Travelling Welshman
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Asia,  Blog,  Japan,  Okinawa

Okinawa – Time with the Humpback Whales

The devastating and extensive war history became an incredible appeal and undoubtedly a draw to the island of Okinawa. However the worst horrors of humanity wasn’t the only draw, so was the undeniable beauty and power of nature. Being a tropical island, it came with it an appropriate level of nature. Not only on the island itself, but the oceans that surrounded it. Within which are some of the most unique and extraordinary menagerie of wildlife, some unique to the island. However one seasonal visitor caught my attention above everything else, the extraordinary humpback whales.


Bad Luck

Unfortunately for me, my timing wasn’t the best when exploring the ocean was concerned. As it was still winter, the weather wasn’t cooperating with me the way I had hoped. Not only did the sun refuse to come out but constant gusts and drizzles ensured that getting into the ocean wasn’t an option. I researched for weeks to find the best snorkelling spots the island had to offer. I had grown in tantalising anticipation of the vast variety of animals I could have potentially seen during my time there, however it wasn’t to be. That was until my very last day.

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Finally luck was on my side with the weather beginning to cooperate. The weather could not have been better on my final day. The live-cam overlooking the snorkelling spot showed that the seas had finally calmed. Part of me didn’t have the energy to go, however I couldn’t miss out on a potential once in a lifetime opportunity.

I hopped on the bus for the 2 hour-long and £8 journey to Cape Maeda, apparently the very best snorkelling spot throughout the island. Gorgeous photos of the Blue Grotto would tease me; a cave only acceptable by diving under the water. The rays of light reflected beneath bathes the cave in a beautiful blue glow. Safe to say I was excited at the prospect.


I didn’t have any snorkelling gear, but I was confident the number 1 snorkel spot on the island must have places that sold or at least rented some. Makes sense right? WRONG. Cape Maeda as it turns out is in the middle of nowhere, without a single store or any similar establishment. The lone building near the descending stairs had plenty of equipment for the regular number of tour groups that came to scuba dive in the area. It would seem that my prayers were answered, but a sign clearly stated that they did not rent snorkelling gear. They didn’t even have the mind to fucking sell some. So I had no choice but to turn straight back round and head on another 2 hour bus all the way back, for absolutely fucking nothing.


Making Amends

For the purposes of snorkelling, my timing was incredibly poor. However in other ways it was perfect. I had found myself on the island on a very fortunate time, it was still deep into whale watching season. Being as I had never seen a whale before, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I booked a £30 tour to get taken out for 3 or so hours to spot some humpback whales.

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Ideally, such a spectacular moment of appreciating the beauty of nature would be done in complete solitude. Wishfully wanting the perfect platform to fully absorb and treasure the moment. However, unless I was willing to charter an entire boat to myself for many thousands, it just wasn’t realistic. Thus I would have to put up with sharing my vessel with a number of others.

Though I have plenty of experience of travelling across oceans, occasionally (and unpredictably) I can become seasick. This was one of those occasions. The rough seas, the lack of visibility of our heading, and the sense of being trapped all played a part. I had better spot some fucking humpback whales for this.


Spotting Humpback Whales

In an industry such as this, all the competing companies actually work together. It benefits everyone if one vessel spots the horde of humpback whales to inform the others, as the favour would be returned in the future. As we approach other waiting boats, we knew the time was close.

humpback whales okinawa
First view of the infamous humpback whale

Then it was simple a case of wait and watch. The tourists gathered throughout the top and front of the boat with eyes darting in each direction, without any knowledge of when and where they would break the surface of the water. It’s the problem with spotting any animal in the ocean. If you were to go spot lions, they’re much easier to find, and once they are found its incredibly easy to keep track of them. In the ocean you could only have a split second to see what you’ve been waiting so patiently to see, blink and you’d miss it.

humpback whales okinawa
Spotted by the blow-holes

We waited patiently until we saw the first stream of water being blown into the air, we had finally found them! For the most part we were only treated to a few well-spotted blows of air and the arching of the occasional back. However we were treated to what every observer hoped to see. As we all looked before us hoping for another glimpse, on the corner of our eyes to the right we were treated to the incredible sight of a breaching whale. Lasting for nothing more than a fraction of a second it felt like an eternity. Seeing the pure-white underbelly of the whale as it almost completely came out of the water before crashing down in with almighty force.

humpback whales okinawa


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