Shore Day Trip Live Aboard
Country: Japan Area: Japan
Water Temp: 20 - 29°C (68 - 84°F)
Visibility: 5 - 30m (16 - 98 ft)
Depth Range: 5 - 40m (16 - 131 ft)
Although not as well known as Okinawa, Tokunoshima is the perfect place to get away from busy city life, with spectacular view points overlooking the coral coast line and a range of water sports available with good surfing, scuba diving, body boarding, swimming and snorkeling. Other areas are relaxing, where you can watch the waves and the sun set over the ocean.
The temperature on the island tends to be around 35 degrees in summer and a range of fruit is grown such as pineapples, mangoes and passion fruit. The island's famous spectator sport is bull fighting, in which two bulls fight each other in a ring sumo style. There are also some dance events after a win and the bulls are said to be sacred. It's a traditional event with over 600 years' history.
When it comes to diving, Tokunoshima is perhaps most famous for its underwater beauty as it's a prime example of Japan's volcanic geology where huge flat rocks and coral lie in abundance. Turtles are often spotted during dives and in February whales come close to the island, filling the ocean with their cries. Divers can choose from easy shore dives over flat areas of rock, table coral and colourful reef fish, or take a boat for about 30mins to three small offshore rock islands that are home to large tuna, giant trevally, pelagic species and currents.
The Tokunoshima Sea Turtle Meeting allows local people and government officials to come together and discuss ways in which to safeguard the turtles and the beaches where turtles lay their eggs. The meeting also discusses possible measures in response to the declining number of sea turtles. Work is underway to remove the Crown-of-Thorns starfish from the coral, and the 3rd Sunday of every month is set aside for island-cleaning activities.
The Amami Marine Life Research Association is involved in various marine conservation activities across the Amami Island chain.
Tokunoshima's climate is warm and temperate year round. The sun can be extremely strong during the day so sunscreen is a must. Although the temperature can reach around 35C in summer, the wind blows constantly so there is no humidity and the temperature rarely climbs beyond 35C. Typhoon season is around August and September. In January the temperature is usually around 14C- 15C, and in July and August a bit over 30C. For diving, the summer months are the best times to visit.
Can see cuttlefish during the spring up until around May. Sometime they can be spotted in November and December as well.
Good range of nudibranchs between January and June, and prawns, shrimp and crabs between July and December. Reef sharks are spotted in February.
Senma Bay: this is the island's main spot for shore dives and most beginner-friendly although extra care is required during entry if conditions are slightly rough. The dive begins over a flat area of rock and table coral at about 4m where an array of tiny colourful fish flits in and out of tiny dark holes and corners. Soon you arrive at a sharp drop with a sandy bottom which gives you a good close up look of Tokunoshima's rough and rugged underwater terrain. You can see parrot fish, turtles, Moorish Idols and angel fish grazing against the walls.
Blue Hole Oki - this dive begins over a carpet of rock and flat coral. As you dive deeper, you see that it that turns into bigger rocky ledges and formations with sandy areas in between. Some of these rocky formations are cliff-like with ridges and are ideal environments for turtles or cuttlefish to rest in and hide away. At around 24m is a cluster of medium-sized rocks and a school of bright yellow fish that had set up home. Trumpet fish, reef sharks and sea snakes are all spotted in this area, as well as lion fish, nudibranchs and yellowfin goatfish.
San - this is a medium-sized rock on the sand at around 21m. At 10m, you can spot starfish, nudibranchs and an array of sea anemones housing various kinds of clown fish. This spot is also full of turtles and sometimes cuttlefish. The rock at 21m comes into view after a quick swim across the sand, revealing a riot of activity where you can get up close to starfish, shrimps, parrotfish, blennies and butterfly fish. San is also one of many dive spots off Tokunoshima that are home to the endangered green turban shell.
Shiotobiya - this spot consists of flat, small and medium-sized rocks here and there. At 17m is a sandy patch that is home to the jawfish. Macro lovers can also lie flat here and attempt to get some close up shots of whatever they might find. Shiotobiya is also home to Yamachan, Tokunoshima's famous green sea turtle that's been in the area for over 10 years. He is tame and relaxed, known for an unusual mountain-like shell (Yama in Japanese means mountain) and is usually found swimming or grazing off the rocks at around 10-15m.
Tonbara Iwa - divers don't often get to visit this site due to its strong unpredictable currents and location 30mins away in the open sea. But this spot is the most favourite and challenging point for divers - three small offshore rocks that are home to large tuna, giant trevally and other pelagic species. Divers must hold onto an anchor rope as they descend to around 20m. Already the current is fairly strong so most of the dive involves crawling slowly over huge tower-like rocks to around 30m. You can perch on the rocks and peer down into the dark blue depths below, and meet some tropical inhabitants like starfish, white tip reef sharks and clown triggerfish. This is a site for intermediate/experienced divers only.
JAL flights to Tokunoshima via Kagoshima leave from Tokyo's Haneda airport at around 8:10AM, getting to Kagoshima at 10:10AM, leaving Kagoshima at 10:50AM and arriving at Tokunoshima around noon. Return flights to Tokyo's Haneda airport via Kagoshima leave from the island around 17:30, arriving at Kagoshima at 18:25 before taking off for Tokyo at 19:10, arriving at 20:40. The dive school Kamui comes to pick up customers at Tokunoshima airport and drives them back for their return flight to Tokyo.
Most customers stay at the Hotel Lexton, a comfortable western-style business hotel (breakfast available). A short walk from the hotel is a small area called Kametsu with a sushi bar (with conveyor belt), a range of Japanese-style pubs (izakaya) and a couple of supermarkets. The Hotel Lexton and Dive School Kamui will both have good recommendations.
Visitors can go to the Tokunoshima Fruit Garden or enjoy bull fighting, the island's spectator sport. The island caters for all manner of sports in addition to diving, such as body boarding, swimming, snorkeling and surfing and there is also an annual triathlon held at the end of June each year and some good community sports facilities with three golf courses. Whale-watching tours are available in February and March.
Night tours are available to search for the Amami rabbit (Amami Kuro Usagi) that is only found on Tokunoshima and another island in the same region, Amami Oshima. During the school summer holiday period (mid-July to end of August) there are classes available for children to learn about traditional island culture, crafts and festivals. Snorkeling trips for families and try dives for children can be arranged.
The Japanese-style pubs (izakaya) are usually full of local people in the evening and foreigners are a rarity so people can stare at you! Some customers at the izakayas may invite you to sing and dance with them (a lot of the locals tend to sing or dance old local songs while eating out) and it's a good idea to show an interest by joining in. The customers will appreciate it and it's fun too!