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Stay Alert for Stonefish

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2000-07-21

John Chandler goes to a dive site this week that is unrestricted by summit activities. It has a huge beach, a large lagoon and has possibilities for exciting night diving.

This week we travel south. Away from all the traffic in Naha to enjoy the Southern Breezes of Okinawa and a great beach for kids, kayakers, dogs, and of course divers. Moms (or Dads) that don't dive will really like this site and the drive to Channel Crevices can be logged as sightseeing too. Here you will find a kilometer or more of white sand beach that borders the crystal clear waters contained in a natural lagoon that is protected by a kilometer of barrier reef. The barrier reef is 300 yards from the beach so you have plenty of pool-like conditions. Families can play in the water fully protected from waves while divers and kayakers head out to open water through a channel that was cut through the barrier reef. When the tide is outgoing the current moves you through the channel with vigor. So watch your tables closely. All in all this is a great place and has nice public amenities that Moms will like too!

Dive Site: Channel Crevices . Level of difficulty: Advanced Open Water to expert diver.

Site Location: This dive site is not far from Peace Park and not far from the dive site adjacent to the Mabuni Cliffs area on the Southern edge of Okinawa. If you are coming east toward Peace Park from Naha a turnoff to the beach is about one kilometer before the Park entrance. If you are coming south from Itoman (which I recommend because the drive is beautiful) go past the Peace Park entrance about one kilometer and move through the first intersection with a traffic light. This intersection is best remembered because a sign is pointing left to the "John Mung" beach. Continue through this light, and toward Naha, about 100 meters. From your left a road comes up to the highway in a "T". You will see a new sign (on your left) with a Spanish looking man wearing a brimmed hat that describes, in Japanese, a cactus garden that is in the area. Use this as a landmark. If coming from Peace Park turn left, or if coming from Naha turn right. After turning at this sign follow this hard surface road south for about 500 yards down into the cane fields until it "Ts" off. Here you may be are facing new construction, or a newly constructed building. Turn left on to a crushed coral road. It will wind past a concrete pump house on your right. Australian pine trees will be on your right and the road will continue around to the right and open up in to a beautiful beach with very nice shoreside facilities and a comfortable concrete pavilion to protect you from the noonday sun.

What to expect: bathrooms, and this nice pavilion that have been constructed for beach lovers. The beach is monstrous here. Sandy beach stretches west for at least 2500 meters. A large lagoon that is great for snorkelers and kayakers.

Recommended first dive profile: be sure you include a flashlight with your gear on this dive. You will need one. From the pavilion looking out at the open water turn 45 degrees and walk toward the opening in the reef. Walk or snorkel, (I'd walk) across the lagoon until you see the cut through the coral reef it is obvious since that is one of few places dives can get across the reef. This is the "Channel" and why it is called Channel Crevices. I like to go in just after low tide as the water begins to flow back in across the reef. This is when visibility is best, and here visibility can be up to 100 feet on any given day. Once across the reef descend down the cut into the rocks that continues out into the open water. This gully will take to you to very deep water. You will notice the large boulders on your right and left with numerous openings large enough for the curious diver to enter. It is great for the curious diver who likes to poke in and around cracks and crevices that are bathed in light from above. Be careful and keep good eye contact with your buddy or you will get separated quite easily here. Remember there is always time for more exploring on your second dive. Take note of what you want to go back and see. Staying on a southerly heading you will move out of the boulders and across large, very large, coral mounds ascending up from deep water. Crevasses here reach down to below 80 feet. The crevasses all parallel one another in the same southerly heading. Recommend your first dive be out and back. So, when you reach 1500 psi turn 180 degrees on a reciprocal heading of due north and follow your path back into the face of the reef. Here you will be able to explore some of the caverns and small ledges around the large boulders that have collapsed into the sea over the past centuries. Use your flashlight to illuminate the life in and around these caves and caverns. Keep alert for stonefish, lionfish, and scorpionfish here. After a safety stop at 15 feet you should find the exit to be very easy if you have timed your entry/exit on an incoming tide.

Other activities: night diving is exciting here but should only be attempted after you have a few day dives under your belt. Lobster are often seen here day and night. Underwater photography is very good when the sun is high overhead and can penetrate its overhead lighting into the caverns and caves. Shell collecting is not really good here but the caverns and caves could give way to some interesting finds at night.

Aquatic animals found here: Large fish of every kind. Sea turtles have been observed gliding across the coral mounds at 60 feet. Not many sea snakes here. Lobsters are usually seen peeking out of the ledges inside many of the caverns. Many divers have reported see both sting and eagle rays here.

Best time of year to dive: this area is protected from the northerly winds, so when most of the beaches on the west coast of Okinawa are being slammed with waves you will find Channel Crevices to be an inviting dive and a lovely drive too. During the summer months, as heat and humidity become factors, you will enjoy cooling off in the lagoon with friends and family.

See you at the beach!

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