Whale watching season is on!!
Okinawa is one of the best locations for whale watching as the winter brings the annual migration of humpback whales to waters off Kerama Islands where they give birth and nurture their young during the cold months of the year before heading back to their feeding grounds in the northern Pacific.
Seemingly slow and lumbering, humpback whales can also put on quite a show, as they can leap vertically almost out of water in a move known as a “breach.” They can be seen swimming around the islands early spring, when over 300 of the giants come around Kerama to mate and give birth.
Zamami Island has become the center of the whale watching industry in Okinawa, and the Zamami Whale Watching Society is responsible for alerting the tour organizers for the arrival of the whales and also organizes dozens of tours through March, the peak whale watching season. The entire season is being billed the Zamami Village Whale Watching Festival.
English language information on Zamami Island, tours and accommodations are all available at their website at https://zamamitouristinfo.wordpress.com/
There is a choice of watching for whales up close from a moving boat, or from an observation platform with binoculars at the Whale Conservatory in Unazi on Zamami Island. For those prone to become seasick, the observation platform is recommended. Whale Watching Society members use the Conservatory to spot the whales, and relay their location to the boats.
Another ashore site on Tokashiki Island is the Okinawa National Youth Center atop Mt. Akama. The Center offers not only the view, but inexpensive accommodations and more.
Dive Shops and travel agencies in Zamami, Tokashiki, Chatan, Onna and Naha all have tour programs. Getting to Zamami, one of the larger of 20 islands in the Kerama Island Group, is easy from Naha’s Tomari Port. The cruises take 1-2 hours, and leave Tomari 2-3 times each day. Call 098-868-4567 for reservations and information. Other ferries ply the route from Naha’s Tomari Port to Tokashiki Island. From there, local cruises venture into the whale watching areas.