Great Dive Opportunity for Any Diver
The azure blue seas surrounding the beautiful Yakushima Island is too wonderful an opportunity to miss for any diver. Although the island is further north than the lines of the tropics, the seas benefit from the warm Kuroshio current that flows up the Asian coast line from the south and offers a variety of dive sites. The current brings corals and sea creatures to northern latitudes where they would not normally be found without this warm water stream. It is also the draw for the turtles that nest on the sandy beaches around the island.
Keen to Explore The Sea
Having qualified to dive on their PADI diving course in recent years Jerome and his dad were both very keen to explore the deeper seas around the verdant island. Jerome had already encountered turtles and wonderful corals snorkelling from nearby Isso Beach and keenly anticipated the bigger variety of fish that diving deeper allows.
Best Diving Operators on Yakushima
We had investigated the best diving operators on the island before arriving. There are a variety of diving schools and companies in Miyanoura and Anbo. Our lovely hosts had recommended the English speaking divers at Yakushima Diving Center as the best option but these were sadly fully booked. We chose to dive with Yakushima Diving, they have good reviews but only have limited English, so are good for qualified divers but would not be a good option for those needing instructions or wanting to learn to dive. It should be noted that the dive schools on the island that we saw are not in our opinion in the top range but they appear well equipped and take a sensible safe staged approach, so expect them to observe your ability before venturing to the more testing sites.
Planning the Dive
With many other tempting activities on the island the boys agreed to limit themselves to four dives, although I am sure they would have loved a few more. On arrival at the diving school they showed their logbooks and through a little English and some google translate agreed on a dive plan. The instructor helped select the essential equipment and as good divers they checked everything carefully before suiting up and loading a small mini-van for the trip to the port.
The dive centre was at the back of Miyanoura town, so a short drive was needed to Isso Port where the dive boats are mostly based, away from the commercial shipping in the bigger ports and closer to the best diving sites on Yakushima. With all the tanks and kit in place on the dive boat, the captain took a short route out to the dive sites. The boys were a bit surprised that the first stop was actually only ten minutes out and fairy close to the port but once in the water the reason became clear.
Spectacular Underwater World
Submerged in the calm blue waters the spectacular underwater world opened up. There were abundant corals of all types, delicate fans with tiny fish swimming through their fingers, larger brain corals like lumpy hulking boulders, and pinky tables of flesh like corals that seem to be a speciality of the island. The diving instructor pointed out huge sea slugs creeping along the harbour defences the largest must have been a third of a meter in length. Turtles hid among the rocks and of course tropical fish of all types were everywhere.
Testing Their Skills
In all the boys experienced four dives in four different environments around the Isso bay and peninsular. Each dive proved to be very different. The first day dives were perhaps a test of their skills to make sure they were experienced divers, so they were less exacting. These took them along the corals reef and the big sea defences submerged outside the harbour. The highlights of these dives were definitely the huge sea slugs and the tiny shrimps.
The second day of diving was more testing and a little deeper. On day two, the first dive went along the north side of the Isso Peninsular culminating at an underwater point, where the rushing current brought huge schools of fish to feed on the plankton. Here the boys were lucky enough to see large tuna in a feeding frenzy taking out individuals from the swirling school. On the way to the point an octopus was hiding under a rock and there were spectacular clams and several Moray eels poking from their rocky crevices.
World War II Propeller and Engine
As often is the case the best dive was last. Dive four was way out in the middle of the sandy bay. Descending into the deep blue the boys wondered what they might see there, as sandy bottoms are not usually the best dive sites. The line from the boat stretched deep, clusters of smaller fish followed the divers down. After a short swim away from the mooring the destination became clear, on the sand sat an old World War II fighter plane engine and propeller, surrounded by shoals of fish and draped in seaweed. Huge red grouper poked their noses from the cavities of the plane engine, and were surrounded by cardinals and other colourful reef fish. A memorable and famous dive site and perfect photo opportunity, it even features in a popular children’s book.
Yakushima may not be the best diving in Japan. Further south in the Okinawa island chain there are many fantastic places to dive. However, if you are on the island exploring for longer as we were, and you and your family are qualified divers it is definitely an activity that you should not miss.
Where we stayed in Kyushu:
Sankara Resort treat yourself to a truly luxurious stay on the island.
Kirishima Kokusei for those wanting to stay in Kirishima Onsen
Ryokan Shinsen if you fancy a luxury ryokan experience
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