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Beat the Heat with Your First Night Dive

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2000-08-25

Dive Site: Sunabe Sea Wall. Many divers have earned their certifications here at Sunabe. It is a site that is familiar to many during the day, but how many dive this great site at night? With the summer heat well upon us give Sunabe a try at night. It has many good things going for it at night. Arrive at about 7pm and you will be treated to a great China Sea sundown. Parking is much better at night and the water will cool you off after a long hot day.

What to expect: An easy entry. Acres of soft coral growing atop the limestone substrate on the reef. Easy depths of 30 feet on the first plateau and 60 feet beyond the second drop-off. Depths here do not exceed 70 feet unless you are an Olympic swimmer. At low tide you will only have to walk about 30 yards to the edge of the first reef. At high tide the walk is shorter but this makes the snorkel to edge of the reef about the same 30 yards.

Whether you snorkel or walk, choose the tide that meets your energy level. Novice divers may want to choose a high tide that will help support their equipment. Here you will find that on a calm evening your entry is effortless at high tide. On a windy day at high tide you will find 2-3 foot waves moving across the reef. Divers should usually steer clear of Sunabe if the waves exceed this level, or if the winds are building. White water capping over the reef always gives fair warning. But the good news is that generally good hot summer weather is always conducive to great diving at Sunabe's Sea wall.

Recommended 1st Dive Profile: Find the first pavilion on your left and just across the street from the park-like atmosphere that is at the end of the drive down from Kadena's Gate One. From here take the steps down to the water and walk at a 45 degree angle to your right. Just barely covered with water is a concrete pathway about three yards wide. This pathway will direct you on a due west heading and out over the first drop off. There are chains and ropes placed here by the Japanese dive shops to guide divers to this first drop off. Descending at the first drop off follow a compass heading due west. This will take you across beautiful stands of soft and hard coral as you descend to depths of 45-60 feet. At 60 feet you will leave the coral and rock ledges and enter open sandy areas.

Auger shells love this habitat and can be easily found by following their trails in the sand. You have a 50% chance of finding the correct end of the trail while your buddy has the other 50%. If you find a treasure at the end of a trail please admire the beauty but leave it for someone else to enjoy to enjoy later.

Heading back in across the reef keep your eyes wide open to see if you can find "Clownfish City." This is an area of soft coral in about 30 feet of water where I have counted as many as six anemone beds containing the anemonefish we call Clownfish. These playful orange and white fish will charge out to greet you and often peck at either your mask or your finger. The first time they peck at your fingers or hand will startle you but they are friendly enough and since the only weigh about two ounces you should not fear for your life too much.

Since this is a night dive save plenty of air for the trip home just in case you get a little disoriented. Coming back in is just as easy. Use a due east reciprocal heading, which brings you back across the coral mounds of soft and hard coral colonies. Visibility is best on an incoming or high slack tide.

Site Location:Driving North on Highway 58 turn left at the last stoplight before Kadena's Gate 1 and turn left toward to the China Sea. After turning left continue straight until you reach the park-like mall just before the Sea Wall. Parking is best in this area. You can suit up here and walk toward the Sea wall.

Other activities: During the day Sunabe is a natural choice to conduct a check-out dive for the diver not familiar with Okinawa or

one that hasn't been in the water in more than six months. It is a real good site for the novice underwater photographer who wants an easy entry and doesn't care to lug equipment long distances. But I like it best for NIGHT DIVING and it is so close to so many divers too!

Aquatic animals found here: You will certainly see Clown fish, Angel Fish, Stone Fish, Rock Fish and the occasionally exciting Sea Snake. I have photographed the shy and reclusive "Many Spotted Sweetlips" here too. So be on the look for what may be considered a rare sighting. During the day you will also see "schools" of dive students swimming by as they follow their instructors around the reef.

Best time of year to dive: All year long.

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