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Iriomote

Introduction

Iriomote Island is considered as Japan’s last frontier. The island, located at the southwest point of the country and quite close to Taiwan, is covered at more than 90% with dense tropical / sub-tropical vegetation, and surrounded by pristine waters. The average temperature is 24°C (from 17°C in winter to 32°C in summer). The name of Iriomote is famous worldwide for its rare lynx called yamaneko (Iriomote wild cat). While there are only 2000 residents on the island, 150’000 people visit it every year! Especially from July to September and during Golden Week, reservations are absolutely necessary as accommodations go fully booked. There is no airport in Iriomote, and therefore the gateway to the island is the nearby island of Ishigaki. Iriomote is then reached by ferry (40-50 minutes).

There is only one main road on the island, which starts on the south-east Ohara (大原), follows the east and north coast to Funaura (船浦) and Uehara (上原), and ends in Shirahama (白浜) on the west shore. The largest town in Ohara, while most of the hotels and diving centers are located on the north-west area, close to Uehara.

Extremely interesting diving can be made around the island, mostly on the north-west, west and south west coasts. While there is only a limited amount of large animals (the mantas are usually spotted only on the east side of the island, and only during summer), the corals are incredibly developed and in excellent condition, and many coral fish can be seen.

The weather can strongly influence the diving conditions, as the boat can be forced to stay in sheltered areas when the wind is too strong, it is very often not possible to dive on the outside reef. In that case, diving boats leave from Shirahama and stay in the bay, there shallow dives are conducted on a sandy bottom. Unfortunately, such strong wind is often encountered, and boats stay in the a couple of days per month (wind is usually too strong to dive between December and March)!

Also, keep in mind that diving is a very expensive leisure in Japan, and you will have to spend around 14’000 yens for 2 boat dives plus 5000 yens is you need to rent the equipment.

Travel facts

Calendar

JanFebMarAprMayJuneJulyAugSepOctNovDec
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best period
acceptable period
not recommend
air temperature

Diving type

Destination
easily accessible
easily accessible
bargain destination
bargain destination
Diving level & type
for beginners
for beginners
for advanced divers
for advanced divers
shore diving
shore diving
liveaboard
liveaboard
Diving Characteristics
pelagics
pelagics
lots of fish
lots of fish
lots of corals
lots of corals
interesting underwater scenery
interesting underwater scenery
Other activities
attractive natural spots
attractive natural spots
gastronomy
gastronomy
night life
night life
beach
beach
snorkeling
snorkeling

Map

map

Infrastructures

  • diving center
    Niraina Resort
    logo
    Niraina Resort (diving center)
    telephone : 81 (980) 85-6400
    fax : 81 (980) 85-6400
    address : 907-1541, Iriomote-shima, Uehara 10-425
    internet : www.nilaina.com (English available)
    rating : 4 / 4 starsrating : 4 / 4 stars
    comments :
    A small operation mostly for the guest of their hotel (see below), but they accept other divers, too. They can take up to 15 divers, and they have two boats and a staff of 4 persons only for the diving. The divemasters are extremely knowledgeable, know the diving sites well and are really making it easy for the divers. Dive sites selected carefully to please the divers, and generous bottom times granted. Possibility to change the schedule to fit the desires of the divers. Furthermore, the tanks are really pressurized at 200 bars, which is unusual enough in Okinawa to be underlined.

  • diving center
    Unarizaki
    Unarizaki (diving center)
    telephone : 81 (980) 85-6146
    fax : 81 (980) 85-6844
    address : 907-1541, Iriomote-shima, Uehara 10-172
    internet : www.unarizaki.com/iriomote (web site only in Japanese)
    rating : 3 / 4 starsrating : 3 / 4 stars
    comments :
    Perhaps the largest operation on the island. They have three fast and very comfortable diving boats which leave from different places as function of the planned dives. There are some negative points, though: during the low season, all divers might be on the same boat, which will mean that less interesting dive spots might be selected to fit the needs of beginners. And divers usually spend 2-3 hours on the boat between the first and second dive: even with a lunch, it is really a long time to wait.

