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Forty Feet of Crystal Blue

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2000-07-31

Continuing his guide to Okinawa’s best dive sites, this week John Chandler looks at a place where divers need to exercise some caution with tides but which can be enjoyed too by kayakers and snokelers.

Dive Site: Onna Point - "The RIP"
Level of difficulty: Advanced

This week we travel north again and explore an older and more popular dive site where experience can be gained without too much effort. This dive site is also known as Onna Recon. It is a great spot to share with a friend that has never dove Okinawa. It is one of my favorite sites on the island. A little tricky to get to but it is worth it!

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 and continuing on Highway 58 toward Nago. You will pass through the tourist village where McDonald's will be on your right. Continue north until you reach the village of Onna. It is the next village past Nakadomari. On entering Onna village you will approach a pedestrian overpass. At this overpass you will have an elementary school on your left. Turn left here (you cannot turn right). Follow this hard top road until it turns into crushed rock and bears around to the right. You will be viewing a large open field but you will be on an obvious road. Follow these roads across this open field and head toward the pine trees. You will drive through some really rough spots (paths in dried mud actually) but the drive is worth it. If it has been heavily raining recently do not attempt this area with anything less than 4X4 vehicles. In the summer it is almost always great, dry and negotiable. You will wind across this field until you reach the pine trees. This area is where the Marines from the 3rd Marine Division's Reconnaissance Battalion called home during a twenty two year period between 1962 and 1984. In the 1980s this area was returned to Onna Village. The area you have just driven through was a fully functional battalion area complete with Theatre, Mess Hall and Motor Pool. On your left the road (trail now) winds around a mound. Move across this area and you will see an upper parking area for regular cars and a lower area for vans and 4X4s. Park here. LOCK YOUR CAR - LEAVE NO VALUABLES or leave someone with the vehicles.

What to expect: On the calm days of summer and winter when there is no surf action across the reef this is a spectacular dive! Do not attempt to dive here if prevailing winds are pushing waves across the reef. Divers have been killed here due to lack of respect for currents and wave action. It is best to dive on an incoming or high slack tide. USE YOUR TIDE TABLES - DO NOT GUESS! You will find an obvious saddle in the rocks as you look directly out to sea from the upper parking area. This is your entry point. There is an underwater man made ravine here that was established back in the early 1960s when the limestone underpinning of the reef was removed to allow the reconnaissance boats to enter and exit the water during the daily small boat training for Recon Marines. This ravine will have great coral formations on the left and right and descends down to about 35 feet. These reefs are exposed during low tides. When the tide is going out you will have lots of water pushing you down this ravine. Over the years many nylon ropes have been tied off assisting divers to return through the ravine if they have miscalculated the tide. DO NOT COUNT ON THERE BEING A ROPE THOUGH. High tides and slack tides are the best time since you can just cruise out this ravine and find yourself in 40 feet of crystal clear blue water. Snorkelers will enjoy the expanse of reef that can be explored from the surface. This is also a great place to put kayaks in the water and cruise the coastline. Divers enjoy following the ravines out to about 75 feet where the coral ends and a sandy bottom begins. On SCUBA you descend into a lush carpet of hard corals with numerous crinoid, soft corals and anemone interspersed with their amazing splashes of color. Sunset wrasse, butterfly fish, blue damsel fish all combine with many other tropical fish to give you the sense of diving inside an aquarium. Maintain your westerly heading using the ravines as a natural navigation aid.

Recommended first dive profile: enter the water and fin up in waist deep water. The walk is only about 15 yards! Swim out the ravine into 35 feet of water where you can pick up a distinct ravine that will lead you out to 75 feet. Hit the sand, play around with the fire darter fish that are everywhere and turn to your right moving around and back up the finger of limestone that is carpeted with hard and soft corals that hide octopii and eels. Look closely and you will be amazed at what you see. Be especially watchful for the beautiful lionfish that like to glide through any one of the numerous ravines. When you are back on top of this finger you will find the ravine that will guide you back to your entry point and hopefully a rope. Don't worry though because all you have to do is follow your compass on an easterly heading to get back. Be careful so that you return back through the ravine and do not get caught in the shallows on either the side. If there is wave action you will not enjoy being pushed across the reef by the waves at all

This is a great dive if you just take the time to survey the area, check your tide tables, and do not dive if there is too much wave action. The ravine can be non-negotiable. Easy to get in, but without proper planning the exit can be physical. You will really like the short walk too!

Other activities: underwater photography is essential since there are numerous macro subjects growing on walls inside the crevices. There is a rocky beach that makes it a great place for families and friends to have a day in the sun and when the tide is high it is really a great spot for snorkelers too! Bring your dive booties and gloves. After your first orientation here you will want to return for a really exciting NIGHT DIVE.

Aquatic animals found here: sea turtles, eagle rays, moray eels, cuttlefish, abundant tropical fish of all kinds (bring Vienna sausages.) Lion fish are abundant. Sea snakes are not.

Best time of year to dive: summer time is my favorite time for this dive spot. The short walk is not punishing in the heat of summer.

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