Last week was a whirlwind of Oki Bucket List fun-ness! First, I knocked out coral dying at Shuri Ryusen and Donut Ball Park and then, on Friday, I went whale watching!! I had contemplated going through Kadena Marina or taking a risk and heading over to Zamami, one of the Kerama Islands. In the end, I decided to book through Zamami Whale Watching Association and I'm so happy that I did!
On Friday, I woke up and it was raining. I was pretty bummed, but decided to get ready anyway. ZWWA doesn't cancel until 8:00 am for the morning tour and I needed to be on a ferry by 9:00 am at Tomari Port in Naha. Considering those two things, I had no choice but to head to Naha and cross my fingers.
I picked up Kacey, who was going to explore Zamami on foot while I did my tour, and she enthusiastically agreed to go despite the bad weather. Obviously, my tour didn't get cancelled so I encourage everyone to dress and pack with rain in mind.
We bought tickets at the port with no problem and took the fast ferry (Queen Zamami) over to the island. On the way over, we joked about the possibility of seeing whales before we even got to our destination... and, just like that, we saw whales! Kacey was telling me a story when, over her shoulder, I saw water spraying up in the air.
I can only describe my reaction as losing my mind. Haha! I yelled something to the effect of, "I am not sh**ing you! Whales! Whales!" and proceeded to wake up all of the comfy Japanese people who were napping over the hour long ride. It was so cool and totally put me in a better mood!!
Once we arrived, I checked in at ZWWA's desk. Then, an instructor gave us some info on the humpback whales that we were about to search for. They do have a written translated version of this information, which was nice.
After the short discussion, we geared up to head out to sea. I packed a rain jacket, had a long sleeve shirt under my t-shirt and leggings under my jeans, and wore rain boots. In my backpack I had my camera, a hoodie (this is important), and a small waterproof bag. Kacey loaned me her big waterproof bag that was big enough to hold my backpack.
Once I realized that there was nearly no coverage on the boat, I decided to buy a poncho at the port. I wrapped it around my waist so that I could sit down without getting soaked. Then, I was in a pinch -- I hadn't prepared my camera with any waterproof gear. Uh oh!
... But wait! Since I'd tied the poncho around my waist, the sleeves were useless to me & had elastic around the wrists. So, I tore off a sleeve, attached the elastic to the end of my lens, and it worked like a charm. Adapt and overcome, right?!
The boat captain told us that it would be "about 5 minutes" before we'd see any whales. You guys, it was more like 2 minutes... maybe not even that long! They were everywhere! I literally could not believe how close we could get to them. It was incredible!
Right after I saw our first whale of the day (minus the ferry boat ones), I looked up and on the horizon I witnessed an entire whale coming out of the water and making the biggest splash ever. Ya know, like the ones that you see in the movies!! I was fra-reaking out. It was one of the coolest things that I've ever seen! No picture, but a memory that will last forever.
We followed a few around for a while, watching them come up and blow air out of their blowholes (I don't know why I hate saying "blowhole" so much...). I was amazed at how we could see their bumpy skin -- I still can't believe how close we got.
It was like they knew that we were getting a little bored just seeing their backs... or maybe they got bored with us, who knows. Whatever the reason, they started to get a little playful, showing off their tails for starters.
I keep typing "it was so cool" and then deleting it when I realize that I've got to think of a different way to describe the experience! Haha! Seriously, it was really... neat... amazeballs?? They are so beautiful and massive. Really massive!
After the side-jumping, they started "bobbing" up and down in the water. For the record, I'm sure there are technical terms for these things, but I'm doing my best here! There were two whales and they were completely upright and one would stick its head out of the water. Then, it would go under and the other would come up like that. I told Mark that they were trying to see what the fuss was all about, not realizing it was them!
Not long after seeing them dance around in the water for us, we headed back to the port. The tour was 2 hours long and perfect. We weren't that far off of shore so the entire 2 hours was dedicated to whale watching, which I loved.
Once I got back, I changed into my *dry* hoodie, making it the only dry thing on my body, and threw my wet clothes into the small waterproof bag. Then, I stored my things in a locker since it was no longer raining (go figure) and I didn't feel like carrying it around. Kacey and I linked up for lunch at, what seemed to be, "the" lunch spot. We both had curry to warm up after getting wet and shared stories about our day. She'd nearly walked around the entire island while I was out on the boat, seeing whales from a few different overlooks.
We took the slow ferry back to Naha, which takes two hours, and slept in the tatami room. It was delightful! I had a great day and highly recommend ZWWA. If you're worried about getting more bang for your buck, I'd recommend staying overnight on Zamami and enjoying the peaceful, quiet island. There are bikes and scooters for rent, goats and deer on island, and the scenery is gorgeous -- much different from what we're used to.