Snorkelling With Giant Manta Rays in Ishigaki

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In this week’s episode, Australian diver Emma takes us all scuba diving for the very first time in Ishigaki.

Between sleazy sea snakes and a couple of terrified swimmers, I promise you it’s an entertaining episode.

Episode 7: Okinawa’s Underwater Paradise

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I probably should have titled this post “My First Time Scuba-Diving“, because that’s what it was. However, I epically failed at that task, getting no more than two meters below the surface, due to a raging head cold.

Sad scuba attempts aside, I would go so far as to say that I was giddy with happiness that day as I swam around like a excited little fish with my fins and snorkel.

We headed out from the main port of Ishigaki Island, Japan and soon anchored over about 3-4 meters of clear turquoise waters. With my fear of the ocean, and the fact that we were greeted by a friendly (maybe) black and white ringed sea snake; I surprised myself by immediately diving into the water without a second thought.

Before I realized what I had done, I was already several meters away from the boat.

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I’m not sure if it was the fact that I had been convinced that there was nothing to worry about, or perhaps that I was just subconsciously displaying bravery to those that were more scared than I was–either way, I had conquered one of my biggest fears without even meaning to.

We snorkelled and free dove into the tropical fish filled waters before climbing back aboard for a sea-top picnic lunch. We spent some of the afternoon relaxing and simply laying in the sunshine (or shade), chatting, listening to music and of course, filming.

Finally, it was time to dive. I suited up and marched forward, ready to take on something that had eluded me for years. My body submerged below the surface and everything felt fine. I began to slowly sink deeper and deeper, signalling to my instructor that everything was okay.

But then it wasn’t okay.

Having been suffering from a fairly tortuous head cold over the previous few days, my sinuses decided to seek revenge on the rest of my head for foolishly thinking that this was a good idea. It was as if that curious sea snake had returned and gripped every last muscle around my brain before I had to bail and break for the surface.

Lesson of the day: Do not wear mascara scuba diving

I made this attempt a couple more times before I decided to call it quits for the day.

It didn’t truly feel like a failure, as there was an illness to blame, but I will most definitely be anxiously waiting until I can make up for this unsuccessful dive. Having conquered my fear earlier in the day, I think that this trip opened up a whole new underwater world to me, that I’m excited to begin exploring.

I have barely recorded any video in Japan with my new GoPro, but managed to get quite a few from our day in the waters of Ishigaki. Here is a short video I put together of the experience:

While conquering a fear is a big achievement in my books, the real magic of the day ended up being snorkelling with giant Manta Rays.

It began with business as usual; dive into the water, float along, check out the fish. But, suddenly it wasn’t just fish any more. Below my fins, a wide dark shadow appeared, sweeping forward like a slow moving airplane. The only way to describe the feeling, is to compare it to when I saw an elephant in the wild for the first time. I wanted to gasp and wave my arms at the others to come look–only I had a snorkel in my mouth and was frozen in awe of the enormous graceful creature.

We stayed there for awhile. Two more mantas joined the first, and performed an underwater ballet between us and the coral.

My eyes stayed wide the entire time, until I was finally dragged (okay, not really, but they probably called my name about three times) back to the boat. I gave one last wave to the mantas, and we headed back to Ishigaki.

Here are some of my favourite photos from the day:

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Felix assisting the Aquarium staff

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Do you prefer snorkelling or scuba-diving?

Find the official webisodes website here
Watch all videos here

Okinawa: A Journey of Discovery
Awamori: The Spirit of Okinawa
The Secret Recipe for Long Life in Okinawa
The Art of Ryukyu Dance

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12 Responses to “Snorkelling With Giant Manta Rays in Ishigaki”

  1. Jen Seligmann
    August 7, 2014 at 2:37 am #

    That’s such a shame you didn’t get to do a proper dive. There will be other times i’m sure. I have a terrible fear of not being able to breath so the idea of scuba diving freaks me out but I do enjoy snorkeling from time to time as long as it’s not in really deep water (freaks me out too). I didn’t get to this part of Japan but it looks stunning and the total opposite of what you expect from Japan.
    Jen Seligmann recently posted..Things to Do in Prague

    • Seattle Dredge
      August 7, 2014 at 10:15 am #

      Yeah, I know I’ll get to try again soon. Deep water freaks me out too, who knows what’s down there! Hehe. You definitely need to try to get down to Okinawa next time you’re in Japan. I still need to see the mainland myself, but I’m so glad I headed to Okinawa for my first time there :]

      PS- I was planning on replying to you today, but I’m sooo sorry I didn’t have the chance to get your email back to you before leaving for Japan! I could get it back to you later today, if it’s not too late! Let me know 😀

  2. Debbra Dunning Brouillette
    August 7, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    Loved seeing your photos videos taken with the GoPro… Hope to get one eventually… I have been a scuba diver for many years and absolutely LOVE IT! I’d suggest taking a full certification course or at least a resort course so you can take things step by step and really feel comfortable under the water. Learning to equalize the pressure in your ears takes some time; I still have to descend slowly due to small eustachian tubes. Sorry your stopped up sinuses prevented you from having a positive first dive experience! You are livin’ the dream, girl, and I love seeing your updates!(Oh, and I finally made it to your home country in June! Quebec City and the Maritimes… Loved Nova Scotia!)

    • Seattle Dredge
      August 7, 2014 at 10:21 am #

      You definitely need a GoPro for all your diving! I’d love to get certified, I just haven’t had the chance/enough time yet. I feel like I’d be all right with equalizing without a cold, so I’m definitely willing to try again. Glad you made it up to Canada! Quebec City is one of my favourite places in the country, and you’re lucky you made it to the Maritimes–most Canadians haven’t even been there :]

  3. Marine
    August 7, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Love the last photo :)It was an amazing day, one of my best memory of the whole trip !
    Marine recently posted..Restaurant Eclectic

    • Seattle Dredge
      August 7, 2014 at 11:07 am #

      Hehe, I love that photo too! And yesss, it might have been my favourite day 😀

  4. Steph | A Nerd At Large
    August 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    I’d never thought of Japan as a destination for diving until reading this post. A pity you didn’t get to SCUBA, but it sounds like you had a fab experience snorkelling. So many wonderful photos, too. Isn’t it great when you accomplish a big milestone in the natural course of things?
    Steph | A Nerd At Large recently posted..Foto Friday: The World’s Tallest Man

  5. Emma
    August 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    Such a great blog piece Seattle!! That day truly was fantastic and you captured it just like I remember it!

  6. Ryan
    August 23, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    That is so freakin’ awesome. Love that the tube was name Tom Sawyer too haha. I need to start using my go pro Wayyyy more. Such rad photos =)
    Ryan recently posted..The 10 Most Inspirational Quotes over Photos from my Travels.

  7. Maria Bessonova
    October 27, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    It was like yesterday! The best day for sure! Miss you….and our small Okinawa family)) hopefully, we can make season 2 and discover more of what Okinawa can offer travellers))) hehe big kiss

  8. Meg
    August 11, 2017 at 1:12 am #

    Do you have the name or contact number of the tour provider for your snorkeling? We will be going to ishigaki on the 15th and haven’t found anyone yet. Thank you.

  9. Meg
    August 11, 2017 at 1:12 am #

    Do you have the name or contact number of the tour provider for your snorkeling? We will be going to ishigaki on the 15th and haven’t found anyone yet. Thank you.

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