Under Water in Okinawa

Fields of maricultured Acropora in Onna, Okinawa, Japan

Fields of maricultured Acropora in Onna, Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, Japan is known for its great diving and lush coral reefs. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect with this dive. I’ve heard all sorts of cautionary tales about diving in Okinawa due to its strong currents, but I’ve also heard that the quality of the reefs is practically unmatched.

The day of my scheduled dive was rough. It started raining heavily, and that pretty much limited the dive locations that were available for safety reasons. The single dive location would be just off the coast of our hotel in the Manza Beach area of Onna-son. Onna is located in the central part of the island and is where most of the resort hotels are located. Luckily, Manza Beach has a quiet bay area, making this dive possible despite the weather.

The dive itself felt like a bit of an adventure right off the bat. There was an equipment failure where the airline connected to my BCD (the diving vest that holds the tank and manages buoyancy). The dive master and I had to quickly fix the issue under water. Although he didn’t really speak English and I didn’t really speak Japanese, under water we shared a common sign language. It’s amazing how much one can communicate without spoken language, and believe me, when there is a device failure under water, there’s plenty to communicate.

The dive itself was amazing. There were tons of corals and fish, but I was surprised to see a huge field of Acropora that was all maricultured. It felt like I was diving in an incredible frag tank. Never before had I seen this type of activity in a reef. Coral harvesting in Japan is illegal, so all of it must have been a part of either a research program or a coral-restoration program. It was definitely interesting to see, and the results they are achieving are certainly impressive. The size and colors of the colonies were out of this world.

I hope to one day return to Okinawa and do more dives. This was a very short trip, and unfortunately this was the only dive I was able to schedule. More for next time!

Photo and video credit: Than Thein


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About Than Thein

Than Thein is the owner of Tidal Gardens and Advanced Reef Aquarium. Than's love for all things underwater began early on when dogs and cats were strictly off limits, but a fish tank? Sure! What started with a 10-gallon goldfish tank eventually turned into a 5,000-gallon greenhouse coral propagation system. In addition to coral aquaculture, Than's other hobbies include scuba diving and underwater photography and videography.


  1. Hi Than,

    Looks like an awesome dive. Thanks for sharing the eye candy.

  2. Bob Escher says

    I lived n Okinawa for 8 years, first as military for three and then the other five as a civilian. I dived around Okinawa many times, met my first shark and sea snake there. The beauty of it was just amazing. This was 35 years ago went back 15 years and everything had changed ( of course) loved it

  3. Joe Rice says

    Great video. Are the maricultured corals being grown for habitat or will they eventually be harvested and sold?

    • I do not think it is legal to collect and export corals from Japan, so this activity is all likely for conservation or research. In other words, some organization or government paid a lot of money to do this and NOT make money off of it. I wish there was some program like that in the US.

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