15 Mar Zamami Island
We arrived in the port of Zamami Island and idled over near a fishing boat to ask the crew the best spot to dock. The fishermen pointed over to a large area near the ferry dock. The dock didn’t look particularly well used but we didn’t think we would fit on smaller docks further in. Tides here vary by as much as 3 feet so we tied off with this in mind, knowing that we will often be climbing on and off the boat. Zamami island is part of the Kerama Islands group and administered as part of Okinawa. The island has 3 settlements, Zamami, Ama, and Asa and all are prime locations for world- class diving and snorkeling in their clear, turquoise waters. As a bonus, we arrived in peak humpback whale season (Jan-Apr) and were lucky enough to see one on our way in.
Hoping to get in a few dives around Nishibama beach (off Asa island) we met a local Okinawan lady, Nanase (Nancy) who is a connection through our CCA friends, Ginger and Peter Niemann (SV Irene). Ginger and Peter had visited Zamami last year and all of their recommendations were spot on! Nanase made a few phone calls and we were booked on a mid-day, two tank dive off Asa island the next day! The Captain and our Dive Guide “Tsushi” knew the ideal spots for the time of day and current conditions. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves but this is my personal favorite of all my island dives.
For a small town we found several dining options in Zamami. Most were Izakaya restaurants /pub which were cozy, affordable and known for a particular dish or two. The hours stated on the internet often differed or there would be a handwritten note posted announcing a day or two closure. Our first dinner off the boat at a small but popular Izakaya named “Nanamaru” was amazing! One specialty of the area is Mozuku seaweed and is served in vinegar or fried. The Okinawan tofu (everywhere we ordered it) was also delicious and had a firm but very creamy texture. Over the next few days we tried different diners and enjoyed the fresh fish, Okinawan soba (a must!) and other featured items at Nanamaru (favorite all around), Santa, La Toquee, and Little Kitchen. Always in R&D mode, we tested their beers and the local Okinawan spirit, Awamuri, and decided that we should make this our ritual. Check out this guide to learn more about this unique spirit… https://www.japanesefoodguide.com/awamori-guide/
We all enjoyed the hike to the Takatsukiyama Observatory which is just under 2 miles long. It winds along a nicely paved road starting just past the school. The weather was perfect, light breezes and cool in the shade. There were two observatories, each with stunning views of Zamami and the surrounding islands. We saw many butterflies but predominately the large white and large black (with white band) species. We learned that the white butterfly (Ohgomadara) has no predators due to their ingestion of a toxic leaf in the larva stage making them toxic as well.
We explored the town as a group and on our own walkabouts and found the residents to all be very helpful and kind. Most of the younger residents could speak limited but understandable (for us at least) English. It was great to have use of the internet and often used Google Translate to help us navigate signage and menus.