Monthly Archives: October 2013

August 2013: Kozushima, Japan

Wednesday August 7th to Friday August 9th 2013

Legend has it than in ancient times the gods of the Izu islands met on Kozushima to discuss how to share freshwater but legend and history are not the only things the island is known for.  About 3 hours and 45 minutes away from Tokyo, it’s an ideal destination for a summer weekend break, a tiny paradise that bubbled up from the Pacific Ocean a very very long time ago.  Less touristy than the other islands in the Izu island chain, Kozushima is particularly peaceful with a population of fewer than 2,000.  It’s also relatively flat and its beautiful white sand beaches make it ideal for divers, swimmers and snorkelers alike.  I spent two days on Kozushima and visited the following dive sites:

Saima:  Saima begins at 5m over rocks and boulders teeming with marine vegetation.  The dive is not so exciting to begin with but the best always comes last.  Home to a collection of rocks and boulders, the highlight of Saima are two gigantic structures stretching down to about 20m with dark spots, tiny holes, mini caves and an interesting route to swim through.  It soon becomes obvious that life is abundant here and as we travelled slowly, exploring the walls, something always swam past in every direction – puffer fish and boxfish hovered close by, tiny box fish darted in and out of sight, colourful nudibranchs stuck to the walls feeling the mild current and no doubt enjoying the warm temperature and two trumpet fish appeared looking very chilled out.  At the end of the dive, a school of yellowtails swam by out of nowhere, frantically disappearing into the distance, no doubt in search of the day’s meal.  This is an excellent dive for those who aren’t so confident clearing their ears as you can stop during the descent and use your light to explore the walls.

Akasaki:  This is Kozushima’s most popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, try dives and training.  It’s an easy-going experience with warm temperatures, great visibility and mellow currents.  Divers carry their tanks and walk down a flight of steps to the water before donning masks and fins and swimming to about 6m.  The dive takes you over a sheltered sandy and rocky terrain, a carpet of medium-sized rocks.  Akasaki is very sheltered and a macro lover’s paradise.  Hovering overhead and moving as slowly as possible, we found a fantastic array of tiny life forms, an abundance of adult and baby sea slugs, tiny nudibranchs, starfish, crabs dragging themselves across the rocks and various critters curiously poking their heads out of tiny holes in the rocks.  Fish such as bluespotted cornet fish and oriental butterfly fish drifted by, nibbling at the rocks and watching us closely, no doubt used to the large number of swimmers and snorkelers.  This dive is warm, easy, very relaxing and most fun if you have a camera.

Hiradan Arch:  A 5-minute boat ride from one of Kozushima’s main ports , a cluster of rocks in the open sea looks like a promising site for an exploratory dive.  We descended directly to around 17m and arrived at a huge cave-like structure although it wasn’t a cave, simply a large area with walls caked in nudibranchs and other macro life.  Hiradan Arch reveals an interesting world of nudibranchs clinging to walls of rock and flashing their exotic colours.  We descended past a wall of life, and wrasses (clown coris), groupers (gold ribbon groupers) and blackmouth goosefish swam here and there aggressively, darting into the nearest hiding place at my approach.  The dive can get monotonous as there is nowhere else to go other than the huge cave-like structure but the sun pours in making visibility excellent and it’s a superb place for divers into macro life who want to take close up shots. We saw some extremely flamboyant nudibranchs (ceratosoma trilobatum and phyllidiella pustulosa)

Sanju:  Below the water here is an aquarium-like world packed with fish such as white-saddle goatfish, spotted tail morwongs and golden-striped groupers.  Sanju is a relatively easy dive site (maximum 20m or so) with much to offer despite appearing to be relatively standard at first glance.  Divers descend freely to about 5m of rock teeming with anemones and other critters such as sea goldies twitching over holes and cracks.  Spider crabs are also around, stretching their long legs.   Down at 12m there are more huge rocks that reach up to the surface, full of fish and anemones.  The best part of this dive is the 12-15m area where the sun penetrates best and the water flow is quite smooth making it easy to hover and get some good photos.  Doing the safety stop over the rocks makes for better buoyancy control too.

