and 2 mile wide island so much?


Okinawa, has a rich history that was once its own kingdom for over 500 years.  The Okinawans traded with the Chinese, Korean’s, Japanese, Thai’s, and other countries.  Free diving may have started on Okinawa, as there are stories of the Japanese pearl divers in the island of the Ryukus (Okinawa).  Okinawans have a rich fishing, textile, karate, and glass blowing traditions.  During your surface interval there are plenty castles, and historic sites to see.


In 1945 the USA invaded Okinawa, with a beach landing that is comparable to the landing at D-Day in France.  Many of these war wrecks can still be dove today.  Since 1945 the US military has had bases on Okinawa.  Okinawa was an US territory until 1972, so many Okinawans speak broken English.  This mixture of American and Okinawan culture has many advantages such as verity restaurants, and a assortment of dive shops owned by both American and Japanese.


Why is scuba diving so good in Okinawa?  First Okinawa is northern edge of the largest tropical reef system in the world.  Okinawa has deep ocean trenches off its coasts that provide up dwellings of plankton rich food sources.  The Kuroshio or Black Current similar to the Gulf Stream in America, is the reason that there is so much topical life when Okinawa lies just north of the tropical cancer.

The warm, shallow coastal oceans, which nurture beautiful reefs and abundant sealife, are part of a delicate, well-balanced ecosystem that revolves a round a massive intercontinental flow of water called the Black Current, or Kuroshio. It is the Black Current's warmth and abundant supply of nutrient-rich plankton that make it so important to the people of Okinawa. Because the Kuroshio travels so close to the island (around 80 miles west of Okinawa and 19 miles off the coast of Kume Island), the residents have enjoyed the current's bounty for generations. For thousands of years, traders and travelers have used the current as a push northward. Fisherman have also enjoyed the Kuroshio's seemingly limitless fish population. Today, although their numbers have noticeably thinned, the fish and sealife that live in these waters are still harvested by Okinawans as a way of life. On mainland Okinawa, this lifestyle is especially evident in the southern cities, northern hamlets and outlying islands.

This is why Okinawa is one of the Worlds best Dive sites as the warm waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Brunei seas combine with rich up dwellings of plankton from the Japanese trench, and provide Okinawa with unique rich habitat.


Okinawa, has been featured in movies like Tea House of the August Moon staring Marland Brando, and the Karate Kid.  Okinawa, has 86+F water in the summer and over 100ft visibility.  Okinawa has many of the big things such as: Sharks, Rays, Turtles, Whale Sharks, Humpback Whales, Orcas, Wrecks, and Caves.  Okinawa's diving is best known for its small things: over 1000 nudibranch, vast verities of shrimp, flamboyant cuttle fish, bumble bee squid, sea horses, and unnamed things half the size of a grain of rice.  


Okinawans may have the oldest civilized structure on the face of the planet, Yonaguni underwater ruins that may date back to 10,000 BC.  Yonaguni is a drift dive, and in March and Feb you can also see schooling hammer head sharks.  I have been reading numerous scuba diving magazines lately and Florida, Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, is constantly mentioned but Okinawa is forgotten.  My dive buddy returned from Hawaii, and says the reef is dead and the diving in Okinawa, is ten times better, than any place that he has ever dove.  I have dove Florida, and I agree Okinawa is teaming with life compared to Florida. White sand beaches crystal blue, what is there not to like?  The Okinawans are always kind and generous. There are over 100 entry points from shore, and some are as simple as climbing over a sea wall. The food is top notch, especially if you enjoy sushi. Boats are cheap $50-$150 for 3-4 dives, rentals can run about $25-$50.  Okinawa have as many hotels as Hawaii, some having 5 star PADI resort status. US Military has three dive centers, one of which is operated by the first westerner to dive ruins at Yonaguni. These dive centers are full featured with classes and gear discounted for service members. Consequently 1000's of divers are qualified each month.  For your safety there are 5 decompression chambers on this small island.  Well I need to finish patching my 3mm wet suit, as I am searching for the Okinawan, Dugoon (relative to the American Manatee) ,which may be extinct, tomorrow with my dive buddy.  I will see-ya down under.



Barracuda Smile