Dive! Take the plunge off Okinawa’s shores

Stripes Okinawa

The Okinawa archipelago is known as one of the world’s best diving destinations, having a number of coral species and marine lives as large as those in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. You can find over 400 types of corals, five types of sea turtles, manta rays, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks and many kinds of tropical fish.

SOFA personnel have the advantage of The Kadena Marina, which offers the fully stocked retail shop, Scuba & Sea, with equipment for sale or rent as well as dive programs and a variety of lessons. You must have completed a diving certification course; but if you haven’t, the marina’s certified dive center can teach you everything you need to know.

Dive trips offered include the Keramas Dive Trip for $78 (includes two tanks) and $120 (three tanks) aboard the CFalcon and Venture. The Discover Ocean Scuba package is $75 and includes life support equipment, fins, mask, snorkel (students must provide wetsuit and booties). Local boat dives at Runway Lights, Pinnacle or Torii Reef are only $47 and include two tanks, according to Kadena Force Support Squadron’s website.

Call 966-7345 for details.

Other local providers may offer more options but they can be considerably more expensive by comparison. A whole day’s diving off a boat (2-3 dives including insurance and lunch) can cost between 12,000 yen and 17,000 yen, depending on the season and island, plus an additional cost between 3,000 yen and 5,000 yen if you need gear rental.

For a 3-day certification course you will need to pay 30,000-60,000 yen, depending on the season and number of participants. Fortunately, a lot of the diving on Okinawa can be done from the shore (no boat needed), in which case you can get full gear rental and tanks for around 5,000 yen, or if you just need tanks (and can guide yourself) then it will only be around 500 yen per tank. Many shops do not accept credit cards, so you will need to carry a thick wad of yen to pay for it all.

The language barrier can also be an issue, with most shops only set up to cater to Japanese-speaking tourists, although Piranha Divers Okinawa (www.piranha-divers.jp) in Onna Village, Reef Encounters (www.reefencounters.org) in Chatan or Bluefield (bluefi.com/english) in Kadena on Okinawa Island, and Umicōza on Ishigaki are welcome exceptions.

There is some world-class diving to look forward to: particular highlights include the gorgeous reefs surrounding the Kerama Islands, the manta rays of Miyako and Ishigaki and the hammerhead sharks and underwater ruins of Yonaguni.

The waters are generally divable all year, although water temperature fluctuates between 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to around 84 degrees in summer. Also, beware of the typhoons during June-November and the north wind that may frequently close diving sites in the north shores of many of the islands during November and December.

There is, however, dangerous marine life to take be aware of. That includes the cone shell, which appears like a harmless shell but can whip out a radial tooth or “dart” and inject a perceived attacker with poison. So it is best not touch them. There are more than 400 species, meaning they may not be easy to identify.

Typhoon season’s warmer waters bring box jellyfish, with stinging tentacles up to 17 feet long. Even when these tentacles are detached they can cause injury that requires medical attention. Other types of dangerous marine life include sea snakes, blue ring octopus and moray eels. If any of these creatures feel threatened, they become defensive and either bite or release a deadly toxin.

A first aid kit that includes peroxide, alcohol, vinegar, antibiotic ointment, forceps, scissors, gauze and heat and cold packs are strongly advised.

Many people dive in boardshorts and rashguards half the year. Most Japanese divers wear a 5mm full-body wetsuit, and dive shops usually provide aluminum tanks with American-style fittings.

– Compiled from Wikitravel and Kadena Air Base sources

Know 5 Steps of Pre-Dive Safety Check (PADI)

BWRAF(Begin With Review And Friend)

B-Buoyancy Compensator
Ensure it is the right size, holds air, not torn or damaged

W-Weights
Proper amount of weights, belt right,hand release, or integrated weights securely fastened

R-Releases –Snug; know how to release

A-Air/Regulator
Air is in tank, regulator and alternate air source are working properly

FFinal Okay: Is everything in place?

Enjoy your dive and have fun.

 

Getting certified to get underwater

Kadena Force Support Squadron

Scuba & Sea at the Kadena Marina is a certified PADI dive center and Diver’s Alert Network member. We are fully stocked to meet all your needs with top of the line dive gear and water recreation equipment.

For Scuba certification, you will need to complete both classroom work and in-water practice. You will need to understand and learn:
 
Air and air pressure
Diving physics
Consumption of air
Psychological issues around breathing pressurized air
Risks

What you will need:

1. Mask • For clear visibility underwater.

2. Fins • Allows you to maneuver around using only your leg muscles.

3. Snorkel • Allows you to breathe on the surface without using air from your tank.

4. Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) • Used to support the air cylinder, the weight system, the regulator and the diver.

5. Regulator • The device which allows you to breathe underwater.

6. Cylinder • Stores compressed air.

7. Exposure suit • Designed to minimize heat loss.

8. Submersible Pressure Gauge (SPG) • aka Air Gauge, tells you how much air you have remaining in your tank.

9. Alternate air source • A second regulator connected to your mouthpiece for you to share air with your dive buddy.

10. Compass • Used like a standard compass, for underwater navigation, built to withstand wetness and pressure.

11. Dive computer • Monitors your depth and time underwater.

12. Whistle • Safety equipment used to gain attention on surface.

Take the Master Scuba Diver Challenge!

For those of you who are already a certified diver,  here is your chance to continue your diving education. Want to join the best of the best in recreational diving? Want to explore the underwater world like never before? Want to live the dive lifestyle?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you’ll want to visit the Kadena retail shop to accept the Master Scuba Diver challenge. Master Scuba Diver is PADI’s highest recreational diving certification. This is where the best of the best come to play!

To become a Master Scuba Diver you must log 50 dives and complete the following PADI courses:

Open Water Diver
Advanced Open Water Diver
Rescue Diver
Five Specialty Diver Courses

The challenge is on! It’s your turn to Want it, Live, it, Dive it!

 

Diving glossary

Most Japanese diving terminology is imported straight from English
(finzu, masuku, regyurētā, etc), but the following terms are not:

潜る moguru — to dive; note that dives are counted with -本 (hon)

器材 kizai — equipment

水中 suichū — underwater

水深 suishin — depth

浅い/深い asai/fukai — shallow/deep

流れ nagare — current

安全停止 anzen teishi — safety stop

潜航 senkō — descent

浮上 fujō — ascent

珊瑚 sango — coral

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