: Classifieds : MyJU :
Stories: Localbeat
Browse Localbeat Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

Whales put on a spectacular show

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2006-02-04

They are big and slow, but they love to play and have fun.

Humpback whales are making their annual migration to Okinawa waters, and now itís easy for people to watch the lumbering mammals in the Kerama Islands, near Naha. Tours are the most simple way to join Mother Nature as her ocean species show off for you.

The Zamami Whale Watching Society is responsible for dozens of tours now through March, the peak whale watching season. The entire season is being billed the Zamami Village Whale Watching Festival. The twice daily tours depart Zamami Port at 10:30am and 1pm. Reservations and tickets are available through the Society at (098) 896-4141, Tickets are Y5,000 for adults and Y2,500 for children. Dive Shops and travel agencies on Zamami and Tokashiki all have tour programs throughout the coming weeks. OTS, HIS, HIT and other travel agencies also organize tours, as well as MCCS Tours Plus and other base recreation offices.

Getting to Zamami, one of the larger of 20 islands in the Kerama Island Group, is easy from Nahaís Tomari Port. The cruises take 1-2 hours, and leave Tomari 2-3 times each day. Call 868-4567 for reservations and information. Other ferries ply the route from Nahaís Tomari Port to Tokashiki Island. From there, local cruises venture into the whale watching areas. Another option is to fly from Naha Domestic Airport to Kerama Airport on Fukaji Island, then pick up a boat for the tour. Several RAC flights make the run daily, each taking about 15 minutes.

The choice of watching for whales from a moving boat, or from the Whale Conservatory in Unazaki on Zamami Island, is yours. Itís from the Conservatory there that the whales are spotted by Society members, and the location relayed to the ships. For those with an equilibrium situation, itís a recommendation. Another ashore site on Tokashiki Island is the Okinawa National Youth Center atop Mt. Akama. The Center offers not only the view, but inexpensive accommodations and more.

The Kerama Islands are 25 miles west of Naha. The area was once a popular whale fishing ground, but became overfished. Today, the Whale Watching Society has a campaign under way to repopulate the area and restore the region as a principle whale breeding ground. It appears to be working, as humpback whales make the annual trek to the Keramas to give birth to their young, then nurture them in the warm, quiet waters.

After the whale population was decimated, the humpbacks in the region fell under protection of the International Whaling Commission, which in 1966 banned their hunting. The Russians continued illegal catches until being pressured to stop in the 1970ís, allowing the 25-40 ton mammals to regenerate. There are now 35,000~45,000 humpbacks, about 1/3 of the
previous population.

Humpback whales are part of a family of species including the blue whale, fin, minke, sei and Brydeís whales. Black, with a mottled black and white underbelly, the humpbacks grow to lengths up to 52í (16 meters). They feed on fish and krill, a shrimp-like crustacean, gumping down 1~1_ tons of food a day.

The whales are active and energetic, enjoying spashing and doing flips in the water. They are unique, with dorsal fins on their backs and ventral plaits running from the tip of the lower jaw back to the belly. Scientists explain that the color and shape of those fins and plaits, as well as the uniqueness of the tail fin, are as individual as fingerprints from whale to whale. No two are alike.

Humpback whales sexually mature in the six-10 year age range. Females calve once every 2-3 years, with gestation taking 12 months. The birthing ground is the Kerama Islands, which brings back the reasons for the whale watching tours.

Browse Localbeat Stories: « Previous Story | Next Story »

weather currency health and beauty restaurants Yellowpages JU Blog

JU FacebookOkistyleOkistyle

Go to advertising PDF?||?|o?L?qAE?|?}?OA?N?ga`OkiStyle?A??q?qM?oeu^?I`??N?gX?<eth>?<ETH>?ni^?IWanted!!Golden Kings ScheduleOkiNightSeeker