A peaceful adventure on Okinawan waters
Bios on the Hill is not a theme park with speed and thrill. Instead, this sub-tropical forest offers a quiet and peaceful form of entertainment. Fitting for an experience found on Okinawa.
At Bios on the Hill a variety of attractions are setup to let visitors experience and touch the island’s wildlife.
Just like a traditional Japanese garden subtly incorporates nature and exhibits its beauty, Bios on the Hill carefully presents Okinawan nature, and lets visitors safely experience various aspects of it.
Pond of Dragon
Ufutachi Gomoi, or “pond of a large dragon,” is a lake that takes up almost half of the entire park. The name came from the shape of the lake which looks like a dragon when seen from above.
Visitors can tour this 1km around lake by taking a 25-minute boat ride. Throughout the trip, tour guides brief visitors on the unique plants and creatures or Okinawan culture presented along the way.
Interesting plants that dot the shoreline include trees with snake scales patterns, plants whose flowers that look like sausages or orchids that smell just like chocolate.
Plus, two water buffaloes welcome the boat at one corner of the lake. At another spot, a lady in a classic Okinawan attire performs a dance on a ship docked by a shore.
Commentary is provided in English through speakers with Okinawan music as background music. The slow tempo of the music and elegant dance moves set a very relaxing tone for the tour.
Just a 30-minute drive away from Kadena Air Base, many families from the on-base community visit Bios.
Michelle Pimentel, whose husband is stationed on Camp Foster, is one of them.
“It’s very nice, and beautiful, and we enjoy finding a little more about Okinawa,” says the mother who took the boat ride with her children. “[The slow speed and quiet mood] definitely suits us.”
Stand up paddle boarding
The slow quiet mood also allows for some easy-going physical activities on the lake, as well. Aside from the boat ride, visitors can take a 45-minute stand-up paddleboarding tour (SUP). For a beginner like me, this was a good opportunity to test my balance, which isn’t good thanks to a lack of exercise. After a setting foot on a paddle board, it was slow going for me, but cruising side-by-side with water striders and seeing people waive from ashore helped me get going.
Even without any knowledge of the paddleboarding basics, I managed to stay on the board through the 1km route, thanks to the calm water.
For experienced SUP boarders, this will be an easy ride. Unlike the ocean, there are no big waves or strong winds to challenge adventurous minds. However, cruising on the unruffled water while enjoying interesting Okinawan nature is a unique experience that’s hard to find elsewhere.
Water buffalo cart
Bios on the Hill has a lot going on ashore, as well. On a grass field called “Ashibiuna,” visitors can interact with animals native to the island.
Among the activities, you can take a goat for a walk, feed chickens or walk with the famous “Agu” pig if you are lucky.
One highlight is the water buffalo cart ride. Water buffaloes are recognized as a means of transportation and also as a popular attraction at some tourist spots in Okinawa. The animal is used to tour a traditional village, or used to cross ocean to get to a remote island.
At Bios on the Hill, a ride on a water buffalo cart gives visitors the opportunity to experience the intelligence of the bovine. Throughout the ride, passengers witness a water buffalo precisely follow instructions given by a driver, or make its own decisions to stop to avoid danger.
At one point, kids are handed the leash and given an opportunity to lead the buffalo. If the kids stopped and the driver said nothing, the buffalo would still keep on going, but the smart animal knew to stop on its own before colliding with the kids. At the end of the tour, kids were given a chance to ride on the back of the huge animal and take photos.
Slow and peaceful may not appeal to some thrill-seeker, but the relaxing form of entertainment this sub-tropical garden offers is filled with moments that are to be long remembered.
Bios on the Hill
Where: 961-30 Ishikawa-kadekaru, Uruma city, Okianwa
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (open all year round)
Admission: 900 yen for adults, 500 for children
Boat tour: 800 yen for adults, 500 for children
Water Buffalo Cart: 900 yen for adults, 600 for children
Standup Paddle Board/Boat: 3,000 yen (must be 13 or older
Canoe ride: 1,500 yen for adults, 800 for children