Arima: This is a sheltered bay only accessible by boat.  There are even a few dolphins – we encountered a mother and baby at the surface.  The rocks here are spread out at around 8m and there is a great sandy area at around 12m where you can literally rest face down and look up at the sun streaming through the water.  We spent a good 15 minutes or so scanning the water, waiting for anything to roll in.  With rocks and boulders to our left, we swam across this sandy area and after rounding a corner an incredible site materialized in the distance – a school of goatfish perfectly ordered and resting on the sand in the slight current.  Unbelievably tame, they watched us intently and even let us swim directly above them as we continued on our journey.  The rocks were full of life – eels displaying their menacing jaws, a bright yellow baby box fish appearing like a ray of sunshine and a round ribbontail ray devouring its latest meal.

Tsumari:  Night dive fans will enjoy Tsumari, 5 minutes from the dive school and located at the bottom of a cliff with a small set of steps leading into the water.  Divers walk down the steps carrying their tanks, put on their fins and masks in the water and swim out.  Conditions were perfect for a night dive with flat seas and good visibility.  The bottom is completely sandy. We turned left and began exploring a cluster of small rocks.  The current increased here and we swam straight out with it before reaching an area of concrete beams, perhaps placed there deliberately.  Luckily for us, lobsters blanketed the entire area which made for an amazing start and the beams are home to an array of life, mainly interesting looking shrimps as well as sleeping fish.  The dive is not deep and is fantastic for marine life.  We even spotted an octopus emerging from behind a rock and a huge sea snake slithering away under the glare of our flash lights.  The lights also illuminate some strange and amazing planktonic critters attracted to the glow which gives the dive a nice end as you can sit on the sand, wave your flashlight about and enjoy the show.

Practical information

  • I took the fast jetfoil ferry from Atami near Tokyo with Tokai Kisen ferries (http://www.tokaikisen.co.jp/).  The boat leaves at a convenient 11AM and arrives at Kozushima around 13:00.  A single ticket costs 6,390yen.  There is one vending machine on the ferry and the seats are just like airplane seats.  Bring something to eat and a book to read too.
  • I booked my accommodation through the Kozushima Tourist Office (04992-8-1111) on the advice of Tokai Kisen ferries.  The tourist office found me an inn called Daimatsu (http://www.kouzushima.org/stay/detail.php?no=0035)which charged 13,600yen for two nights for a basic room, dinner and breakfast consisting of rice, miso soup, fish, vegetables and pickles.  Dinner begins at 19:00, breakfast is around 7:00 and everyone eats in the communal room.
  • I booked my dives with Nangoku (http://www6.ocn.ne.jp/~nangoku1/).  Four boat dives and two beach dives comes to just under 40,000yen including tanks, weights and a guide.  The school organizes an excellent night tour of Kozushima and give advice on places to eat or buy souvenirs.
  • A representative from my accommodation came to pick me up at the port and drive me to the inn for check-in.  The inn is about 2mins drive from the port.  The dive school called me soon afterwards and I walked there to prepare for my first dive.  This took about 5mins.
  • Diving equipment can be sent in advance from Tokyo for about 2,500yen using Kuroneko Takkyubin.
  • Immediately upon entering Nangoku you see a huge table with shelves of books, walls of photos and other decorations all around, with the reception desk to your left.  The area for diving equipment (washing, drying, hanging, storage) is up on the deck upstairs overlooking the sea.  A toilet, two showers and a changing room area are also on the deck.  Tea is available as are diving and fish books/magazines .
  • After loading the van with equipment and getting changed into our wetsuits, we drove to the dive sites.  The boat is very spacious and flat with almost no indoor area but a good few places to sit outside next to the engine in the middle.  Equipment is put on when the boat arrives at the dive sites.  Bring your own towel, sunscreen and snacks for the boat journey.
  • Lunch is not provided but after each dive there is a chance to go to a couple of cute restaurants/cafes practically next door to the dive school.
  • Divers are responsible for looking after their own equipment.  When the dives are over, they are free to use the deck to change, wash, hang, dry etc as they like.
  • There are a couple of nice restaurants/bars near the dive school and inn but these close quite early (around 21:30).  Between the port and Akasaki beach is a wonderful outdoor hot spring which Nangoku will book for you and take you to if interested.

