Kiyoko-san, originally from Sado Island, hosted us for five nights. Full of energy and willingness to help her guests, she is like sunshine on Iriomote!
We enjoyed her family-style meals, ate countless small but richly tasted bananas directly harvested from the garden. She felt sorry for her guests who were stuck on the rainy and unusually cold day and fed us with her tasty home-made Okinawa doughnuts.
Thanks to her, our memory for Iriomote is special and heart-warming.
Our friendly B&B owner Kiyoko-san kindly offered to take us to firefly watching. We got on her mini-van with Japanese, American and Dutch guests and drove to a rice paddy area. It was the last week of the firefly season, Kiyoko-san told us. When we arrived, some cars already parked here and there.
We walked a while on a forest road and as our eyes got used to the darkness, we started to see thousands of firefly flying in the dense foliage. The higher up we got, the more fireflies were there. It felt like we were floating in the darkness surrounded by thousands of flying lights.
What a captivating spectacle it was!
Okinawa is a great nature destination – above and below sea level. We decided to follow our B&B host Kiyoko’s recommendation and booked a two dive outing with Take Diving. Pick-up at the BnB, cool.
Take Diving has a great boat with a changing room, a toilet, hot water shower, and a well established procedure including a dive site briefing. Satoko-san, our friendly instructor, was a bit afraid that the wetsuit and the fins would not fit my size. It did … just.
The first dive at a site called “Flower Garden” is a shallow dive (max. 15m) to get used to the underwater equipment again. As the name of the Flower Garden suggests, large colorful corals spread like flowers under the water with countless tiny blue, red and yellow fish hovering around. Even through relatively weak sunlight, I (Yasuko) felt like being in a fantasy world and wanted to be part of it and float in the water forever…
Nice bento lunch and a quick snorkel around Baraso Island – a super tiny island purely made of corals.
With a bit more confidence (especially for Yasuko) we set out for the second dive at a location called Offshore Nakano (max 25m). We moved around in a spectacular setting made of many mini valleys, small tunnels, coral corridors and caves where Satoko-san pointed out all those many creatures we would otherwise never have spotted. One of such animals was a one-eyed little fish which Take-san, the owner of the diving school, observes for 8 years already. Interesting.
In the evening we were invited to Take-san’s house for today’s dive video viewing and local booze tasting of Awamori. Take-san and Satoko explained again the fish we observed during the dives and we were awed the second time by the beauty of the colorful, tiny yet amazing underwater creatures.
We dove in many countries but we concluded that Take Diving is the most professional, best-equipped dive shop we ever chartered. However, we have no other Iriomote dive school to compare to. There may be other good ones around.
Phone: +81 9808 56871 / www.takedive.com (not well done)
Iriomote’s number-one attraction is a boat trip up the Urauchi-gawa (浦内川), a winding brown river reminiscent of a tiny stretch of the Amazon.
We rented a kayak from the mouth of the river, Urauchi-gawa Kankō (浦内川観光 ) and paddled up 6 km braving against the wind. Then we joined the tourists who came by the boat to continue another 2 km on foot all the way in the jungle to the waterfall.
For us, the main attraction of this trip is the paddling along the mangrove rivershore. Iriomote island is the only place in subtropical Japan where one can do that. The one hour of rain all the way back and the winds were not a problem at all. We got all wet but the warm temperature balanced it out.
Except occasional boats which carry sightseeing tourists (who always waved at us), we were floating on the water all alone sandwiched by the dense, humid mangrove forests and forgot that we are in Japan.
Bus, boat and a walk to a very pretty, remote and quiet beach, Ida-no-Hama.
The boat trip leads to a village called Funauki (船浮). This village, only accessible by boat, has no more than 45 inhabitants, two local restaurants, a huge elementary school building and two vending machines. No street leading to the beach.