  • hotel
    Niraina Resort
    logo
    Niraina Resort (hotel)
    telephone : 81 (980) 85-6400
    fax : 81 (980) 85-6400
    address : 907-1541, Iriomote-shima, Uehara 10-425
    internet : www.nilaina.com (English available)
    rating : 4 / 4 starsrating : 4 / 4 stars
    comments :
    Very small resort made almost exclusively of wood and located on a hill - not far from the famous Hoshizuna no Hama (beach). Very well integrated in the nature, it offers only 3 rooms (one large one for up to 4 persons and two smaller ones for 2 persons). There you will enjoy a bath in your room with a view on a small wood, or a dip in a jacuzzi with the sunset in front of you... A fantastic breakfast (one day European type, the next one Japanese type) is served in the main room, and cheap but gorgeous BBQ is available (3150 yens, cooked and served on the terrace). A small library with many books on diving and sofas is also available. A unique place, where the service is just perfect. From 11'500 yens per person with breakfast, and really worth it.

  • hotel
    Unarizaki Villa
    Unarizaki Villa (hotel)
    telephone : 81 (980) 85-6146
    fax : 81 (980) 85-6844
    address : 907-1541, Iriomote-shima, Uehara 10-172
    internet : www.unarizaki.com/villa (web site only in Japanese)
    rating : 4 / 4 starsrating : 4 / 4 stars
    comments :
    Large rooms with a high ceiling, all with view on the sea. There is a large garden (with a small pool and hammocks) in front of those 12 villas, as well as a pleasant private rocky beach. The restaurant is located in a large veranda and offers a beautiful view on the garden and the sea. 9500 yens per person, including the breakfast buffet.

Diving Sites

  • rating : 4.0
    Barasu East

       (バラス東)
    rating : 4.0
    depth : 25 m
    visibility : good
    description :
    A more or less circular reef located near a small sandy island (Barasu Shima), with a gentle slope going down to 30 meters. This site has magnificent corals and lots of fish. Several large Several large fans (the biggest reaching a diameter of 2 meters) at a depth of 20-25 meters. The variety of fish is rather impressive. Two morays (including a giant one), a large triggerfish reaching 70 cm, 2 lionfish, many different anemones and clownfish. Also several schools of reef fish. Closer to the surface (at 3-6 meters), a large number or flat corals are seen.

  • rating : 4.0
    Hatoma East

       (鳩間東)
    rating : 4.0
    depth : 18 m
    visibility : good
    description :
    Lots of nudibranchs! Apart from some dives in PNG, we never had the opportunity to observe so many nudibranchs during a single dive (at least a dozen of them). Also a squid (コブシメ) which, swimming around us, was observed for several minutes. A school of yellowtail - one of the only schools we had the chance to see in Iriomote and Ishigaki. Also lots of shells (ジャコ貝, タカヒ貝). And lots of hard corals. Perhaps the best dive we had around Iriomote island, with an interesting underwater relief made of parallel canyons dig directly in the reef and full of life.

  • rating : 3.0
    Barasu North

       (バラス北)
    rating : 3.0
    depth : 15 m
    visibility : good
    description :
    Close to the Barasu Shima island, coral reef between 6 and 25 meters. Not a lot to see at the bottom of the relief, we just spotted a crocodile-fish and a squid. At shallow depth, lots of reef fish and especially an incredible concentration of hard coral, pilled one over the others. Two lion-fish and some nudibranchs.

  • rating : 2.0
    Hinai Beach

       (ヒナイビーチ)
    rating : 2.0
    depth : 18 m
    visibility : low
    description :
    Very close to the entrance of the Uehara harbor, this diving site presents only limited coloration because of the lack of corals. The visibility is usually low. However, turtles are known to be in this area - we saw two of them during our dive. At a depth of 18 meters, an anemone with large clown-fish and, a little shallower, a jawfish, a small yellow-orange fish with huge eyes. The main interest on this site is the possibility to see an interesting micro fauna, especially nudibranchs (5 observed during the dive). Most of the dive time is spent around a single pinnacle with a diameter of 5 meters, on which many fish are seen. Almost no coral around, but many sea cucumbers. A good dive for macro photography.

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