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Sunabe’s “First Door”-A Great Place for That Initial Dive

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2000-06-02

Okinawa is a paradise island for scuba divers and snorklers. It has beautiful clear waters, tropical fish and coral in abundance. There is also scope for treasure hunters and marine archaeologists. But what about divers new to the pastime? Here is some advice from an old hand about where to put those fins for the first dip. Happy plunging!

Dive Site: The FIRST DOOR at Sunabe Sea Wall
Level of difficulty: Novice to Expert

Site Location: North on Highway #58 from Camp Foster turn left at the light just before Kadena Gate #1. Follow that road until you reach the Sunabe Sea Wall. Turn right at the wall and follow it down until you leave the hard surface road. A new housing area that is beginning to fill with Western size homes is beginning to occupy a field that will be on your right. Stop about 30 yards in front of Aokawa's Diving Service (New striking blue building on your right). Here on this unimproved road you arrive at an opening "door" in the wall. Park here.

What to expect: You will immediately notice fewer divers than on Sunabe's main Sea Wall and a much easier entry. Enter down the stairs and walk across the smooth limestone rock bed on a west by northwest compass heading. A short walk across the limestone bed of about 50 yards at low tide will take you to the edge of a 15' wall. An effortless entry. You will be diving among large coral heads with an obvious reef wall that you can use as your course reference.

Recommended activity: At the edge of the reef fin up and make your entry in what is an obvious pool of water that is no deeper than 20'. Follow the channel that takes you in a westward direction heading away from the beach. Following the natural contours of the terrain you will pass through barren rock and a sea floor that is carpeted with crushed coral.

After about 45 yards of swimming along this path your world will open into an area larger than a soccer pitch that is wall-to-wall soft coral. Maybe the largest bed of continuous soft corals growing on the China Sea Coast. It is an awesome first dive for water enthusiasts that have just completed their initial SCUBA training and may be diving without an Instructor for the first time.

Use your compass wisely, or relax and just follow the obvious terrain features. The water here does not get any deeper than 60 feet unless you bring a shovel along and dig deeper. Anything deeper is just sand flats anyway. Most divers enjoy following the wall and poking around in the holes and recesses of the reef.

If you turn right you will find a rock and sandy bottom that should yield interesting trails of Auger Shells. Within the hard and soft corals of the reef you may find Tiger and Egg Shell Cowries and the occasional Moray Eel or Octopus hiding out. So keep your eyes open and your flashlight on.

Other activities: This is an very dependable location for that first Night Dive you've been wanting to do. Don't forget to leave someone and a light, shore side for safety.

At night the reef comes alive when corals all open up to feed and shells move from their daytime hides in search of food. Cones, Cowries and Spider Conchs are all here in abundance. You do not have to dive deep to enjoy the variety of aquatic life forms present here, since this area is not usually crowded with open water students. ALSO A GREAT SNORKEL DIVE.

Aquatic animals found here: Eagle rays are sighted infrequently in summer months. The coral reef yields a nice collage of soft and hard corals of varying colors when illuminated with a dive light at night. Expect to find Clown fish in their anemones as well as the ever popular and most always present Sea Snake. Be watchful for Lionfish, Scorpionfish and Stonefish skulking among the rock and coral in the face and on the reef.

Best time of year to dive: All year long.


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