2016-05-25

Diving in Zamami Island, Okinawa, Japan...or not.



Okinawa below. 


In July 2015 I had a dream to dive in Okinawa area, the southest islands of Japan.

I was unlucky, because the weekend we chose for our trip in Zamami Island, was fully booked since April... because of a Japanese long weekend. So, this post is here now to help others plan their trips and get the most out diving of the beautiful island. There are some beautiful sandy bottom dives to see some signature garden eels, and the island is famous for whale watching tours from January to March. The best idea of what diving in Zamami and Okinawa area has to offer, you might get from Durianne`s Instagram profile. There are several dive operators in Okinawa, this post is only about those on Zamami Island and Zamami village.

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The main sources of information I got from this page, and I was told that the person who was responsible of this page moved away, but there must be now someone maintaining the site, since it has changed a bit since my last look. Now the accommodation info, for example, is easier to view. Another good source of  information in English is here.

Ama beach view. 

Practical info;

~ It is worth to mention that the ATM ACCEPTS foreign credit cards (there are onely a few operators that do that in Japan, and the Japan Post Bank is one of them). The ATM is located in the post office and open in post office hours.

~ Note, that all of trash is separated on the island and smoking is prohibited on the beaches and around. You can smoke only in a few parts on the island (Zamami is a nature reservation area), the places are marked on the maps, and are signposted. It is advised (signs on the info boards)to use only natural soap and shampoo as the non-natural ones will destroy the corals.

~ To get to Naha (where the ferries depart to Zamami), there are several English friendly airlines such as Japanese low cost Vanilla Air,  Peach Aviation and Skymark Airlines, the international LCC Jetstar Japan also flighs there, not to mention the biggest airline Air Nippon.

~There is a bus service to both beaches Furuzamami and Ama, both beaches have beach guards and will shout you off if you manage to swim too far. Both beaches do have eating and toilet/shower facilities.

Recycling ahoi! The smallest orange bin is for bottle caps.
Tips for your trip; 

Tip 1. ~ Book the accommodation ahead

So, mistake again. I did not book well ahead. During the week we (me and my partner) stayed in Okinawa, we also stayed in 3 different locations and even the Zamami tourist information people were in trouble finding a place for 2 person for one night. Several options also for English speaking guests, but even though you manage yourself into one who does not speak English, you will be ok.

There is a popular Camping ground on Ama beach, a hammock can also be placed between the trees.

Tip 2. ~ Book ferry ahead

We made a booking to the ferry in Naha, in a small travel agency which was near the main Tourist Information Office. Ask the information office for the right travel agency, not all of them are allowed to make the reservation. The other alternative is to go to ferry port to do that. You can, and need to make a reservation, but you pay your reservation in the ferry dock when your embark the ferry. You need your passport for the reservation. Be aware, that there are normally long lines, and you need to show your passport or ID when exchanging the reservation ticket to the actually ticket.

The ferries may or may not run due to the weather. When you travel back from Zamami, the booking can be difficult, no bookings really accepted since no one knows if the weather will be fine.

Tip 3. ~ Book the dives well ahead! 

Unlike other South East Asia destinations, Japan/Zamami is not a place where you just walk in to book a dive. Especially on holiday season during the summer, it is advisable to book ahead. During our stay in Zamami, I spoke to some divers who said to have booked their dives 3 months ahead. It is important to understand, that there are only these following 3 dive operators on this island/village (I heard of ) that provided services in English.

Pension Takatsuki and Dive Center No-Y
The employees at Takatsuki were very friendly and were able to speak English. There was a bit of a language barrier but we came to understand that the dives were to be booked in advance and at the time they were full. The pension house itself looks nice.

JOYJOY
I never managed to see or meet anyone here, so I have no experience how they work in this place. The pension house was also nice looking, but most of the times there was no one in the premises. If you do manage to meet them and try their services, please inform me, so I can update this section here.

Diving shop Ellisella
The divers I met, had booked their dives at Ellisella, they were also recommended by the owner of our guesthouse. I went to talk to Ellisella people and got to speak to a wonderful older diver lady who spoke perfect English. The American diver couple spoke good abut her, and their service, so definitely this would be my choice if I ever visit Zamami again.


Tip 4. ~ Search for less crowded eateries, and book ahead if you have a special place in mind.

View to Furuzamami Beach from Takatsukiyama Observatory.

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