Skip to content



Photo: TARUMI Kengo

The crystal clear waters surrounding Okinawa, home to an abundance of coral and a wide variety of sea creatures, are one of the top dive spots in the world.
 The Okinawa Sea is more correctly a five-hundred-kilometer stretch of ocean between the main island and Yonaguni Island, itself one of the southernmost of the Yaeyama Islands. With such a large swatch of the ocean, sea conditions, seascapes, and wildlife all vary greatly in accordance with the season.
 In my experience, early summer on Miyako Island has some of the best diving. In the Yaebishi area, you can find kobushime cuttlefish eggs the size of ping pong balls among the branching coral. If you are particularly lucky, you can even watch young kobushime pop out of their eggs. Summer is also the manta ray season. Once when I was diving off Ishigaki Island, a manta suddenly appeared in front of me. Though I knew it wouldn’t strike me, I couldn’t help but duck when its monstrous form loomed out of the waters. As winter begins in December, around Yonaguni makes for better diving. There, you can find hammerhead sharks; more hammerheads gather near Yonaguni than in any other part of Japan. It’s spectacular, almost fantastical, to be surrounded by twenty or thirty sharks, all a meter or more. Yonaguni’s steep, rocky underwater landscape has also recently been deemed the Ruins of the Land of Mu, a mythical lost land like Atlantis. World-famous diver Jacques Mayol was deeply impressed by the landscape and was convinced the ruins were unquestionably man-made, but there’s still much to be discovered there. The beautiful seas around the Kerama Islands, 1 hour on a speedboat from the main island, are popular year-round for diving. The best times to visit are during the high spring tide in the early summer, especially at night. These are the best times to see coral sporing, a miraculous and almost mystical natural phenomenon.

The waters around Okinawa average more than twenty degrees Celsius year-round, which is heavenly for divers; many diving enthusiasts flock here for vacation, spending all of their work bonuses on airfare and diving costs. These perennial Okinawan visitors stay at inns where they can enjoy local food or listen to local sanshin music, and before they know it, they’re hooked—they want to be in Okinawa all the time. In fact, the tiny island of Zamami, population 6001, has been experiencing a population increase of about five percent per year. Usually, islands are troubled by shrinking populations, but not Zamami, and why? Because people immigrate there for the love of diving and stay for the love of Zamami and her people.

Editor’s Note:

  1. Article written in April 2019.