Okinawa 3 - Iriomote
Back to Okinawa, this time on Iriomote island at the extreme south. Here, the atmosphere is completely different. Contrary to the other islands, the highlight is not the sea, even though there are a couple beautiful beaches, but the jungle that covers 90% of the surface of the island!
Once again, renting a car is necessary but even with that, one can only scratch the surface of what the island has to offer. Most of the island is virtually untouched and there is only one main road that runs around the island, for about 3/4 of its perimeter...at least it is impossible to get lost. But if one really wants to explore the island in depth, then there are very few options: boat, canoe, or hiking.
My planning was as follows: the first day, stay along the road, visit the main attractions and chill out on some of the beaches. The second day, do a cross-island hike through the jungle from the northwest to the southeast.
Let me start with various shots of the island:
Here's the main tourist trap. A cart drawn by a buffalo to reach the nearby islet:
It is so shallow that it's much faster to cross on foot! But one has to support the local economy, so I just did like everyone else.
It is no secret that I love onsens, therefore it was my duty to try Japan's southernmost onsen! Right by the jungle, it is an interesting experience and there's also a swimming pool if it's too hot:
It has one downside though: wearing a bathing suit is mandatory!
The Iriomote yamaneko, the local wildcat:
Sorry, I don't have better than this signpost because it is extremely rare to actually see a wildcat. Not only the iriomote yamaneko is nocturnal, it is also an endangered species and there are less than a hundred of them remaining, according to the estimations.
I spent the night at a pension next to Hoshi-suna beach, a nice snorkeling spot but essentially famous for its star-shaped sand:
The grains are actually the shells of microscopic organisms, so small that it really feels like sand.
For the second day, I had to cancel the hike I had planned. Because of accidents that occurred a few weeks before, hiring a guide had become mandatory and I was against that idea. So I changed my plans at the last minute and joined a half-day canoe trip to that waterfall:
Usually I don't like guided tours, but I have to admit that it was quite fun!
In the mangrove:
The trees really give the impression that they are going to move...
Approching the waterfall:
Don't disturb the bat:
A beautiful view from the top:
Another group at the bottom:
Our guide is preparing lunch:
This is Japan, therefore no sandwiches but noodles:
A dessert made with 紫芋 (murasaki-imo, or purple potatoe):
Back at the bottom, those who brought their bathing suit enjoy the "swimming pool":
And finally, time to leave:
I definitely loved Iriomote! Its preserved nature, the density of the jungle definitely give it a mysterious atmosphere. It really feels like the island has many secrets. In fact, it seems that many of its attractions are only known by the locals. For instance, my guide told me there are about 300 waterfalls on the island, which is something I have never seen mentioned anywhere else. Maybe because most are much harder to access. He showed me a few pictures and some of them clearly deserve to be seen. I was ready to stay one more day for that kind of excursion but my guide was already booked. Next time maybe?...