How can that even be a question?
Well, we had a date with a REAL whale shark today! We went and checked out both the Kadena dive shop and the Torii Station dive shop. While the Kadena dive shop had DIN tanks, Torii had two different things that really tipped the scales. First, they rent nitrox tanks for $9 each. Second, they feature a whale shark dive! You have to make your reservations 24 hours in advance, and it fills up quickly, so once you know you are going to Okinawa, get in touch!
Annually, approximately 40 whale sharks are caught accidentally by Okinawan fishing nets. Before they are released, the fishing company holds them in a net enclosure, feeds them well, and offers divers a once in a lifetime encounter with them. Some of these whale sharks may end up in the Churaumi Aquarium or the Ring of Fire Aquarium in Osaka, but most of them are released back into the ocean after they have recuperated.
We had been worried that we would miss the dive, as 1 divemaster per four divers is required, but the shop manager blessed us with an additional divemaster (professional courtesy and good business), so we were on.
At 12:30, we received our briefing, which was a little humorous at times (do you know how to do a boat dive? A back roll entry?). We rented our tanks (it’s a one tank dive which lasts about 40-45 minutes) and weights. At 1:00 we went tothe Yomiton Port, and joined a multitude of divers from Top Marine. We loaded up our gear after assembling it (and it was HOT), and proceeded out on the 5 minute boat ride. When we got out there, we did our back rolls in, and Wayne’s reel separated and headed into the net enclosure, where a 15’ whale shark was circling, getting fed. Once his issue was resolved, we headed down to join our companions, inside the net. Unfortunately, when we got down there, my camera screen went black, and the on/off and picture buttons wouldn’t respond. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the new portable charger I bought for my Sony batteries did not work, and I had put in a dead battery. :( At least we had Wayne’s camera, which he shared with me. While the overall experience felt a bit contrived, there was still a profound majesty about the encounter. Watching the whale shark eat, and its gills move as it inhaled its food was amazing. And there was a multitude of other fish out in the water with him (it is a juvenile male). Of course, we didn’t pay as much attention to them…
Most of the residents stay less than a year, and they seem to enjoy interacting with the divers, frequently nudging them, and seemingly asking for attention. Check out the information and video for the whale shark dive here.
We came up from the dive happy, and rented 4 nitrox tanks for tomorrow. We will be diving Maeda Beach in the morning.
Then it was off to AJ Onna Biru Resort Hotel. Arrival got off to a rocky start - we had pre-paid for the room, but needed to pay a double occupancy supplement. I don’t speak Japanese. The front desk clerks don’t speak English. And add to that, the internet didn’t seem to work, so the husband was particularly cranky. Luckily, a woman (manager I would guess) came out and showed the clerk the error of his ways. She then gave us a D-Link wifi signal generator for the room, and off we went.
And the air conditioning didn’t work, it was off when we got in the room. The manager came up to try to fix it, to no avail, so another gentleman came up and reset the unit. We should be cool tonight.
From here, it was off to a final dinner with a freshly shorn Eliot, at a Brazilian steakhouse/churrascaria in Chatan (aka America Town). It was nice, but not completely authentic - no sushi! The drive to Nishihara was a wild one - I don’t think I’ve ever seen Wayne hit 120 km/h, but he did on the way to pick up Eliot! The steak and pork and chicken were good, and the boys enjoyed their chicken hearts. I think Mr. Keo would have appreciated that.
We said our final farewells to Eliot at around 9 pm, and I drove us to our new residence for the next two nights. It was a good day.