August’s dives

Dive1: Saima: depth: 15m, dive time: 41mins, water temp: 30C, entry time: 13:55, exit time: 14:35, average depth: 10m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit and 3kg back plate (no extra weights).  Start pressure: 200 bar, End pressure: 70 bar.  Saw silver-stripe round herrings, eels, spiny lobster, morwongs, porcupine fish, greater amberjacks, sea chubs, trumpet fish, rock porgy, boxfish, abalone, white-lined goatfish, cow fish, Pacific burrfish, spotted tail morwongs, axilspot hogfish.

Dive 2: Akasaki: depth: 5.6m, dive time: 47mins, water temp: 30C, entry time: 15:38, exit time: 16:25, average depth 3.5m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3kg back plate and 1kg extra weight in pocket.  Start pressure: 200 bar, End pressure: 110 bar.  Saw starfish, thalassoma cupido (wrasses), sea biscuits, oriental butterfly fish, bluespotted cornet fish, sea slugs and surgeon fish.

Dive 3: Hiradan Arch: depth: 17.5m, dive time: 39mins, water temp: 29C, entry time: 09:41, exit time: 10:19, average depth 11.4m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3kg back plate and 1kg extra weight in pocket.  Start pressure: 200 bar, End pressure: 70 bar.  Saw blackmouth goosefish, sea slugs (ceratosoma trilobatum, phyllidiella pustulosa), eels, clown coris (wrasses), gold ribbon groupers and another seaslug (phyllidiaocellata).

Dive 4: Sanju: depth: 14.9m, dive time: 42mins, water temp: 30C, entry time: 11:13, exit time: 11:55, average depth: 10m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3kg back plate and 1kg extra weight in pocket.  Start pressure: 200 bar, End pressure: 65 bar.  Saw sea slugs (hypselodoris zephyra), silver-stripe round herrings, sea goldies, morwongs, spider crabs, white-saddle goatfish, spotted tail morwongs and goldenstriped groupers.

Dive 5: Arima: depth: 15.3m, dive time: 48mins, water temp: 29C, entry time: 13:59, exit time: 14:47, average depth: 11.8m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3kg back plate and 1kg weight in pocket.  Saw round ribbontail rays, whip coral gobies, box fish, red lionfish, white saddle goatfish, thread-sail filefish, blackalls, cowfish, boxfish, pufferfish and Christmas tree worms.

Dive 6: Tsumari: depth: 7m, dive time:51mins, water temp: 28C, entry time: 20:22, exit time: 21:11, average depth: 4.9m, used a 12L aluminium tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3kg back plate and 2kg extra weight in pockets.  Saw prawns, porcupine fish, Japanese spiny lobster, octopus, sea congers, Pacific burrfish, anemone hermit crab, parrotfish and wedge sea hares.

July 2013: Shikinejima, Japan

Saturday July 20th 2013

Shikinejima is about 150km from Tokyo and part of the Izu Island chain.  An easy journey by boat (overnight ferry or fast jetfoil) takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the capital and down to a beautiful relaxing coastline comprised of white sandy beaches.  The water here is shallower than the other islands in the chain which makes the snorkeling spots more calm and alluring.  Most of the island features a range of outdoor onsen and the hot water can even be enjoyed while diving.  Shikinejima is not the most obvious diving spot in Japan but the sites below have plenty to offer:

Nakanoura Beach: This is one of Shikinejima’s top snorkeling spots.  Diving at this small sheltered bay is extremely easy as you mingle among the snorkelers and only go to around 9m.  In the distance is a fixed net underwater, sheltering the bay from the open ocean so the water is calm and clear.  Standing on the sand, we put on our fins and masks and descended to 5-6m, swimming in a straight line over a bed of white sand and medium-sized rocks.  This dive is not so tropical and instead offers a range of seaweed and green plants which are a haven for sea anemones, sea slugs, small crabs and shrimps.  Swimming over to a more large rock, I found a group of wrasses ducking and weaving together as I approached.  Closer to the rock, an eel, wary of my large form, slowly swam out as I circled around.  As I waited patiently, it would turn to face me and see if I was still watching before moving back into its home and out of sight.

