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Half way there

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2001-08-03

Just off the coast of Naha are two little sand spits that provide divers, snorkelers, and kayakers a great, and inexpensive getaway from shore diving without the hour-long (or longer) boat ride to the Kerama Islands.

Sand Island sits about half way between Naha and the Kerama Islands. Sand Island, also known as Chibishi, offers all the wonderful corals and crystal clear water, making this a must trip during the long hot days of summer. It also offers you a very good chance to swim with turtles and rays.

How to get there: Divers have several options in planning a trip to Sand Island. Customers of Kadena Marina can book a charter on one of their fishing/diving boats and request a trip to the Sand Island. Or you can contact a Japanese Diving service to arrange a charter. I suggest you start with CrewB, Aokawa's Diving Service, or Fathoms Dive Shop at Sunabe Sea Wall.

Why Sand Island? Here are a few answers. (1) A shorter boat ride means less expense; (2) There is a good chance of seeing a turtle or ray; (3) It can be a great place to enjoy a nice long walk, or shore side picnic during the surface interval between dives. These can all be great reasons to choose a day trip out, but it is the diving that is really the best reason to head East from Naha or Kadena.

What to expect: Sand Island offers 360 degrees of coral reef which translates to diving possibilities in just about any weather short of a typhoon. I prefer the southern exposures since there is a harbor like draw protecting the reef (and divers) from northerly swells. For drift diving enthusiasts a run out to Sand Island is a must since channel that runs between the two islands is deep enough so that when the tide is changing the water runs through this channel really making the passage quite exciting. I recommend that you become familiar with Drift Diving before you try this electric ride. It certainly is an energizing alternative to Sunabe Sea Wall or Maeda Point.

The coral reef encircling Sand Island remains in good shape because these same nutritious currents bath it. You can expect some impressively colorful and pristine coral reef scenes accentuated by the clarity of the water. I have often been able to photograph turtles that enjoy riding the currents up to the island and then resting in the sand under or near the coral fingers that stretch down from the island.

Next time you look out of the window of an airplane think about the great areas surrounding those sand spits. They offer us a great place for diving, snorkeling and kayaking almost all year long.

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