Offshore Okinawa: A Scuba Diver’s Paradise to Lose


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“Water is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.”  ~ Zoolander as The Merman

“Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)….”  ~ from big-hair metal band Cinderella’s most successful power ballad single

“He who would search for pearls must dive below.”  ~ John Dryden

One of my favorite pearls of the underwater world:  Praying Mantis Shrimp

One of my favorite pearls of the underwater world: Praying Mantis Shrimp

“No scuba diving,” the Doctor said as he leaned in with some measure of compassion.  “At least not for six months…maybe longer.”  It seems I mysteriously had come down with Portal Vein Thrombosis (PVT), a pretty rare condition in healthy, active guys like me, which negated, for the time, much of my normal day-to-day life.

This is how I felt.  Except I was dry.  And not a girl.  And drawn more in the style of manga....

This is how I felt. Except I was dry. And not a girl. And drawn more in the style of manga….

office_spaceOkinawa Oct 2013, IDC OW Dives, Elvis in the waterThe ironic thing, though, is that I’ve been meaning to blog on scuba diving in Okinawa for quite some time.  I have a whole slew of specific blogs to write on specific dive sites out here that I’ve come to know like the back of my hand.  Okinawa is the locale and setting where I came to embrace diving with an emotionally deep-seated affection.  It is where as a Divemaster I helped to teach both my children to dive, and it is where I have entered the enticing depths of the open water over 400 times, each in search and anticipation of yet another of nature’s pearls.

Earning my PADI instructor ticket with my Course Director Ken

Earning my PADI instructor ticket with my Course Director Ken

Diving is also my livelihood, and Okinawa is the spot where I finally became a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer (instructor).  Between January and early May I was able to complete over 70 certifications!

Jody on the High Seas, the East China one

Jody on the High Seas, the East China one

Okinawa Oct 2013, Scuba Diving Dung Steps, Jody geared up in her new 5mm wetsuit and ready to go!Scuba Diving Mar 2014, AOW Maeda Point, orange cup coralScuba was perhaps the predominant reasoning for convincing Jody to take an overseas Asian tour with the Navy instead of retiring. Well, that and living and traveling throughout Asia.  To be honest, though, Jody before she met me admitted she had little interest in Asia.  I hope that I’ve changed her mind!  I’m sure the 20-odd dives we’ve done together here have helped.  Read more about how I feel about Okinawan scuba diving!

Flying Gurnard in the Kerama Islands

Flying Gurnard in the Kerama Islands

Scuba Diving Okinawa Mar 2014, Toilet Bowl, beautiful nudibranchScuba Diving Okinawa Apr 2014, Deep Specialty, spotted eel at HorseshoeThere is, not just in my opinion mind you, world-class scuba diving around the entire Okinawa Prefecture.  When I often compare the diving here to other more recognizable renowned diving destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Bonaire or Palau, people often balk.  And that’s okay:  it helps keep Okinawa a safely hidden divers’ paradise, found literally at our condo’s front door.

Low tide from our condo balcony

Low tide from our condo balcony

Okinawa Nov 2013, Scuba Diving Horseshoe, fire sea urchinScuba Diving Okinawa Nov 2013, Maeda Point, fish and anemone wavePart of the southern Ryukyu chain of Japanese islands, Okinawan waters are fed by the warm, northward flowing Kuroshio Current, which helps sustain an enormous variety of marine life.  Okinawa, in general terms, shares the same latitude and sub-tropical climate as Miami.  Although the Gulfstream there brings warmer waters and stronger flows, South Florida lacks the barrier reefs that are present around the majority of Okinawa, which make the Ryukyu island chain one of the largest coral habitants in the world.  We are heading to one of the remote islands, Ishigaki, for the long July 4th weekend, originally to dive with the summer migration of huge manta rays.  While my wife dives, I may only be snorkeling from the boat.

Porcelain Crab

Porcelain Crab

Diving in the spring here, one hears the distant but enticing songs of the transiting and breeding humpback whales.  Octopus, cuttlefish and decorator crabs all abound, and night diving here is even better than experiencing the underwater world in the heated sun of the day.

Another of my favs:  Cuttlefish!

Another of my favs: Cuttlefish!

Scuba Diving Okinawa Mar 2014, Toilet Bowl, cat-like eel

Anime scuba divers, of course.

Anime scuba divers, of course.

Although this island chain is made up of over 160 islands, only 48 are inhabited, and then only a few significantly so.  It is a remote area which marks the break between the Pacific Ocean and East China Sea, stretching for over 600 miles.  The reefs thriving around the Kerama islands, just a few miles and a relaxed boat ride from Okinawa, are most renowned for their splendor:  “The most beautiful and diverse coral reefs that I have ever seen anywhere in the world were in Kerama,” once said French marine biologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, author of “The Silent World”.  Now who’s gonna argue with THAT guy??

jacques-yves-cousteau-quote

More mysteriously, near Yonaguni Island lays an underwater ruins site that has been only recently discovered, the Yonaguni Monument.  Famous now for both its implications in archeology and as a dive destination for sharks and pelagics, it has been featured in National Geographic and on the Discovery Channel.  While high on my dives “to do” list, unfortunately I haven’t yet made it out to this location.

Jody at Maeda Point, perhaps Okinawa's most famed dive site

Jody at Maeda Point, perhaps Okinawa’s most famed dive site

The World War II destroyer USS Emmons, rediscovered only recently in 2001, is found not far offshore from Okinawa, resting as a war relic and underwater grave after being pummeled by five kamikazes in 1945.  It too is a dive I have not had the pleasure to experience…YET.

Jody greets a friendly sea turtle

Jody greets a friendly sea turtle

Like Zoolander, I may have to find a new line of work.

Like Zoolander, I may have to find a new line of work.

Frappuccinos don't help.  And could result in disaster.

Frappuccinos don’t help. And could result in disaster.

Cinderella was not entirely right about not knowing what you got until it’s gone.  I believe that I did, and it makes this temporary injunction from inner space much harder to accept.  I’m not one to quote big-hair bands from the 1980s, but honestly, that song almost instantaneously came to mind with the delivery of the bad news.  I’ve been moving through the grieving process, and while to some this may seem overly dramatic, for someone who used to dive up to 10-12 times a week, who likes to ride motorcycles, and who still has more skydives than scuba dives in his logbooks, anticoagulants and blood clots are just not congruent with life.

Taking my meds makes me feel like I'm taking CRAZY PILLS!

Taking my meds makes me feel like I’m taking CRAZY PILLS!

At least not for now.  I have yet to reach fully the “Testing” or “Acceptance” phase of the process, the good news is that at least I’ve given up on bargaining for a way to balance diving with my condition.

5-stages-of-grief-kubler-ross-22

okoptimism-funny-demotivational-postersThat just leaves me with Depression to move through, and that’s why I finally have gotten around to this blog on diving in our Far East Fling.  My life remains full of pearls; I just have to refocus on the ones found in more terrestrial settings!

Okinawa Oct 2013, IDC OW Dives, Kadena North entry

3 thoughts on “Offshore Okinawa: A Scuba Diver’s Paradise to Lose

  1. Pingback: Poison or Placenta? What’s YOUR Choice…. | Far East Fling

  2. Pingback: Traces of War: Wreck of the USS Emmons | Far East Fling

  3. Pingback: Fortunes of Cambodia | Far East Fling

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