Crossing the sand flats to another cluster of rocks, I found various forms of seaweed growing towards the surface.  Blue emperors and longspine emperors swam out of reach, crabs ducked down out of sight and brown sea slugs rested quietly on the rocks enjoying the movement of the water.  I scanned the sea floor as I went looking for the shape of a flounder or anything else that might be hiding in the sand but no avail although back at the same cluster of rocks I was lucky to spot some sea slug eggs and a couple of trumpet fish hovering nearby.

Uonone: A short boat ride from one of the local ports takes you beyond Nakanoura Beach and into the open ocean to Uonone.  We did a backward roll into the water and descended to around 8-9m.  The rocks are huge, almost no sand exists and the current is mild. The cascading rocks caked in seaweed form gradual walls all around and run down vertically to about 20m but 13-14m is the best area in terms of visibility and marine life.  Sea anemones, home to the clown fish, flourish in a range of colours and as we swam over these at 14m the water became immensely clear.  We then encountered schools of yellowstriped butterfish and largescale blackfish for whom the rocks and seaweed are a nice little refuge while damsel and angel fish appear to thrive as well, pecking nutrients out of the water and swirling here and there.  As the sun shines over the rocks the colours of the soft coral and seaweed are particularly striking.  Having a small light on this dive is highly recommended as plenty of discoveries like crabs, nudibranchs and tiny shrimp also await.

Mikawan: This site is sheltered by huge cliff-like rocks in a small bay.  Away from the waves the surface is extremely calm. We descended down an anchor rope to 6m and were met with a carpet of medium-sized rocks.  What stood out were bubbles of warm water, our very own underwater hot spring, and although the water temperature was quite cold, we could stop and put our hands above the vents to warm up.  Mikawan has a fairly large turtle population and quite a few adults swam gracefully away in the distance going about their business or stayed by the rocks enjoying the vents as much as we were.  One adult, surrounded by warm bubbles, slowly looked up as we passed by before falling back into a peaceful slumber.  In general this site is quite barren and devoid of life except for sea slugs, nudibranchs and the occasional box fish so divers are taken over the rocks to a bed of white sand and organic material that contains even more vents and gets stirred up if you so much as think about getting too close with your fins.  This is a great chance to  study the vents in more detail.  The sand also offers some interesting surprises for those with a keen eye, including sepia stingrays burrowing into the sand and flatfish watching us intently as we floated above.

Practical information

  • I took the overnight ferry from Takeshiba Sanbashi in Tokyo with Tokai Kisen ferries (http://www.tokaikisen.co.jp/).  The ferry leaves Tokyo at 22:00 and arrives at 09:05 the following morning.  Tickets are about 12,000yen return (6,000yen for a single) and include a chair below deck but it is possible to rent warm thick blankets for 100yen each and sleep out on deck.  The ferry only has basic vending machines and a restaurant which is not open at night so it’s advisable to bring your own food and snacks.
  • I booked my accommodation with Shikinejima Tourist Office (04992-7-0357) on the advice of Tokai Kisen ferries.  The tourist office found me an inn called Furusato (http://www.travelroad.co.jp/ship/005/furusato.html) which charged around 5,000yen a night for a basic room, dinner and breakfast consisting of rice, miso soup, fish, vegetables and pickles.  Dinner begins at 17:00, breakfast around 7:00 and everyone eats in the communal room.
  • I booked my dives with Shikinejima Diving Service (http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~sdsdive/menu_page_1.html).  Two boat dives and one beach dive comes to just under 20,000yen including tanks, weights and a guide.  It then costs 6,400yen to rent a wetsuit, reg, BCD, mask, fins and boots).
  • A representative from my accommodation came to pick me up at the airport and drive me to the inn for check-in.  Afterwards the dive school came to collect me.  This pick up is arranged in advance when booking your dives.
  • Diving equipment can be sent in advance from Tokyo for about 2,500yen using Kuroneko Takkyubin.
  • Shikinejima Diving Service is about 5 minutes from the inn.  Immediately upon arriving you see a huge family house on your right, with an area for diving equipment in the distance.  There is a round table outside for divers to sit and fill in forms.  Next to this table is an area for equipment storage, to wash, hang and dry gear.  A toilet and changing room are inside the house.  No books or magazines available but tea is provided.
  • After loading the van with equipment and getting changed, we drove to the dive sites.  The boat is very spacious and flat with almost no indoor area except a couple of benches in the middle next to the engine where divers can sit.  Equipment is put on when the boat arrives at the dive sites.  Bring your own towel, sunscreen and snacks.
  • Lunch is not provided so after each dive there is a chance to go to the nearest store for food and drink.
  • All entries into the water are backward rolls.  Ascent is up a ladder.
  • After each dive, everyone heads back to the port for a quick break.  A member of staff from the dive school will then drive back with the empty tanks and return with new ones.
  • Divers are responsible for looking after their own equipment.  When the dives are over, they are free to use the school’s outdoor area to change and wash up as they like. The school also drives you back to your accommodation at the end of the day.
  • There are very few pubs and bars near the accommodation and some are only open until early times like 20:00.
  • Cycling is a great way to get around the island although there are many steep hills!  Full day bicycle hire is around 1,000yen and can be arranged at your accommodation.
  • Your accommodation will take you to the port after your stay.
  • I returned to Tokyo on the fast jetfoil which leaves Shikinejima around 13:30 and gets into Tokyo around 16:00.   A single ticket is about 9,000yen.

