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Fingertip Feeding On The Ocean Floor

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2000-07-01

In this week’s diving guide John Chandler chooses a site close to home for a lot of you. There you can find acres of wonderful life forms and coral colonies of many colors.

This great dive site is almost to close to Kadena to be believable, but it is! Kadena Steps has been the starting place for many new divers and certified divers new to Okinawa. It offers a lot without the long drive and best yet there is not a long walk across the reef to get to the great diving. Great for young divers and those who do not like dragging their gear on a long reef walk.

Dive Site: Kadena steps (Pipeline). Level of difficulty: novice to expert.

Site Location: north of Kadena Gate 1 on Highway 58 just past Kadena Marina you will pass the Kadena naval shopping center. At the next traffic light, at the large green roofed pachinko parlor, turn left. Follow this street to the sea wall. Turn right and follow the wall until you reach what appears to be concrete bleacher seats on your left. The "steps" are obvious. Park anywhere along these steps. Please be courteous and keep your voices down, they tend to carry a long way and there is short distance to the nearest apartment window.

What to expect: You will enjoy one of the easiest entry points on Okinawa. The reef is not more than 30 yards/meters from the bottom edge of the steps.

Recommended first dive profile: enter the water at the centermost portion of the steps. Be careful. At low tide you will walk across some slippery algae covered steps. The buddy system works best here. Walk straight into the water perpendicular to the steps about 15 yards/meters and you will see a cutout in the reef line that has about 12 to 15 feet of water in it. Fin up here. At high tide you will have snorkeled this same distance. On SCUBA, or snorkel, set a compass heading due west and swim over the rocky bottom. You will see old and abandoned pipelines among the rocks. As you move through this area a coral mound will be rising up on your left from about 30 feet of water. Descend here and begin your dive across this coral mound.

Recommended activity: As you swim across this coral mound on a westerly heading, a profusion of colorful soft and hard coral colonies will be beneath you. Everywhere you look you will see acres of these wonderful life forms. Follow this course descending into 60 feet of water. At that depth you will be either near or on a sandy bottom. The best diving is behind you here the coral and reef fish are the stars of the show so when you hit the sandy bottom it is time for a course correction. Depending on your remaining air you can turn left and follow the reef line south or just turn around and follow a reciprocal heading east back into the steps. A box pattern of three left turns of 90 degrees will yield the most scenery for the effort. Taking a snack for the fish is a great idea here too. Last week you used Vienna sausages and I am sure they worked. Try some more and you will be just as pleased with their results. With no effort you will be feeding 10 to 30 sunset wrasse and small red groupers from your fingertips. For the shutterbugs I recommend using a close-up kit, or your macro set up here to capture the wonderful expressions of the clown fish or the great clusters of nudibranchs and Christmas tree worms.

Other activities: a wonderful dive site for advanced students to hone their underwater navigational skills or begin the hobby of underwater photography. The acres of coral beds which support the herds of tropical fish combine to make this a really smart place to take great snapshots of friends with all the other underwater life. This may be the best place on Okinawa to do your first night dive too!

Aquatic animals found here: sunset wrasse, clown fish, parrot fish, octopus and cuttlefish. Spider conch and egg shell cowries are common here.Best time of year to dive: all year long.

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