When the Weather is Crumby….

It’s been a pretty crumby winter in Okinawa so far with lots of rain and rough water conditions.  Continue reading to see how I’ve gotten my scuba fix while staying out of the water….


Three words: Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.


James and Kim at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium


My dad and brother-in-law recently came to visit, and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium ranked high on the list of places my husband and I wanted to take them.  Although it took a bit of time to get up north, both enjoyed seeing the less populated regions of Okinawa…and they really loved the aquarium.


Coral Sea Tank


The aquarium starts off with an exhibit where you can touch various types of underwater creatures like starfish and sea cucumbers.  This is a great exhibit for children because it’s very interactive.  Additionally, as you go to the other tanks in the aquarium you will see these same things again and it can be  good way to teach them the name of a few different types of sea creatures.


The Sea of Tropical Fish


There is also a small tanks with tons of sea horses.  Be sure not to pass by it before checking out the Coral Sea Tank.  I’ve never seen a sea horse while diving so I was watching them zip around in the tank for a good 3-4 minutes.  I tend to get very focused and loose track of time so my husband eventually came over and told me it was time to move on to the next exhibit.


Kim with Giant Grouper


The Coral Reef Tank, holding approximately 300m³ of water, has 70 different species and provides a great viewing of vibrant, healthy coral.  Compared with other tanks in the aquarium, this exhibit can seem a bit dull but I really recommend you spend some time viewing the coral.  It’s some of the best I’ve ever seen.  According the the aquarium’s website, the coral growing within the tank were transplanted about 10 years ago and they are maintained by a pump that brings in fresh seawater.  Each year in June, the corals spawn eggs and sperm at night, and the aquarium’s staff collect the fertilized eggs and deposit them back into the ocean to help rebuild and maintain the beautiful coral around Okinawa.


Turtle in The Sea of Tropical Fish Tank


The Tropical Fish Tank is perhaps my favorite tank in the whole aquarium.  The tank contains about 200 different species, and they aren’t all visible with a quick glance.  For example, the hawksbill turtles can say underwater for 3-4 minutes when active or a few hours when resting or sleeping; therefore, it might take a bit of waiting to see it come out of hiding to surface for air.  Also, the moray eel within the tank like to hide out in the cracks so having a keen eye can be helpful.  Compared to the wildlife I’ve seen in the ocean, everything in this tank is HUGE!  Some fish in particular to look out for are the giant grouper (he likes to show off at the first viewing position), an extremely large humphead wrasse, the spadefish, and the ridiculously large porcupinefish (I’d love to see him blow up).


Large Humphead Wrasse


Following on the heels of the Tropical Fish Tank are several interactive displays about dangerous wildlife in the ocean (cone shell, sea urchins, etc.) as well as a microscope where you can zoom in on coral.  There are also smaller tanks showcasing certain animals like eel, sea snakes, sea sponges, fresh water fish, sea anemone and anemonefish, etc.


Ridiculously Large Porcupinefish – A Few Feet Long!


The main attraction within the aquarium are the whale sharks found in the Kuroshio Sea, a tank containing 7,500m³ of water.  Also within the tanks are manta rays and various types of rays, sharks, and fish.  There are stadium seats for those wanting to sit and relax while watching the whale sharks or there is an option to stand at the base of the aquarium for observation.  It’s also here that you’ll find a small restaurant.  The food isn’t great and finding a seat can be a nightmare but the view is pretty awesome.  While visiting with my dad there were about 5 scuba divers in the tank doing various activities.  One was cleaning the glass while another was administering shots and a few of the divers were simply having fun.  There was one diver who seemed particularly fond of playing with the manta rays and would even grab onto them and go for a ride.


Make sure to bring a raincoat if you go to the aquarium when it’s raining.  After leaving the main building of the aquarium there are several other spots to check out and you’ll need to walk outside to reach them.  These sites include the manatee pools, turtle tanks (loggerheads and hawksbills), and a porpoise tank.  At the porpoise tank there is a “seaworld” type show that occurs every few hours.


I’ve been to the aquarium 3 times now and each time I’ve seen new sights.  I’ve noticed very distinct changes in the animals behavior depending on when I’m there so it’s always made for a good time.  Taking family and friends here is also a good way to share your underwater experiences and get them pumped about trying to go scuba diving (if their not already certified). 


Manta Ray


The aquarium tends to be very busy during the middle of the day but in the evenings it really quiets down.  My dad, husband, and myself zipped through the aquarium roughly 1.5 hours prior to it’s closing and we had great views of everything.  Sitting down and relaxing at the various large tanks was also easy and we never felt rushed to move onto the next exhibit due to crowds.  If you don’t mind getting back to your appartment until late at night, I highly suggest visiting it in the later hours of the afternoon.


Whale Shark


So next time the weather is bad and you need your scuba fix, definitely head up to Okinawa Churuami Aquarium for a good time!