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Underwater Photography a Must Amongst Red Sea Fan And Gorgonia

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2000-07-14

This week John Chandler describes a dive where currents can play their part, where it is deep enough to take a flashlight and a place to find plenty of exotic aquatic animal life.

Seragaki is a small island only meters off the coast of our main island, located just north of Onna Point. This private recreational area has been a great place to visit for decades and is owned and operated by a wonderful family that owns this small little island. They have turned "their" island into a great holiday destination for any family that loves sun, fun, and of course lots of water. They even have a salt water swimming pool that has a view across the beautiful green lagoon. It is for the really young divers and their parents who want to beat the heat.

Dive Site: Seragaki. Level of difficulty: snorkelers to expert diver

Site Location: On Highway 58 go north of Kadena Circle continuing past the Ramada Renaissance Hotel and cross the overpass at Nakadomari, taking the right fork in continuing on Highway 58 toward Nago. You will pass through the tourist village where McDonalds will be on your right. Continue north. You will pass all the large Japanese tourist hotels as you travel through three villages. After passing through Onna Village drive past the community harbor on your left and over the next hill. This hill will wind down slowly and to your right. In the bend you will see a sign with an arrow pointing left. The disadvantage on this sign is that it is only in Japanese but you will see the island on your left. My best advice is to get one of those really nice maps in English and you will easily find Seragaki on it. Turn left at the sign with the arrow on it. Go across the causeway they have built. It is 500 or $5.00 per person to get in. It is worth it.

What to expect: At Seragaki you can expect all the amenities that families like at the beach. A saltwater swimming pool, a snack bar, clean restrooms, great campsites for tent campers, and some really beautiful scenery (besides the divers that is). When you enter the parking lot you can drive on the wide sidewalk on the western-most edge of the park. This is where all the divers generally park if they are not camping. Usually plenty of room to park any time of day.

Recommended first dive profile: walk down the stairs at the beach point marked for "divers only" (a nice touch). Walk in the water. First dive is best to move across the reef with a heading that will take you directly toward Ie Shima island, which you can usually see directly off the beach. At low tide this can be a long walk across the coral. On an incoming high tide, when visibility is at its best, you will be buoyed by the water and the walk isn't bad. On very high tides you will snorkel out to the edge of the reef. Either way it is about 75 yards to the edge of the reef. On the heading toward Ie Shima there is a nice cut into the reef that will allow you to descend to 15 feet and move toward the edge of the wall having some reef beneath you. At the edge you will have the opportunity to descend to 110 feet before bottoming out. It is recommended that divers keep their depth to 80 feet and follow the wall south keeping the wall on your left as you glide alongside of the wall. The bottom edge remains at 110 feet but will fall ten to 15 feet or more as you move south. This will resemble a drift dive if the currents are moving in a southerly direction. Currents do play a factor here and with proper planning they can really enhance your dive and help you cover more underwater terrain. Moving south you will encounter large sea fans or red gorgonia. Often times these gorgonia will have brilliant yellow criniods hanging on them making for some very colorful portrait photos with your buddy as the star! While you are cruising along this wall be careful to control your depth because you can get lots of water on top of you if you are not careful so check that depth and air gauge often at Seragaki. Be sure to take a flashlight along with you on this dive so you can illuminate the ledge and all the crevasses you will encounter. You should ascend and descend using the wall as a reference point. The top of the wall will be in 15 to 20 feet of water, so you will be able to enjoy an "illustrated" safety stop which is sure better than just having to hang on a line. It is always a good idea to bring a treat for the fish to help pass the time of your safety stop. A compass heading in the easterly direction will take you back toward the entry point, but remember you will be south of where you entered since you have drifted down the wall about 110 yards. The distance of your swim in, after your safety stop, will depend on the height of the tide. At high tide the swim will be longer and walk in easier. At low tide the swim will be shorter but the walk will take longer across the coral. The best bet is to enter the water on an incoming tide, both for visibility and for ease of entry and exit.

Other activities: underwater photography is a must here. Bring a friend to act as your model amongst the red sea fan and gorgonia. Shell collecting, finding nice shells whose animals have died leaving just the shell, is quite likely here.

Aquatic animals found here: there is a large green moray eel that enjoys the reef near the cut used for entry on the first dive. Many large sun fish, eagle and spotted eels, stone fish, lion fish, and the most crown of thorns starfish on the Okinawan China Sea coastline so please be just a little careful.

Best time of year to dive: all year long. The family activities are best in early summer through late fall. Dependably good visibility all year.

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