Diving

Ishigaki's climate is semi-tropical and the ocean which surrounds the Yaeyama archipelago remains warm year-round. Scuba diving is extremely popular activity with people travelling from both Japan and further afield to dive with manta rays. The most reliable place to view these magnificent creatures is 'Manta Point' (also known as 'Manta Scramble') which is located just off Kabira's coast. Mantas make their way to this point to clean and feed on plankton, however, there are other sites where they are frequently spotted throughout the archipelago.
 
In terms of diving on Ishigaki there are some other quality sites such as a cave which is located just off the coast of Yonehara. The ocean to the west of the Uganzaki peninsula is also favored by many dive operators on the island. Ishigaki's Hirakubo peninsula, which extends to the north east of the island is also home to serveral dive spots, and manta rays have even been photographed by people paragliding along the peninsula's coastline.
 
Coral

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.

Manta rays hovering at Kabira's 'Manta Scramble'Ishigaki's 'Manta Scramble' is a world-famous dive spot (photo courtesy of Diving School Umicoza).

Outer Islands

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.

Cost

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.

Video

If a picture speaks a thousand words then these beautifully filmed videos produced by edo-dive  speak millions.

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Comments

Re: Hammerhead Sharks

When is the best time, or month of the year, to come to Okinawa to see the hammerhead sharks?? Thanks