After visiting Ishigaki island and Taketomi island in Okinawa, we took the ferry to our final destination in paradise: Iriomote Island. Here we experienced some of the top Okinawa diving and snorkelling options of the area, so put on your wetsuit and jump in after us for this adventure!
Okinawa Diving and Snorkelling Experience
Iriomote island is the second largest island of Okinawa in Japan. Almost 90% of the island is covered in jungle and mangrove forests and most activities involve water in some way or another. From fishing, to sailing and kayaking (this last one we’re going to tell you all about soon!) to of course some of the best Okinawa diving and snorkelling of the area.
We started our Iriomote water adventures in the Uehara harbour, where we weren’t very optimistic about the success of this day: the skies were grey, it was a bit chilly and rain started to come down, just before we got on board of a small boat and try on our diving gear. Recipe for disaster!
In Japan, you snorkel with life vests on(what?!). I look almost happy, right?
Together with Team Italy in the water
To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to being in the water at all, no matter what the weather was. I don’t know if we ever told this story on this blog, but when we were swimming one day in Australia, I stood (swam?) eye-to-eye with a 2 meter long shark.
I never swam so fast to shore ever before. Seriously.
After that, anything related to the ocean I’d rather see in a picture than in real life.
But, we were going for it and luckily, the weather soon began to clear up. It even became sunny! Just having to take in an extra deep breath. this. will. be. fun.
Some of us went diving as well, personally, snorkelling was exciting enough :)
Paul the Okinawa Diving King!! Meanwhile, in the bottom left corner I’m trying not to think of sharks. Not working, apparently.
After a while, the sun really got wild, just as we arrived at the most magical part of this area: Barass Island. It’s made totally out of coral and it just looked incredible.
After the first round of snorkelling, we said goodbye to our happy hosts and grabbed a bite to eat. After that, it was time for round two!!
All the Japanese you need to learn :)
For our second snorkelling trip, we head over to the second harbour of the island (Shirahama) and were taken aboard a glass bottom boat to see some coral AND lots of turtles! Amazing!!
I’m a bit more relaxed now… also didn’t really get off the boat anymore at this point, just enjoyed the sun and the views :)
Magical colours in the water!
Nick is greeting the turtles from under our boat
A bit hard to see, but can you spot the turtle??!!
Meet the Iriomote Cat!
There are two other things on the island that this place is famous for: the Iriomote wildcat and the Yubu Island Waterbuffalo cart.
Because we had such strong rain when arriving on the island, we didn’t get to go on the buffalo cart (and by this we could avoid the discussion whether it was ethical to do so or not in the most easy way), but we did get a quick view of the Yamaneko (yama=mountain neko=cat) Museum, otherwise known as the Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center.
This places informs and rescues injured wild cats, that are a native and unfortunately endangered species of the island.
And quick it was, because we arrived around closing time and the lady running the museum couldn’t be bothered keeping it open for just 10 more minutes. It was the first (and probably last) Japanese person I ever met that was rude, haha. She did eventually let us in, but already started to turn the lights of when we walked around. By the looks of the museum, she must have had roughly the same amount of visitors as the Louvre coming through today, so yeah, she must have been tired running that all by herself. Aaaany-way!
Buffalo carts with Yubu Island in the distance
The Iriomote Wildcat. Poor thing. Stuck with evil cat lady forever and ever!
More to see and do on Iriomote Island
As I said in the beginning, we will write a separate post on the kayak and jungle trekking we did on Iriomote Island Japan, because it was just too awesome to leave lots of pictures out. So stay tuned!
Instead, here are some quick tips on places to eat on Iriomote Island, see the map on the bottom of this page for all locations:
Laugh La Garden
Must try: a nice and juicy (fish) burger, or try the traditional fried chicken
Must try: Wild Boar Sashimi
Cute Little Izakaya (Sorry, can’t read the name!)
Must Try: everything, really, but I love the crab and the fresh tuna
Nirakanai Hotel Restaurant
Must Try: all you can drink Owamori (sake) and the Purple Yam Ice-cream
Information on which Okinawa Ferry to take to get here in our first post on the Yaeyama Islands, where you can also read more on the hotel we stayed at on this island.
The snorkel tour that we did is mostly run for Japanese tourists, but ask your hotel, because there are plenty of diving- and snorkelling trips with English speaking options. You can also book these in the harbour itself.
Check out all locations on our map:
Open this Okinawa map in Google
Planning a Trip to Japan? Here are some great resources:
- Skyscanner – Find the best flights to Japan
- Booking.com – Find the best hotels in Japan
- World Nomads – Find the best travel insurance
- Get Your Guide – The most popular tours & activities around Japan
- ViaHero – Get help planning a trip to Japan from a local
- Magical Trip – Discover Tokyo, Osaka & Kyoto at night with a local tour guide
- G Adventures – Group travel to Japan
Disclaimer: We were kindly invited by the Okinawa Tourism Board to experience the hospitality, culture, food and nature of Iriomote Island. All photos, opinions an meetings with scary seacreatures are 100% our own, as always.