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Ishigaki has an abundance of coral in its waters and the ocean teams with life. Indeed, in many cases expansive areas of coral are located so close to the shoreline that a snorkel is often preferred over scuba gear. Shiraho is a town positioned on the south west coast of Ishigaki and the waters off its coast are famed for having one of the largest areas of blue coral in the world.
There are also a number of drop-offs and cave diving opportunities to be enjoyed on the island and it is often said that Ishigaki compares well will better known dive locations throughout Asia.
Diving is not limited to Ishigaki, with quality dive locations being positioned throughout the archipelago. To the south west of Ishigaki lie the islands of Taketomi, Kohama and Kuroshima, all of which are surrounded by an abundance of rich, unspoilt coral. A plethora of dive points are dotted along this stretch of ocean and they offer anything from shallow dives to drop offs. Manta rays are also spotted in this region and there's a reasonable chance of encountering sea turtles, particularly near Kuroshima which is an habitual egg-laying ground for several species.
Yonaguni is also a favored dive location with its deep waters and huge drop-offs where encounters with whale sharks and other large pelagics have been reported. A sight not to be missed is the congregation of hammerhead sharks which takes place every year during the winter months.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Ishigaki from mainland Japan every year with many of them keen to experience some 'taiken daibingu', which is probably best translated as 'experience diving'. A large number of dive operators and instructors have set up on the island in the hope of gaining a slice of what has become a huge business.
The cost of diving in Japan isn't cheap, and in this sense Ishigaki is no exception, however, tough competition and a slight fall in visitor numbers over recent years has kept the cost within most budgets. It should be pointed out that there are only a few operators on the island which provide instruction in English. If you wish to purchase your own equipment then there are lots of dive shops positioned over the island. If you're after snorkeling equipment then it's also worth checking larger fishing shops which often stock gear at very reasonable prices.
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