Monday, 27 June 2016

Okinawa 4-Day Itinerary: Day Two

Read Day 1 here - Cape Manzamo (万座毛), Churaumi Aquarium
Read Day 2 here - Ocean Expo Park, snorkeling in Blue Cave, Sunset Beach
Read Day 3 here - Okinawa World, Gyokusendo Cave (玉泉洞)
Read Day 4 here - Shuri Castle (首里城)

Ocean Expo Park
Churaumi Aquarium
In the morning, we drove back to the Ocean Expo Park to see the free exhibitions that we missed yesterday. There were three sections all outdoors in front of the aquarium including giant sea turtles, manatees and a dolphin show. The dolphin show was energetic and entertaining and we got to see Oki-chan, the dolphin who is the face of the aquarium. While watching the show, you can see the vast ocean behind the tank which made you feel more connected to the sea.

Sea turtle outdoor tank
Sea turtle underground tank view
Manatee feeding time
Oki-chan at the dolphin show
From the aquarium, it was a 15-20 minute drive to the Nago Pineapple Park. The pineapple viewing part is small but the food tasting part is big. We rode in automated pineapple golf carts through a grid of pineapples from all over the world. Then we walked through a large shop (or several connected smaller shops) where we were given tons of samples from pineapple wine to vinegar to juice to cookies to cakes. It was like an assembly line of visitors who walked past the consecutive samples while deciding which items to put in their shopping baskets.

Nago Pineapple Park
Starting the tour
Pineapple golf carts
Automated carts didn't need drivers!
Pineapple course
At the end, we claimed our complimentary scoop of pineapple ice cream that came with the ticket and that was the end of the pineapple park visit. Leaving the park, we drove to Malibu Beach in Onna for our snorkeling lesson with Aru Guide. We had booked the last snorkeling time slot for the day at 3pm.

When we arrived, we signed a waiver and paid then we were directed to the change room to change into swimsuits. They asked for our height, weight and shoe size prior in a phone call. The instructor came back with wetsuits, life jackets, goggles, snorkels and fins for us. After some explanation on how to use the equipment and safety procedures, we hopped into a van and were driven down to the Blue Cave area.

We're ready to snorkel!
The area was very busy with divers, snorkelers and swimmers. The waves were more abundant that day which affected the clarity of the water. There was a sign that said it was unsafe and prohibited visitors to enter the water without an instructor but a lot of people ignored the warning. We went down slippery stone stairs to the water and wore our fins in the water which was a bit of a challenge but it would be difficult and dangerous to walk down the stairs in fins.

The water was warm so the wetsuit acted as a protective layer for your skin against the sharp coral rather than a warming layer. We were told the waves affected the clarity but I was still able to see a lot of colourful fish and coral not far from the shore. There were so many tourists stepping on the coral but the number of fish was still impressive. I can only imagine how beautiful a more protected area would be.

Rainbow fish
Swimming into the Blue Cave it got darker and darker, then we stopped and our instructor told us to turn around. The sky peeking out from the entrance of the cave shone brightly but the neon blue water shone even brighter. We couldn’t linger long here since many other snorkelers and divers were coming into the small cave so we had to circle out. I’d highly recommend doing an underwater activity in Okinawa. This spot close to shore was even more beautiful than when I went snorkeling in Australia and that spot required a dizzying 2 hour boat ride to get to!

Inside the Blue Cave
We returned to the office via the van around 5pm to shower and change. The shower area says no shampoo or soap allowed because I think the water gets flushed back to the ocean. They provided hair dryers as well which was nice.

After expending all that energy, we were hungry so we went to the nearby Onna no Eki (おんあの駅 rest stop) to eat. I tried an Okinawan dish called taco rice. It was basically salsa, cheese and lettuce on top of white rice. It wasn’t amazing because I had eaten all these components before but the cold tomatoes were quite refreshing in the heat.

Taco Rice
Full and satisfied we drove an hour south to Sunset Beach by American Village. I looked up the time for the sunset which was 7:19pm that day but we just missed it when we got to the beach because there was no glowing sphere in sight although it wasn’t dark yet. Or perhaps it was too cloudy that evening. At night without the glaring sun it felt so comfortable and breezy to walk around.

Sunset Beach
American Village
American Village had a lot of US military walking around because it was near a base. The buildings looked westernized and there was a Starbucks at every corner. It felt very different from Honshu or any other island of Japan. We went back to Naha in the evening and stayed at a hostel by Kokusai-dori.

Pistachio flavoured Blue Seal
I had my first Blue Seal, an Okinawan ice cream chain that was everywhere. It seemed to be a favourite among locals and tourists alike. I had ice cream every day on this trip using the heat as my excuse :)

Read Day 1 here - Cape Manzamo (万座毛), Churaumi Aquarium
Read Day 2 here - Ocean Expo Park, snorkeling in Blue Cave, Sunset Beach
Read Day 3 here - Okinawa World, Gyokusendo Cave (玉泉洞)
Read Day 4 here - Shuri Castle (首里城)
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