July’s dives

Dive 1: Nakanoura Beach: depth: 8.6m, dive time: 35mins, water temp: 24C, entry time: 10:01, exit time: 10:36, average depth: 4.9m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3mm hood/vest and 3kg weights (back plate only).  Start pressure: 190 bar, End pressure: 100 bar.  Saw pearl spot chromis, blue emperors, longspine emperors, wrasses, bluespotted cornet fish, striped jack, morwongs, eels, sea slugs, trumpet fish and sea slug eggs.

Dive 2:  Uonone: depth: 14.0m, dive time: 34mins, water temp: 24C, entry time: 12:03, exit time: 12:37, average depth: 9.6m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3mm hood/vest and 3kg back plate with 1kg extra weight in pocket.  Start pressure: 180 bar, End pressure: 80 bar.  Saw damsel fish, angel fish, schools of yellowstriped butterfish and large scale blackfish.

Dive 3:  Mikawan: depth: 11.9m, dive time: 35mins, water temp: 23C, entry time: 14:24, exit time: 14:56, average depth 8.7m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3mm hood/vest and 3kg back plate with 1kg extra weight in pocket.  Start pressure: 170 bar, End pressure: 70 bar.  Saw sepia stingrays, flat fish, turtles, sea slugs and plenty of underwater vents.

July 2013: Amami Oshima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan

Friday July 12th to Sunday July 14th 2013

380km south of Kyushu is Amami Oshima, where the reefs are packed with life and coral growth is abundant.  Blessed with cobalt blue sea, colorful coral and ringed in white sandy beaches and cliffs, it’s a mecca for sports like wind surfing and scuba diving with the sea a bright shiny turquoise.  What awaits the diver are beautiful coral reefs and tropical fish of all descriptions.

2 hours after the flight from Tokyo, we found ourselves slowly taking in the underwater surroundings of Kurasaki Beach.  Below us was a carpet of white sand strewn with various coral and rocks.  The site is excellent for refresher dives, try dives and training due to the shallow depths and plenty of sand in which to sit and practice skills.  Spending some time at 5-6m, it wasn’t long before we came across one of the stars of the reef, the clown fish, darting in and out of its home and watching us intently.  But there were also plenty of surprises as we found a couple of tiny whip coral shrimps, perfectly matching the colour of their surroundings.  As the individual whips move around a lot, not only are these critters hard to spot but they are also extremely difficult to photograph.  We also spotted nudibranchs, cleaner shrimps and plenty of angelfish. The area is packed with abundant kaleidoscopic coral growth and the rocks are almost like stepping stones, providing a plethora of sheltered nurseries and safe habitats for the fish while the stable and warm sea temperatures are also a huge advantage, not just for divers but for the marine life as well.

