Looking for the Cool Breeze in Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark
On land and under the sea, moving around or lazing about—let’s explore the natural wonders of Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark while looking for the cool breeze!
The great outdoors? In this heat? Beautiful as the Oki Islands are, some may scoff at exploring them during the summer months, since the temperatures are high and humidity levels even higher for days on end. Still, the siren call of the clear skies and blue sea is hard to resist, especially when the UNESCO-certified geopark area is sure to take one’s breath away with its dazzling sights. If only there was a way to both keep cool and enjoy nature!
Well, fortunately—there is. Deep in the mountains or under the sea, moving around or lazing about, one can breathe a sigh of relief from the sweltering heat in many places and through many outdoor activities all over the geopark area. So let’s take a tour of the summertime Oki Islands, searching for the cool breeze.
The first destination lies deep in the mountains, a 50-minute drive from the Saigō Port area. Located here are two waterfalls (and a shrine nestled in between them), called “male” and “female” respectively. From the geopark’s standpoint, they are remarkable for the “can be seen from behind” feature of the “male” waterfall and the role they play in local customs, to name a few. They also boast a spot on the list of “100 Best Waterfalls in Japan,” which makes them one of the must-visit places in Okinoshima Town.
The walking trail starts right by the parking area, leading through the torii gate and Japanese cedar tree forest. Shielded from the sun’s glare, with a bubbling brook somewhere within earshot, the hike provides a nice break from the summer heat. By the time you reach the waterfalls, you will be pleasantly refreshed by the cool mountain air and tranquil atmosphere of this place.
Chichi-sugi Japanese Cedar
Taking an alternative route from the Saigō Port area, first to Chōshi Dam, then up a winding road on the side of Mt. Daimanji, a traveller weary of the summer heat crosses over into a cool, misty realm…that is, reaches a giant Japanese cedar tree, called Chichi-sugi. Estimated at 800 years old, it catches the eye due to its peculiar shape, with roots drooping from the branched-out trunk.
Reluctantly tearing your gaze away, you will notice the ground around the tree is littered with rock blocks fallen from the mountaintop. Cold air flows from the gaps between them and once it collides with warm air, it veils the area with mist. That is why it is always quite cool by Chichi-sugi, even on a hot summer day, lending to the slightly unreal feeling of the place—as if in a land of Japanese myths.
Since the Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark encompasses both the islands (four inhabited and numerous tiny, uninhabited ones) and the marine area up to 1 km from the coastline, the next point on the agenda should be a plunge into the Sea of Japan. Owing to the influence of Tsushima Warm Current, the waters here are abundant with life, from seaweeds to many types of fish, while crystal-clear blue offers refuge from the merciless heat.
Snorkelling is a great way to explore the underwater wonders of the Oki Islands, now available as an approximately 2-hour tour for the visitors in Nishinoshima Town. A friendly instructor lets tourists in on some of the island’s best-kept secrets, introducing little-known scenic spots for their snorkelling pleasure. No previous experience is necessary.
Alternatively, there are also two snorkelling tours available in neighbouring Ama Town, both with the use of sea scooters and accompanied by a guide. Visitors charmed by the striking colours of Akiya Coast will have the time of their life exploring its underwater wonders for approximately 2 hours, while a group of at least 4 can go on an adventure by chartered boat to discover secrets of uninhabited Kojima Island.
Breaking the surface after a deep plunge, you will find yourself speechless by the sheer beauty of the islands’ dynamic coastlines. Full of nooks and crannies, filled with mysterious caves and dotted with curiously shaped rocks, they show how great of an impact the erosive powers of waves and wind have on the landscape.
If you’d like to see all those natural wonders up close, and maybe even graze them with the tips of your fingers, sea kayaking is the way to go. A 2-hour tour is the ultimate Oki coastline experience under the watchful eye of experienced instructors. Put on your lifejacket, grab your paddle and set off to explore, enjoying the cool breeze!
Still on the water and amazed with Oki Island coastlines, but indulging in a more leisurely option. Leafing through the tourism pamphlet or clicking around this website, you will surely notice quite a selection of sightseeing boats, offering cruises to some of the major tourist spots. Kuniga Coast with Tsūtenkyō Arch and caves, Rōsoku-jima (Candle Island) with the iconic sunset view (the list goes on)—you can appreciate them to the fullest without even moving from your seat. The feeling of the wind in your hair is a bonus, bringing pleasant cool on a hot day.
The geopark is not only about the breathtaking sights, though. It is also a place of learning about the environment and sustainable development goals that locals are striving to meet. And who said that learning cannot be fun?
Not the people who signed up for the Oki Jungle Trekking & Packrafting Tour, now available in Ama Town. With a trek to the coastline, no beaten path in sight, cleaning up the marine debris, and then getting into a packraft to explore points of interest in the area (most notably the Saburō-iwa Rocks), it is a hands-on kind of learning experience, filled with a sense of adventure. And while they might not have been actively seeking the cool breeze themselves when signing up for this tour, it does find them anyway, rustling the leaves, carrying the sea scent, rushing past the rafts.
Underwater Viewing Boat AMANBOW
Last but not least, the search for a cool breeze leads to the Hishiura Port and on board a very special sightseeing boat—special, because AMANBOW combines two different experiences in a single cruise. First, the passengers take seats on the deck, cameras in hand, ready to enjoy the sea wind and be amazed by the close-up view of the three Saburō-iwa Rocks. Then, they head downstairs to the underwater observation room, to peek through the windows at the goings-on in the underwater world. The sight of swaying seaweeds and various types of fish doing what fish do calms the mind and lets them vicariously feel the pleasant cool hidden under the sea.
With both the coastline and the underwater explored, a cruise on AMANBOW is a truly wholesome experience of the geopark marine area, all the more pleasant in the summer heat.
What do you think? Is it the forest or the sea for you? Or maybe both?
Rest assured, no matter what you choose, you will definitely find some cool breeze during your stay in the Oki Islands UNESCO global Geopark!
Author: Izabela Raczynska