Akajima Beach (Nishibama)
Akajima, pronounced Akashima, is an island forming part of the Kerama Islands group in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture. Nicknamed “Aka”, this is a popular holiday destination from both Okinawa and the mainland. Situated roughly midway between the northern tip of Taiwan and mainland Japan’s southern-most point, Aka enjoys a near tropical climate. It has a permanent population of just over 300 residents which it shares with its southern neighbour, Geruma Island.
Access to Aka is by means of frequent ferry crossings between Okinawa Main Island (Tomarin Port) and the Kerama Island Group. This takes either 60 to 90 minutes by ferry depending on whether you catch a fast or slow connection. Once you arrive on the island bicycles are the favoured way of getting around Aka.
The ocean surrounding Akajima feeds off the Kuroshio Current, which means healthy coral reefs and a rich diversity of sea life. Diving is the perhaps the biggest attraction around Aka, as it is in most parts of Okinawa. Coral reefs surround most of the islands, with calm waters and abundant colourful tropical fish. High season is from April to October and the off-season runs from November to March. There is also much interest in the area from late December through to early April, as this is the breeding season for humpback whales.
Of the island’s beaches Nishibama beach is possibly the best. A stunning powder-white stretch of soft sand (crushed coral) along a clear turquoise shoreline. It is about a 30-minute bike-ride northeast of the ferry terminal situated at the southern tip of the island of Akajima. Once you reach the beach, you can rent snorkelling equipment for around 1,000 Yen or less than $10 US.
Locals are quick to point out that Nishibama beach forms part of a nature reserve, meaning snorkelling is restricted to designated areas. It is not a good idea to step on coral for several reasons; in fact, the local lifeguards have very loud megaphones to warn offending bathers. Snorkelers can enjoy viewing many fish varieties without having to swim far from the shore.
If you want to have a car-free beach holiday, this destination is the perfect place to arrive by ferry, and go exploring on foot or bicycle. Guesthouses are available on the island.
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