I’ve been a fan of snorkeling and sea kayaking since trying them on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia so they were basically my main priority on a recent trip to Zamami Island in Okinawa. After a Web search, I decided on a full-day tour with Natureland Kayaks. It was the most varied of the ones I looked at and offered a good chance to hang with sea turtles – something I became unnaturally focused on, according to my buddy. What can I say: turtles rock.
Things kicked off at around 9:00 when Sano san, the owner, picked us up from our hotel and took us to Natureland HQ to load up the gear. Everything is supplied, down to waterproof bags and hats, so you really only need to bring your swimmers and sunblock. After we were kitted out, it was down to the water to set up the kayaks and receive some instruction on how to drive them, and then our group (three customers, two guides) was off across the waves.
The water in the shallower areas around Zamami is amazing, gradually changing from crystal blue near the beach to light turquoise further out and dark indigo in deeper places. We paddled across this rich array of colors to reach our first snorkeling stop: a small uninhabited island a few kilometers from Zamami. Sano san once again ran us through the basics and then led us on a guided tour of the best spots.
As expected, the visibility was excellent. The coral is still showing damage following a starfish attack about 10 years ago but there is plenty of new growth to see, as well as a variety of vibrantly colored fish. After chugging about in the water for a while, we loaded up the kayaks and headed to another secluded beach back on Zamami for lunch. This was a real highlight for a nutrition geek like me as we had spaghetti with freshly gathered mozuku seaweed.
It was easy to scoop the mozuku out of the waves on the beach but a couple of us also swam out and gathered it from the sea floor. Talk about super-nutrient rich! We ate some straight and Sano san mixed the rest in with the spaghetti at the end. When we were all loaded up on carbs, it was time to kick back under an awning on the beach and let the fuel digest before heading off to another spot for more snorkeling.
The water was much shallower here and we were swimming just above a large expanse of closely packed coral. The sea floor eventually dropped away and just on the edge of the reef, before it got too deep, we were lucky enough to spot a sea turtle. Our guy was a bit shy and only hung around for 10 minutes before gliding gracefully away but it was still an impressive sight to watch him basically flying through the water.
This was our last stop before heading home. Sano san took us back to Natureland, where we offloaded the gear and grabbed quick showers. He finally delivered us to our hotel at around 4:30, leaving us with some great memories and a complimentary CD of photos. We were really pleased with everything and hope to go back again some sunny day…
Other details and resources
Natureland Kayaks English site: Even if you’re not going to Zamami anytime soon, check out the site for some great photos of the island and tours. Turtles galore!
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