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Enjoy underwater world with Chinen Marine Leisure Center

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-03-27

The Chinen Marine Leisure Center offers a variety of different activities, including glass bottom boat rides, outer island trips, diving, and other marine sports. Their glass bottom boat tours are a nice way to see the beauty of Okinawa's underwater world inexpensively and safely. The tours operate everyday from 9 am until 5 pm all year round. And, starting from April, hours of operation will be extended until 5:30 pm for the summer season. The ride is for 25 minutes, and the cost is 1,400 for adults and 700 for children between the ages of six and eleven years old. A minimum of two passengers is required for departure, and there are several boats that leave from the dock as soon as customers arrive, so there is no waiting. A short ride brings you to the reef, located about 1 kilometer off-shore. Once there, you will witness a variety of colorful fish, corals, and also many giant clams. The Marine Center has an agreement with the Fishermen's Union over the use of the area, which helps guarantee a rich supply of marine life. The giant clams have actually become quite rare in most parts of Okinawa, mostly because of over harvesting for their meat and beautiful shells, but because the area used by the glass bottom boats is protected, many of the clams there have reached massive proportions. The clear water offers an excellent chance for people, who do not dive or snorkel, to get a good view of the abundant marine life Okinawa is famous for. Discounts of 10% are also available for groups of over 15 people.

You can also enchant yourself with a visit to the lovely Komaka Island. It lies off the east coast of Okinawa, located in the Pacific Ocean. Only 15 minutes away by boat, the uninhabited island offers some great sun bathing and snorkeling. The price for an adult round trip ticket is 2,500 and 1,250 for children between six and eleven years old. About 400 meters of white sand beach covers most of the island, and small foot trails take you through some of the greenery behind the beach. No vehicles, buildings, or other signs of modernization can be found on the deserted island, making it a great place to spend a day relaxing on the beach, interrupted only by an occasional swim or snorkel. You can also camp at Komaka, but there is no electricity, running water, or showers. Toilets are available. Campers are asked to bring only what they need, refrain from large campfires on the beach, and bring back all trash with them. You must report to the Marine Leisure Center your intention to camp and approximate time of return to reserve a boat.

Another great destination that can be reached from the Chinen Marine Leisure Center is Kudaka Island. It is said that Kudaka Island is the birthplace of the Okinawan gods, and it was revered as one of the most spiritual places of Okinawa throughout Ryukyuan history. Only the noro (High Priestesses) were allowed to pray at the sacred utaki on the tiny island. A small shrine is still located on the island, but it is still believed by many that the average person is forbidden to enter this area, and only the few practicing high priestesses still make the pilgrimage. The rest of the island, however, can be enjoyed by visitors. Its population of only 500 residents makes it a very laid back place with not much to do, except to wander and explore. There are also some small beaches located on this island for swimming and snorkeling. It takes twenty minutes to reach Kudaka, and the cost is 2,800 for adults and 1,400 for children between six and eleven years old.

The ferries that leave from the Chinen Marine Leisure Center for both islands depart everyday from 9 am, and as long as there are at least two passengers the trip can be made. The last ferry back is at 5 pm. If you forgot something, you can purchase snacks, drinks, and other items at the small shop located at the Marine Leisure Center. Snorkeling equipment can also be rented.

Licensed Divers are allowed to bring their own equipment to Komaka for scuba diving, but are asked to call ahead first. For more information or reservations please call 948-3555, or send a fax to 948-3124. You can reach the Chinen Marine Leisure Center by following Route 329 south , following the signs to Sashiki and Chinen. Stay along the coast and follow the main road lined with palm trees. The gates to the Center are located on your left just before the Sunrise Chinen Resort. There are no English signs, so be careful not to miss the entrance.

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