While some visitors to Okinawa never leave the main island, travelers in search of deeper relaxation frequently make their way to some of the less-visited islands. At the end of our second night in Okinawa, we got on a short ferry and traveled approximately 40 KMs to the island of Zamami. We checked into a hostel and spent the next two nights letting go of all our stress. During our brief visit, we snorkeled along a coral reef, explored a deserted beach, and swam with sea turtles. By the time the sun set over the white-sand beach, our life on the mainland seemed liked a distant memory.
Burgers and Snorkeling
The hostel we stayed at was owned by an American and Canadian couple that had decided to settle on the island with their newborn son. By night they operated the hostel and directed tourists to some of the best places to get the popular Okinawan stir-fry known as champuru (or champloo). By day, they served up pizza and burgers with whatever ingredients came in on the daily supply boats. The burgers were particularly tasty, and both proprietors were extremely knowledgeable about the island.
Following their advice, we made our way over to one of Zamami’s many sandy beaches. Renting a pair of goggles, I dove into the blue waters and traced my way along the brightly colored reef. A wide variety of fish were weaving through the cool waters, and I tried to get my fiancée to come take a look. However, not overly tempted by the chilly April waters, she opted to stay on the beach instead.
The island of Zamami is hilly and covered in rocky forests. It’s the perfect spot for some light hiking, and though some of the distances are best covered on bike or by car, much of it is accessible by foot. After lunch, we spent three hours hiking through the hills of the island and encountered only a single other traveler.
As you get a little distance from the central village, butterflies begin to flutter out of the woods. They clung to every branch and flower and dotted the air in all directions. I tried my best to take a picture of some of them, but they were simply too nimble. At every turn they dodged my camera, and I had to settle for some shots of the landscape instead.
After walking around Zamami for an hour and a half, we came to a small, overgrown pathway. Following the somewhat treacherous path, as it snaked through the trees, we ducked under low hanging branches and scaled some of the steeper portions with the help of some rope. After ten minutes we emerged on a completely deserted beach. It wasn’t exactly pristine. Assorted garbage littered the sand, but it was ours. For close to an hour, we ran along some of the narrow, sea-worn inlets, scaled rocky hills, and hunted for the perfect shell. I felt completely isolated from the world, like I had stepped into another dimension. Eventually, however, we had to return. After finding our way back to the main path, we made our way home.
An Indifferent Sea Turtle
One of main beaches on Zamami is a popular feeding ground for sea turtles. If you visit just as the sun is setting, you might get lucky and spot one as it leisurely swims through the surf. It took me about 15 minutes of underwater searching, but I finally managed to find one and called my fiancée over. She wasn’t willing to jump into the chilly waters for fish, but a sea turtle was a different story. We shared the goggles and took turns watching the turtle happily enjoy a snack on the sea bottom. The turtle didn’t seem to notice or care about our presence, but we followed it for five minutes before it moved off towards deeper waters.
Returning to the beach, we sat and enjoyed the last few moments of sunlight. We had only been on the island for a day, but it felt like we had been there forever. No doubt, life was continuing on as usual on the mainland. On the small tropical island of Zamami, however, time moved differently. The town, forests, and beaches seemed quiet and frozen in time. Ultimately, there are worst ways to spend an eternity.
Address: 109 Zamami, Shimajiri District, Okinawa 901-3402
Post by Japan Journeys.