One of the most popular fish in Amami Oshima is the endearing Gilbert’s cardinal fish.  4-5cm and often bright, it lives in large aggregations among the coral in sheltered lagoons and bays and appears to have been researched in more detail across the Ryukyu Islands and Kyushu, according to a 2007 study.  Meanwhile back on Amami Oshima, a trip to In Oasis and Yamamoto Special provide many an opportunity to view these little fish.  The dives at both of these sites begin off a boat and start with huge coral formations that are quite barren, plain with very little signs of life.  But then the rocks end and the white sand spreads out between 13m and 21m, revealing a riot of activity which is why our guide brought us here – to spend some time literally getting up close to the thousands of cardinal fish as well as parrotfish, shrimps, starfish and other creatures hidden under ledges and gathering over the small to medium sized rocks.  Both these dives sites are a paradise for the underwater photographer, with dark crevices, openings, branch, brain and plate coral as well as a range of fish including butterfly fish, clown fish and parrot fish.  The rocks stand alone surrounded by white sand stretching for miles and are an ideal habitat for marine life in terms of dark areas to hide in, rich coral to huddle or shelter against, warm clear water and plenty of nutrients.  Divers can lie across the carpet of white sand and get close up shots of a nudibranch or hover over the branch coral and get a decent look at what goes on within.  The cardinal fish, meanwhile, are steady and focused, numbering in their thousands in tornado formation.  Some of the other fish often swim right up to divers although not necessary out of curiosity – it’s not a good idea to get too close while taking a photo!  The warm water and lack of current means divers can spend a little over one hour here depending on depth and rate of air consumption and as you ascend, chances are you’re likely to encounter a turtle or two at around 13m swimming off into the distance.

Daibutsu Sango, or Buddha Coral, is a bit further out to sea.  The current here is quite strong so we descended down an anchor line to about 13m and arrived at a bed of white sand with lots of tiny rocks and coral formations strewn around us.  Close by at 14-15m was a huge brain coral structure towering high.  Daibutsu Sango is home to a few stonefish so wearing gloves is highly recommended.  Wrasses, groupers and butterfly fish hover around making great subjects for fish portraits while it’s not unusual for the site to be visited by turtles and other pelagic species.  The name Daibutsu Sango refers to the towering structure of brain coral that looks just like a Buddha’s head and which is heavily colonized by majestic angelfish, cleaner fish and sea goldies.

The current at Dessho, another site accessed by boat, is also strong, requiring a very careful descent down an anchor line to 9m where the dive begins with two huge rock formations.  Taking a right turn and staying close to these rocks we soon swam over a bed of even more rocks down to about 21m where the current weakens.  Here the rocks and boulders are at a drop off and seem to form a huge structure, prolific with numerous species such as gobies, Moorish Idols, redfin fusiliers, redtoothed triggerfish, trumpet fish and bluespine unicorn fish.  The area is also encrusted with a few sponges and sea squirts, forming a haven for friendly fishes and a dream studio for the adventurous photographer as huge coral formations create a spectacular backdrop for underwater photography.   Despite the current the beauty of diving at Dessho comes in the opportunities for photography and reef viewing as well as the fact that the water is extremely clear.

