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Japanese island a paradise for thrill seekers

Okinawa's past as an independent kingdom, its architectural wonders, diving spots and caves make it an attractive destination for visitors

By WANG XU in Naha, Okinawa | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-10-03 09:05

The Tiger Beach in Onna, a small village in Okinawa. WANG XU/CHINA DAILY

Adrenaline rush

A growing interest in Okinawa's food and music has been attracting more Japanese to the islands for sea tours, and as a getaway from the country's dense cities.

As the local saying goes, "you're never far from the sea in Okinawa". The sea tour begins in Onna, a small village about an hour's drive north of Naha, where emerald blue waters with fish and corals can be viewed from glass-bottomed boats, and where the Blue Cave, a famous spot for snorkeling and diving, is located.

"There are many diving spots in Okinawa, but this one is my favorite," said my unofficial tour guide nicknamed Hime-chan, which means "princess" in Japanese.

Many people might think only experienced divers can get a chance to get up close with marine life. However, in Onna, such trips are available for beginners. Even those who can't swim take a plunge here.

Led by Hime, I descended about six meters and settled at the bottom of a cluster of coral rubble, which was home to a variety of small species of fish, including clownfish.

Okinawa's rich marine life is because of the warm currents that flow through Okinawa, known as the Kuroshio Current, and the coral reefs, according to Hime.

There are more than 800 known species of reef-building coral worldwide, of which 200 are found in Okinawa's waters.

Thanks to these reefs, diving has become to Okinawa what safaris are to Kenya. Even convenience stores sell diving gear in Onna.

As we reached a depth of about 10 meters, we came close to the entrance of the Blue Cave, whose interiors are filled with a shimmering blue flow of sunlight reflecting off the white seafloor-a favorite photo spot.

At 15 meters, yellow, narrow-faced oriental butterflyfish appeared and disappeared in bursts. They seemed to materialize out of the deep blue and then disappear back into the deep blue.

Fifteen meters is a daunting depth for divers, with many continually pinching the nose and gently blowing out to reduce the chances of blocked ears, and to balance ear pressure. But for advanced divers, the 30-meter Manza Dream Hole is the final destination, where they get to see sweeper fish, garden eels, fan coral and more.

Free diving is another popular choice for divers in Okinawa who like the ultimate adrenaline rush.

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