On land, everyone knows about this country’s delicious street food, powder snow, cultures that date back thousands of years and extraordinary outdoor experiences, but there is also plenty to be found underwater as well.
The Kerama Islands are one big national park, comprising of 36 islands, populated by just under a couple of thousand people. We don’t know what the true population of colourful fish swimming in schools and dancing in and out of reefs, dodging seaweed and hiding behind colourful coral, but go underwater for even just a few minutes and your perception of Japan will change forever. There are about 250 species of fish in the islands, humpback whales, manta rays as well as one other major drawcard: sea turtles.
These big, friendly beasts live to up to 70-80 years in this part of the world. As you’re swimming in Kerama’s exceptionally blue waters, it’s mind blowing to think that the gentle green beasts in front of you were probably around in 1972, when the Okinawa prefecture was returned to the Japanese from the U.S., who had ruled the area for almost three decades. Or when Japan emerged as an economic superpower in the 1960s, or when they hosted the Olympic games in 1964 and 2021, or throughout any of this country’s major historic events over the last half-century and a bit.
And as they swim serenely in thrillingly clear turquoise waters in front of you – oblivious to any of those happenings – you’ll think that they’ve probably had the right idea all along.
get lost’s top four Kerama Islands diving spots:
An array of beginner to advanced diving spots, drift diving and cave diving, with schools of migratory fish, gorgeous coral and more. Epic.
If you want to see sea turtles, this spot on Aka Island is where to come, between the months of May and October. Also plenty of manta rays, who gather to be cleaned by the other sea life there.
The caves located beneath Aharen Lighthouse create an epic light display.
Onna Village has the nickname ‘Coral Village’ for a reason. Check it out below:
A variety of airlines fly to Naha via mainland Japan from Australia.
There are high-speed ferries from Tomari Port in Naha to three of the Kerama Islands: to Tokashiki Island (3 trips a day, taking about 35 minutes), Zamami Island (4-6 trips, 50-70 minutes), and Aka Island (1-2 trips, 50 minutes).
There are plenty of day trips to the Kerama Islands from Naha, capital of Okinawa, but you can also base yourself on one of the tiny islands that make up the archipelago.