A couple weeks ago, I took a wonderful little vacation to the Oki Islands, which were added to the Global Network of National Geoparks last year. Even taking the slow (and cheap) ferry, you can get there from Matsue or Sakaiminato within hours, yet I had not done so until now.

Me? Reusing an old map? Never.

Even for technically being the rainy season, I had perfect timing–despite being the rainy season it didn’t rain during my trip, and since the official swimming season is July-August, my friends I didn’t run into much competition for beach space. Then again, this is Oki–there is always another beach and never the number of tourists you’d find elsewhere.

Besides enjoying the unique sights of the Geopark and the islands’ history, I made sure to go out and do summery things I don’t typically venture to do in daily life. Despite living so close to so many beaches, my bathing suit has had zero use the whole time I’ve lived here. That had to be amended! So I fixed it right away with my first scuba diving experience.

Ready to go! The water at Sotohama Beach was clear, and the sand has a lot of iron, so the beach looks pretty black.

When you arrive at Beppu Port on Nishinoshima Island, the Nishinoshima Tourism Association is directly across from the port, and they have everything you need to guide yourself around and book excursions and workshops for you (thanks, Nicola!). While I was there I sort of decided at random to do some scuba diving with Club Noah the following morning. I was a little bit nervous, but the weather was sunny and windless, the 2~3 hour class was designed for beginners, and I’d have a professional with me to make sure I wouldn’t die in a freak low-speed collision with a rock in 2 feet of water. Perfectly safe, right?

Yeah, perfectly safe. But the first breath underwater was so scary I stood straight up out of the water as if on reflex. Never fear, the guys at Club Noah are used to dealing with people who are sort of freaked out by the thought of deep breaths while you’re surrounded by water. Aided by cheerfulness and patience, I got used to the whole breathing thing, and then we could actually swim around.

It was very shallow water and we only got as far as three meters deep, but there was still a lot to see there. Perhaps we could have gone further if I had been less chicken and more true to my name from the start–just as I was really absorbed in the dive and having a lot of fun and no longer so conscious of breathing, it was time to head back to shore. At least what I saw was pretty!

Goby!

This was a bouncy one that was safe to touch. Gently, of course!

This type of sea slug is called “umiushi” in Japanese–“sea cow.”

We saw rainbowfish that looked more rainbow-y, but this is the one we got a picture of.

No sea horses… but there were lots and lots of horses on Nishinoshima. Next time!

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