Saturday July 14th, Sunday July 15th, Saturday July 21st, Sunday July 22nd, Saturday August 4th and Sunday August 5th 2012
Divers often visit Osezaki and Oshima for fun and for training. This year as part of my Advanced, I have spent a considerable amount of time at both. One is a bay, the other an island, and each offer an excellent range of sites where various skills can be practiced and put to use. Here’s a description of two of my dive group’s most visited destinations.
Osezaki faces out into Suruga Bay, which is small and open, but also one of the deepest bays in Japan at around 2500m with approximately 1000 kinds of fish. The area crowded with divers in summer is a wide beach with several dive shops, restaurants and inns in the background. Divers pick a spot, lay out picnic sheets and set up equipment before walking into the water. The bay is sheltered and the sea is calm, making it ideal for first-time divers or training purposes. It stays shallow, horizontal, pebbly and rocky for quite a stretch but when visibility is good, you can see seaweed stuck to the rocks and an array of fish darting around below. After a while you come to a stretch of concrete boulders at around 5m, where there is a slight drop down to around 8m. From then on, the bottom is sandy and muddy and spreads out towards the deeper depths. With no more drop offs, you are free to swim out into the unknown.
The reason why people head to Osezaki to get certified or work on more Advanced techniques is that the bay has plenty of areas that are simply well suited for practicing particular skills. The concrete boulders are home to millions of sea urchins, and an excellent place to practice buoyancy. Located at 5m, it is there that divers must do their 3-min safety stop during an ascent so remaining horizontal and still is vital, even more so at night when millions of sea urchins are directly below. Deeper sandy areas also require good buoyancy control as it can be easy to stir up the sand and reduce visibility in such parts. The bay also houses a collection of objects, some linked together by ropes and others that have been put there such as car tires, a motorbike, a Winnie the Pooh object, mini shrine and bathtub. This means that the bay’s underwater map is detailed and full of information for dive planning and navigation. During a navigational dive or search and recovery practice, it’s good to keep an image of the map in mind and follow the ropes until arriving at a particular item but others objects that aren’t connected together can make things more challenging. An SMB can be launched at any time, and various buoys are attached to the bottom by ropes, which is a good chance to practice an ascent and safety stop, but remaining horizontal and trying not to touch the rope or nearby rocks. The deepest dives are around 30m – 40m, while night diving offers hundreds of moray eels, a baby octopus crawling along a rope, shrimps, and huge sea bass that can be curious and follow divers around. For more advanced fun diving, places outside the bay such as Ipponmatsu and Sentan (the Point) are good recommendations. These are not as sheltered, but have excellent deep drop offs that stretch down to some whip coral at a little over 20m. Both are quite rocky and pebbly, but lifting up the odd rock here and there will reveal some interesting marine life.
Oshima is immediately south of Tokyo Bay and can be reached overnight from the Takeshiba port terminal. The island doesn’t fill people with joy as a possible holiday destination and certainly isn’t glamorous but the diving is. Akinohama is one of the main sites on the island. A path from the car park leads to some gigantic rocks sticking out into the sea, where a giant stride entry takes you into water that is 4-5m deep. There can be a lot of swell at the surface or a slight current so it’s important to quickly head below, over a huge area of massive rocks covered in seaweed, shellfish, spider crabs, and box fish. A good place for deep and night dives, the rocks continue on down to 20m – 40m and beyond, where you can find some incredible soft coral. Nodahama, another dive site, is reasonably shallow and famous for its rock formations including Fish TV where fish gather at a big arch and divers can hover close by and watch. After walking down to the beach from the car park carrying all equipment, entry into the water is by foot and can be difficult in rougher seas as you scramble over the rocks but there are ropes to hold and the area is shallow enough to sit down and put on fins and masks. Once in the water, all it takes is to swim downwards along a slight slope, where the rocks get bigger and more wall-like, providing some good places for photography and observation. It’s also possible to swim through Fish TV itself. This route takes you out through more rocks and boulders with stinging hydroids (don’t forget gloves!) and some beautiful nudibranchs. Keikai is another shallow dive spot but can have strong currents and navigation is particularly difficult due to a series of rocky ridges. Divers put on their equipment at the car park and walk down to the beach, but the area is much more rocky and with the swell at the surface it is important to be ready and able to get into the water straight away. The rocks become huge and maze-like almost immediately and down at around 10m-15m there are some beautiful parts including a wall covered in red anemones and clownfish.
See my entries of August 2011 (Oshima) and June 2012 (Osezaki) for practical information on how to get to these areas and the dive schools available.