Japan | The Kerama Islands, Okinawa
A speedy ferry ride from Naha City got us to The Kerama Islands in just under an hour. At this time of year it's mating season for humpback whales so we spent every ride outside, full of suspense to spot their spectacular rolling, breaching and fluke waving.
On Zamami island we cycled in sticky tropical humidity on hired 3 gear bikes with seats so low our knees knocked the handlebars. After following the curves of thickly vegetated island hills, we found a small, bumpy path in a tunnel of trees that lead to a dramatic expanse of sand, dried coral and sea.
The locals had warned us about the 'cold' sea and thought we were mad for planning to swim without wetsuits but the refreshing water was still warmer than a Cornish summer!
We explored Aka island by foot, following the rocky coastline and climbing a jungle lined route to the top of Mount Nakadake. Again we were warned about our plans, this time because the peaks and troughs of the path would be too 'hard'. We decided to give it a go at it anyway (I struggle to stay relaxed on a beach for longer than an hour) and were surprised to find the route was predominantly a clean tarmac road that finished with grassy steps - both manageable with trainers and lots of drinking water. From the summit observatory we absorbed the epic views of the Kerama Island's unusual formations and sparkling azure sea.
In winter season, the islands are relatively empty of tourists (especially compared to the hoards that descend in the summer). We relished the feeling of finding ourselves alone on the pathways, beaches and viewpoints. It was serenely quiet and so far removed from normal life.
Images: Ali Goodman
Approaching the islands on the ferry, Exploring by bike, Testing the daypack sample, Sea swimming in the 'cold', Sun Dried Coral, Aka Island, Aka Island, Path to the Mt. Nakadake, Mt. Nakadake observatory, View from Mt. Nakadake, Deserted beaches of Aka, Aka Island, Aka Island, The reward of our bike ride, Thick Vegetation, Aqua Waters.
Kayaking and Snorkelling:
In Zamami village we met Mami, a wiry and grinning local kayak and snorkelling guide. She didn't speak English so we communicated with lots of gestures, noises and giggling.
We packed a van and drove to a quiet cove to launch. The water was completely flat and clear as glass. It was perfect for gliding along, marvelling at the coral and, over sandy patches, the brightest aqua blue water I've ever seen (I still can't get over it).
We landed the kayaks, kitted up and followed Mami into the water to search the colourful reef of coral for tropical creatures.
The highlight was when, after seconds of being under water, a large rock revealed itself to be a huge shoal of little fish! They moved in the water like a murmuration of starlings in slow motion, instead of darting away as we drifted closer, they shape shifted as if we carried a gentle force field, until we were surrounded by a pulsing wall of fish.
Images : Kerama kayak centre