Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Diving And Drowning

We've back from the Netherlands and Amsterdam — and I haven't posted about Okinawa yet, to say nothing about the summer festival at the local temple, my birthday and other things… I'm drowning in unedited pictures and unfinished posts and I don't see a way to really catch up. I'm hereby declaring Blog Bankruptcy.

What will that mean? I will no longer even try to write long, single posts about things like travel. At this pace I'd be posting about our summer holiday in December and New Year in July. And I won't try to keep things in chronological order. Instead I'll post bits and fragments when they're ready, in whatever order they come.

And with the drowning bit out of the way, here a few pictures from underwater Okinawa. As you may remember I went to Okinawa this summer to tutor at OCNC, a computational science summer school. I won't say too much about the school; it was fun and very educational for me as well as (hopefully) for the students, but it was work, not play, and the details aren't really interesting to others.

But we did have some free time during the course, and Ritsuko came to Okinawa towards the end so we could spend a weekend together. And we spent much of that time snorkeling.

Cape Maeda is a famous and popular diving spot. It's easy to get to, easy to get in the water, and fairly shallow so it's good for snorkelers as well as beginning divers. The only drawback is its popularity; during weekends you hardly see the fish or coral for all the divers, snorkeling tours, boats, and swimmers.

Cape Maeda
The stairs down to the water at Cape Maeda.

The wildlife here is very used to humans. Many tour guides feed the fish to get them close, so some species really crowd around you hoping for something to eat. These batfish aren't quite that familiar with people, but if you wait a while you have a good shot at getting a picture.

Blue Cave
The Blue Cave is a famous spot at Maeda. It's a seaside cave going back a few tens of meters into the cliff, ending with a small opening to land. Below the surface the world turns a brilliant clear blue colour — when the view isn't obstructed by people, that is.

Fish (surgeonfish, perhaps) crowd around a float off the Maeda coast. The waters here really are this lively.

A fellow tutor finds a few moments to relax in the warm water.

Manzamo is another spot. north of Maeda. Unlike Maeda, though, it's not that easy to get to. The divers' entry point is a fairly rugged cliff at the end of some slippery rock formations. Nothing for beginners. There's a small sandy beach to one side, but you can only enter during high tide and to get there you have to use a narrow path through the rocks and dense brush; that makes me nervous what with the Habu snakes and all.

But the effort is worth it — wonderful, wide fields of coral sloping down to the sea shelf where it suddenly drops to several tens of meters of more. Divers can even see sea turtles here. And there's rarely any other snorkelers around so you can explore in peace and quiet. I didn't have much luck with photography this time, with the memory card full of near-misses. But it was a memorable experience, with lionfish, a stone fish and many other sights.

Crown of Thorns
A Crown of Thorns starfish is eating a coral.

Crown of Thorns
Some mixed corals along the sea bed.

A bright-blue starfish.

After the end of the three-week course I met up with Ritsuko at the nearby Rizzan Resort, a family-oriented resort hotel just down the coast from OIST.

Rizzan Hotel
Rizzan Resort hotel. Yes, it's big; and yes, it's a bit loud and in-your-face. But the atmosphere is relaxed and easygoing, and the young families crowding the place seemed to have just as much fun here as we did.

The wedding "chapel" at the Rizzan — it's not consecrated or anything. Wedding events is a major part of business for resorts. All wedding guests stay at the hotel for the ceremony, the couple get married and can spend their honeymoon right here. Many guests would need to travel wherever they got married anyway, so this may even end up less expensive than a regular wedding overall.

To our surprise, even the beach just outside our hotel had a fair amount of marine life. We took a quick snorkeling tour as well. It was fun, but unfortunately we had to wear vests so no diving down for pictures.

Close, but not quite
A clown fish almost manages to avoid detection in his anemone.

Small seascape literally a couple of meters from the hotel beach. People were swimming right above, never realizing this kind of scenery exists below.

Titan Triggerfish
A Titan Triggerfish.

Living Under a Rock
A busy ecosystem literally living under a rock at the hotel beach.

Picasso Triggerfish
A Picasso Triggerfish.

A whole school of …something rushes right past us.

Sunset at Tancha bay.

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