Practical information

  • I booked the Amami Oshima trip with Paradise Island Tours based in Tokyo (http;//www.pitdiving.com/travel/)
  • JAL flights from Haneda fly direct to Amami Oshima between 8AM and 9AM and land mid-morning.  It is possible to do at least one dive on the day of arrival.
  • Our school Blue Gate (http://www4.synapse.ne.jp/bluegate/index.html) was there to meet us at the airport and drive us to the school via the supermarket where we picked up a light lunch.
  • Diving equipment can be sent from Tokyo in advance for about 2,500yen, using Kuroneko Takkyubin.
  • Blue Gate is about 30-40mins away from the airport by car.  Immediately upon entering, you are in a big grassy field with one small wooden hut which is the dive school.  Inside the hut is a long table for divers to fill in and sign forms or write up their logbooks.  Next to the table are a few shelves to store dry clothes and other personal items.  There is also plenty of space outside to wash, hang and dry equipment along with a couple of showers and toilets. Books, magazines and cold tea are all available.
  • After loading the van with our equipment, we drove to the nearest port and left the van there during the day.  Most of the dives are boat dives.  The boat is very spacious and flat with the steering wheel and controls in the middle.  Divers set up their equipment on the boat and sit with it during the journey.  Bring your own towel, sunscreen and snacks.  Sweets and tea are provided.
  • Lunch is not provided so don’t forget to bring something light!
  • All entries into the water are backward rolls.  Ascent is up a ladder.
  • After each dive, everyone heads back to the port for a quick break which means the van is stored with a LOT of tanks and other equipment.  Some of the dive sites are about 30mins from the port.
  • Divers are responsible for looking after their own equipment each day, including preparing, washing, hanging and drying.  All the equipment can be stored at the dive school.
  • We stayed at the Amami Sun Plaza hotel (http://www.amami-sunplaza.co.jp/) about 20mins away from Blue Gate.  The hotel room is really clean and spacious with a private shower/bath/toilet, WIFI and other usual amenities such as towels, shower gel, shampoo, soap and toothbrushes.  There is also a beer garden on the roof (3000yen for all you can eat buffet dinner and a couple of beers).  Breakfast is a buffet style and both Japanese and western (rice, miso soup, fish, eggs, cereal, fruit, yogurt, coffee, tea, orange juice etc) but no dinner is provided so we ate out in town.  It’s very easy to find good restaurants with local fish/meat and other dishes and the locals are very friendly.
  • The total cost came to around 130,000yen including return flights, 3 nights in the hotel with breakfast and dinner, 4 dives (guide, tanks, weights) and all transport.
  • There is a bus or taxi available to the airport after your stay.

July’s dives

Dive 1: Kurasaki Beach: depth: 7.4m, dive time: 54mins, water temp: 27C, entry time: 16:12, exit time: 17:06, average depth: 4.6m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3mm hood/vest, 4kg weights (back plate of 3kg and 1kg in pocket).  Start pressure: 185 bar, End pressure: 60 bar.  Saw cleaner shrimps, clown fish, pearl-spot chromis, one band anemone fish, duskyfin bulleyes, two coral wip shrimps, nudibranchs and orange clownfish.

Dive 2: In Oasis: depth: 20.9m, dive time: 43mins, water temp: 27C, entry time: 11:03AM, exit time: 11:43AM, average depth: 11.6m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3mm hood/vest and a 3kg back plate (no weights in pocket).  Start pressure: 185 bar, End pressure: 50 bar.  Saw one turtle, plenty of parrot fish, shrimps and butterfly fish.  Heavily populated with vertical striped cardinal fish too.

Dive 3: Daibutsu Sango, Buddha Coral: depth: 17.7m, dive time: 43mins, water temp: 27C, entry time: 14:49, exit time: 15:33, average depth: 11.9m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3mm hood/vest and 3kg back plate (no extra weights in pocket).  Start pressure: 180 bar, End pressure: 20 bar.  Saw stonefish, nudibranchs, cleaner fish, star fish, purple queens, semicircle angel fish, threadfin red bass, striped blennies, slender sauries.

Dive 4: Dessho: depth: 21.0m, dive time: 38mins, water temp: 27C, entry time: 10:43, exit time: 11:17, average depth: 12.6m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit, 3mm hood/vest and 3kg back plate (no extra weights in pocket).  Start pressure: 180 bar, End pressure: 20 bar.  Saw triggerfish, trumpet fish, bluespine unicorn fish, redtoothed trigger fish (juveniles), blacksaddle file fish, moray eel, redfin fusiliers, moon fusiliers, pyramid butterfly fish, purple queens, moorish idols

Dive 5: Yamamoto Special: depth: 14.5m, dive time: 68mins, water temp; 29C, entry tie: 12:34, exit time: 13:44, average depth: 10.0m, used a 10L steel tank, 5mm wetsuit and 3kg back plate (no extra weight in pocket).  Start pressure: 200 bar, End pressure: 30 bar.  Saw orange clownfish, whitetail chromis, spotted garden eels, ornate ghost pipefish, seaweed pipefish, blue spot rock cod, banded coral shrimp, Japanese shrimp goby, emperor angel fish and slender sweepers.