Thursday, 17 September 2015

30-07-2015 ~ Snorkelling; Fly from Okinawa to Fukuoka

We were both so excited about this snorkelling excursion; I'd only booked it 3 days before we were due to fly from the UK (through Japanican again, ¥11800 for us both). We'd communicated with the company (Marine House Seasir) and given our size details for wetsuits etc & had arranged over email to be picked up at 08:10 from our hotel.

So we went for breakfast at the hotel at 07:00 which was a buffet with a great variety and amount of food (from croissants & rolls to miso soup, rice & chicken stew with a lot of juices to choose from). We met the driver at 08:10 outside the hotel entrance and joined 4 other people who were already in the mini-bus. It was a 20-25 minute drive to the company base where we were signed in, given wristbands and wetsuits (3mm thick & floatation aiding) and then to wait for the rest of the group to arrive.

We were driven to the harbour and got on the boat at 09:00. We were able to stow our bags in the room at the front of the boat (shoes off before going in) then everyone made their way to top deck for briefing. There was an Australian and a Thai guide who both explained boat safety/etiquette in English to us as well as in Japanese to the other participants. We headed to the outskirts of the Kerama Islands for our excursion which took 30 minutes from land. On the journey we saw flying fish! Very difficult to get photos as we and they were moving pretty fast but I gave it a good go. We saw some 'fly' as far as 15-20 metres!

(The splashes you see in this photo are the flying fish skimming the water)

After this we put our wetsuits on and watched the rest of the seascape go by. Once we'd arrived we got our snorkels cleaned & put our flippers on & off we went into the crystal clear water:

We were immediately surrounded by fish (I think I panicked slightly as they touched me - I haven't got a fish phobia, just don't think I expected to be mobbed). We all drifted apart and began exploring the surroundings: there were fish everywhere! We saw the whole cast of 'Finding Nemo' on the coral beds about 2m below the surface, and a plethora of other fish, some shy, some bold, and all very beautiful. There were Parrot Fish, Unicorn Fish (really!). Angel Fish, big and small rainbow fish, and very inquisitive black fish. The coral had valleys and and caves and fish would dart in and out as we floated over. The water was so clear we could see at least 40m, it was so amazing. I wish I'd bought an underwater camera or underwater bag for my phone but as it was a last minute booking I hadn't been able to prep properly for it.

We had to get out for a drink of cold green tea and water on board, and found out we had 10 minutes left and there was opportunity to feed the fish. We were each given a potato-looking chunk (which I recognised as having eaten at breakfast) and back in we went. I was immediately swamped by fish again & although I was ready for it, I wasn't ready for them to burrow into my loosely closed hand to get the food - the bold black fish was in there like a shot & surprised me so I promptly dropped the lot. Kindly M gave me some of his so I clamped it tightly in my fist and pulled small chunks off to feed them. It was great! They had no fear & excellent spatial awareness, sometimes we were pretty much eyeball to eyeball with the fish as they tried to get the food.

All in all, we were snorkelling for around just under 1.5 hours; it was such a great experience, I would definitely love to do it again! Back on board we got out of our snorkelling gear & had quick showers on deck then changed into clothes (they provided towels). We felt very relaxed on the journey back to land, and before we knew it we were back at the HQ about to be mini-bus'ed back to the hotel. We were given a website address to look at the photos taken on our dive and were told the photos stay up online for a year.

Once back at the hotel we went to Blue Seal to get ice cream (Okinawan brand - amazing) then back to the hotel for shower & change clothes. The hotel were very helpful as they booked a haircut at a local hairdressers for M as he was overheating. The hairdresser was a lovely woman and very patient with the language barrier. M had a very good cut & felt much better for it so then we went shopping for 2 glasses we'd seen yesterday. We were thrilled to find them for ¥1380 (under £8 for both)!

Then it was time to find food, though we found as we searched that most places stopped serving food at 15:00; it was 15:30 when we were looking... Luckily one guy that called to us to come for drinks was willing to cook for us, so we had 2 pork soba ramen with 1 beer, 1 passion-fruit soft drink and a pint of passion-fruit sake  for under ¥2000 (the pint of sake was a result of a miscommunication, but it was amazing!)

After we finished the meal it was time to pick up our luggage from the hotel and take the monorail back to the airport for our 18:45 ANA flight to Fukuoka. We checked our suitcases in and made our way to the security point at the end of the airport only to be told that the Samurai handle umbrella M had bought in Okinawa couldn't be taken on as hand-luggage! Lucky we had arrived with plenty of time to spare, so we went back to the desks and checked in the umbrella (?) then proceeded through security to our gate. We boarded our plane (2x3x2 seats) and took off on time (of course); flying at twilight gave gorgeous views.

We landed at 20:20 but had to wait for baggage (for the first time) and so didnt leave the airport until 21:00. We had planned to have dinner at Canal City for the Ramen shops but that wasn't going to happen. So we got the metro to Tojinmachi - the closest station to our hotel (Hilton Sea Hawk - I thought one night of luxury before the Rail Pass starts and constant travelling).

We walked for 25 minutes from the subway station to the Hilton (one of the only things we really disliked about Japan was the lack of scale to their maps!). Along the way both suitcases wheels melted! 2 on M's suitcase wheels & 1 on my suitcase. This was only the fifth day of use (& for 3 of those days they'd been sat in a hotel); deeply unimpressed we had to drag the suitcase about half the journey. As such when we arrived at the Hilton we were slightly more than dishevelled...

Perhaps the man at check-in pitied us, but which ever way we got a complimentary upgrade! We had been upgraded from a small double bedroom to a suite (at £120/night for the small room I had expected superb luxury, the suite was something else and also is more than £450/night!). The suite was beautiful! The hotel was shaped like a boat and the suite was in the point so we had great views on all sides (on the 9th floor). There was an entrance hall, bedroom to the right, curved divider wall in the middle, living room to the left (with designer cantilever light!) The bathroom was in the very point and had remote controlled blinds on either side of the jacuzzi bath. Needless to say dinner was forgotten and we had long jacuzzi bath admiring views and luxury of our surroundings, and then collapsed in bed.

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