Finding the hidden treasures of Okinawa
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Kadena Air Base Catholic Youth Group took a new spin on exploring the hidden treasures of Okinawa by going geocaching March 21.
Geocaching consists of individuals competing with one another to find hidden containers using GPS tools. These hidden caches are strategically hidden outdoors with a wide variety of rewards and a log book to show who has found it. If the visitor takes something from the cache they are asked to leave something of equal value for the next explorer to find and to hide it as they found it.
"Geocaching is like a new century treasure hunt, but without being a treasure like money or gold," said Michelle Deliz, Catholic youth coordinator. "Just the excitement of going out and finding something I think is what is good about it."
Using smartphones and hand-held GPS units, the youths spent the afternoon racing along Araha Beach searching for hidden treasure while being able to see the island.
"I've been geocaching for three years on this Island and this was the first time I've went around Araha Beach," said Lily Austinson, youth group member. "I like that it is a mystery and you have to go and find them and it is a way for people to secretly communicate."
Many caches are placed around local parks, playgrounds or sites with historical significance, so geocaching can be incorporated whenever a person wants to go outdoors and explore. The activity is also a great way to plan a road trip and keep children's minds off the long ride.
"Everytime we go out I'll go crazy and check my GPS online and see where they are," Deliz said. "There are plenty of geocaches on the Island. You can discover new places when you are geocaching or you can go to one place and see that there are caches for you to find and that's when you discover what you didn't know was there."
Getting started is as easy as logging onto the site https://www.geocaching.com/play, registering for a basic free membership and entering in a zip code. A list of geocaches will come up, and then the hunting can begin. The site and cellphone apps even give clues in case a cache is difficult to find.
Like any game, there are some rules that need to be followed.
Deliz said that while playing, people have to hide from the non-players or at least act normal around them. It is a game where you know the rules but they don't, so if they see you hiding a cache they become curious and may take it and that is when caches are lost.
Geocachers can hide their own cache and log them onto geocaching.com for others to find; however, certain locations are off limits or frowned upon depending on the local community, such as near schools, children's playgrounds or in residential neighborhoods. Also places where caches could be mistaken as bombs or drugs are usually disallowed, such as banks, courthouses, or embassies.
Since there are thousands of geocaches all over the world, this is a great way for military families with a smartphone or other GPS device to get out and explore their area whenever they move to a new location.
For more information or to sign up visit https://www.geocaching.com/play.