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Travel & Holiday

Underwater treasures of Nagannu

This island paradise in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture is blessed with beautiful marine life thriving in a multi-coloured sea
The Straits Times - September 20, 2011
By: Karen Teng
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Underwater treasures of Nagannu

WHEN our tour guide Kei Kodama told us that we would be making a day trip to the Nagannu Island, I scrutinised the brochures that we had been given of Japan’s Okinawa prefecture but couldn’t locate our destination on any of the maps.

It turned out that Nagannu is one of the scores of uninhabited islands  dotting the waters surrounding the main Okinawa island in southern Japan.

The prefecture has 160 islands — only 49 are inhabited — and all have  been blessed with colourful marine life and beautiful colonies of coral reef nestled beneath an ocean showing off various hues of blue.

With an average temperature of around 22 deg C, courtesy of Okinawa’s  subtropical climate, the larger islands are hotspots for sea activities even during the mid-winter months.

The banana-shaped Nagannu is a 20-minute boat ride away from the  Tomari Port in Naha City, the capital of Okinawa.

Measuring about one kilometre in length with a width of 200m, the island  was chosen by tourism officials for us to preview of what’s beneath the waters surrounding the prefecture known locally as the “Eden of Japan”.

As it is one of the nearest to the main Okinawa island, Nagannu is a  convenient stopover for visitors on tight schedules.

The larger islands are further away and best enjoyed if you can spare  more time. Depend-ing on your destination, the one-way travelling time can range from half an hour to two hours on a high-speed ferry or up to 90 minutes on a domestic flight from the Naha airport.

Every year, six million visitors flock to Okinawa, and the majority are Japanese from the other prefectures eager to soak in the sun, enjoy the sea and walk bare feet across the white, sandy beaches.

Nagannu is popular with families with young children and couples as it offers a diverse range of seasports such as jetskiiing, wakeboarding,  banana boat rides, parasailing, snorkelling and diving.

The one-way ferry fare to the island is from 1,000 yen ($16) and this can vary according to the season. The peak period is between mid-July and September with August being the busiest month as it coincides with the school holidays in Japan.

During these months, the sun is also at its harshest, which means  sunscreen, shades and water are essentials for all outdoor activitiesOur group of 10 boarded the ferry at Tomari Port along with the local visitors  and a handful of foreigners. Young Okinawan women with sun-kissed skin  and clad in bright, yellow tees — the friendly staff of Nagannu — greeted  us enthusiastically.

As our boat sped off, the sea offered glimpses of its multifaceted beauty.  It was emerald green when we departed at the port and halfway through our ride, the water transformed to deep cobalt.When we arrived at the  jetty along Nagannu’s shoreline, the sea mellowed to a beautiful shade of  turquoise that was clear enough for us to spot the shallow bed of rocks in the lagoon.

The island may be small but it is exclusive and has enough activities to  keep visitors of varying ages and with diverse interests happy and  occupied for many hours.

Under the clear blue sky in the middle of the East China Sea and  supervised by the island’s hunky, bronze bodied male staff, we snorkelled, dived and swam in the lagoon surrounding Nagannu.

The underwater landscape was as beautiful as our hosts had promised —  large schools of marine creatures including clown and butterfly fishes zipping across the pristine water and vast colonies of coral reef nestled in the seabed dotted with black sea cucumbers.

After frolicking in the sea, we flopped onto the beach and buried our  exhausted bodies in the soft, white sand, mindful of the occasional hermit crab hurrying by.

The sight of cottony clouds in the blue sky juxtaposed against the calm,  turquoise water was mesmerising. The fresh air, gentle sea breeze and  occasional whispers of the ocean were a calming combination.

As I gazed at the horizon and took mental snapshots of my surroundings,  I couldn’t help but wonder if this was how paradise looked like.

This trip was courtesy of CTC Travel, Hong Kong Airlines, Okinawa Tourist Service and Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau.


■ Don’t miss the ferry back to the mainland if you’ve not made a booking for an overnight stay. As Nagannu is an uninhabited island, all the staff will return to the mainland if there are no overnight guests.

■ You can rent a beachfront house for 12,000 yen ($192) per person for  an overnight stay. The fee includes three meals and return ferry fare. Be
prepared to rough it out as the house is spartan with just two single beds. In line with the natural surroundings, there is no telephone, Internet, TV or room service. The  dining terrace, common toilets and shower rooms are a short walk away.

■ To preserve the island’s pristine environment, guests are disallowed from using their own shampoo and soap in the shower. Day visitors can only rinse off with cold water after a dip in the sea while overnight guests will be provided with eco-friendly toiletries.

■ For a spot of whale watching, plan your visit between January and  March as humpback whales will appear to mate and nurse their young.



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