2016-05-25

Diving in Zamami Island, Okinawa, Japan...or not.



Okinawa below. 


In July 2015 I had a dream to dive in Okinawa area, the southest islands of Japan.

I was unlucky, because the weekend we chose for our trip in Zamami Island, was fully booked since April... because of a Japanese long weekend. So, this post is here now to help others plan their trips and get the most out diving of the beautiful island. There are some beautiful sandy bottom dives to see some signature garden eels, and the island is famous for whale watching tours from January to March. The best idea of what diving in Zamami and Okinawa area has to offer, you might get from Durianne`s Instagram profile. There are several dive operators in Okinawa, this post is only about those on Zamami Island and Zamami village.

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The main sources of information I got from this page, and I was told that the person who was responsible of this page moved away, but there must be now someone maintaining the site, since it has changed a bit since my last look. Now the accommodation info, for example, is easier to view. Another good source of  information in English is here.

Ama beach view. 

Practical info;

~ It is worth to mention that the ATM ACCEPTS foreign credit cards (there are onely a few operators that do that in Japan, and the Japan Post Bank is one of them). The ATM is located in the post office and open in post office hours.

~ Note, that all of trash is separated on the island and smoking is prohibited on the beaches and around. You can smoke only in a few parts on the island (Zamami is a nature reservation area), the places are marked on the maps, and are signposted. It is advised (signs on the info boards)to use only natural soap and shampoo as the non-natural ones will destroy the corals.

~ To get to Naha (where the ferries depart to Zamami), there are several English friendly airlines such as Japanese low cost Vanilla Air,  Peach Aviation and Skymark Airlines, the international LCC Jetstar Japan also flighs there, not to mention the biggest airline Air Nippon.

~There is a bus service to both beaches Furuzamami and Ama, both beaches have beach guards and will shout you off if you manage to swim too far. Both beaches do have eating and toilet/shower facilities.

Recycling ahoi! The smallest orange bin is for bottle caps.
Tips for your trip; 

Tip 1. ~ Book the accommodation ahead

So, mistake again. I did not book well ahead. During the week we (me and my partner) stayed in Okinawa, we also stayed in 3 different locations and even the Zamami tourist information people were in trouble finding a place for 2 person for one night. Several options also for English speaking guests, but even though you manage yourself into one who does not speak English, you will be ok.

There is a popular Camping ground on Ama beach, a hammock can also be placed between the trees.

Tip 2. ~ Book ferry ahead

We made a booking to the ferry in Naha, in a small travel agency which was near the main Tourist Information Office. Ask the information office for the right travel agency, not all of them are allowed to make the reservation. The other alternative is to go to ferry port to do that. You can, and need to make a reservation, but you pay your reservation in the ferry dock when your embark the ferry. You need your passport for the reservation. Be aware, that there are normally long lines, and you need to show your passport or ID when exchanging the reservation ticket to the actually ticket.

The ferries may or may not run due to the weather. When you travel back from Zamami, the booking can be difficult, no bookings really accepted since no one knows if the weather will be fine.

Tip 3. ~ Book the dives well ahead! 

Unlike other South East Asia destinations, Japan/Zamami is not a place where you just walk in to book a dive. Especially on holiday season during the summer, it is advisable to book ahead. During our stay in Zamami, I spoke to some divers who said to have booked their dives 3 months ahead. It is important to understand, that there are only these following 3 dive operators on this island/village (I heard of ) that provided services in English.

Pension Takatsuki and Dive Center No-Y
The employees at Takatsuki were very friendly and were able to speak English. There was a bit of a language barrier but we came to understand that the dives were to be booked in advance and at the time they were full. The pension house itself looks nice.

JOYJOY
I never managed to see or meet anyone here, so I have no experience how they work in this place. The pension house was also nice looking, but most of the times there was no one in the premises. If you do manage to meet them and try their services, please inform me, so I can update this section here.

Diving shop Ellisella
The divers I met, had booked their dives at Ellisella, they were also recommended by the owner of our guesthouse. I went to talk to Ellisella people and got to speak to a wonderful older diver lady who spoke perfect English. The American diver couple spoke good abut her, and their service, so definitely this would be my choice if I ever visit Zamami again.


Tip 4. ~ Search for less crowded eateries, and book ahead if you have a special place in mind.

View to Furuzamami Beach from Takatsukiyama Observatory.

2015-07-08

Diving in Lantern town, Hoi An, Vietnam

Lantern town show off. 


So, looking for a place to dive in July? Look no further!

Several internet sources claim that Hue and Hoi An in Vietnam has a unique micro climate that differs from the other parts of this area. I am not really sure if this is true, but I had great time diving in July, which is not really "the time" to dive around this part of the world. Mostly, I think, people are scared of the weather, the wet season and the storms. But as said, it only rains in the afternoons and then it is over. During that time one is able to enjoy the freedom to choose over a nice place to have a cup of Vietnamese coffee...or food...or a drink.

Hand washing, monsoon style. 


I was curious and of course wanted to try diving in wet season, even though the recommendations about Vietnam as a divers paradise were not underlining the beauties under water. I decided to make my trip with Blue Coral Diving Hoi An and I did not make a mistake with the company. They were very reliable, nice, spoke various languages and were top professionals. I got the boss man Steve to be the dive master for our all European team (a Finn, Belgian, a couple of Brits) and on the boat I had nice chats with the other personnel, even scared their Estonian team member half dead by starting to talk in Finnish with her.

What to expect under water then? No big fish! I remember reading from Tripadvisor that this has been the most disappointing event during the dives in Hoi An, but seriously, this diving is for something totally different; muck diving! For all who know me, know also that I get over exited about nudies and slugs, and this place was more like a heaven for me. I have never seen such big sea slugs in my entire life! They were size of my palm! Really!! We did 2 very relaxed dives, visibility was not too good (15-17m or less), but this was also a good opportunity of me to find my buoyancy again. Of course the top thing (besides the huge nudies) was that my dive buddy was saying that I am a super good diver. Yes! Finally!

The weather stayed great during our whole trip and I was told that it never rains at the sea, even though the rain pores at the town.

Even though this sounds like an add, I can recommend Hoi An to the maximum, both diving and just for holidays. It is a very pleasant town and also a beautiful Unesco World Heritage site. Easily accessible by foot or  with a bike (some streets get closed for cars during certain hours), super food ( local, Vietnamese and International cuisine) and some pleasant cafes, sophisticated wine bars and great shopping for Vietnam hand made items as well as tailored clothing. Just to remember this if you are around with a partner who lacks the interest to diving, I bet they will never be bored.

The ladies selling small floating lanterns by the river and the ancient bridge. 




2015-03-03

The best guided tour in Prague, Czech Republic




"A homeless in either too busy or has too much time"
- Honza H.


Last week I was in Prague, Czech Republic. It was not my first time there and I dared to go and explore something else than just the Astronomical Clock or the Charles Bridge. My local friend made me some suggestions and as we had talked earlier about one social experiment called Pragulic, I decided to contact them. 

Pragulic was started by a group of  people who (on their website) describe themselves like this; 

We are a team of young people who use social entrepreneurship in a daring and entertaining way and who want to change the public opinion of the homeless and make it easier for people without homes to return to ordinary social life." 

The basic of the guided tour is to use local homeless people as tour guides to a darker side of Prague and show how they have lived and tell about their experiences. There are several tours and tour guides, also in multiple languages as well as interpreted tours. And be warned; you might actually learn something about yourself during the trip.

We did a tour with Robert, and we took a train to further from Prague to a forest, where we spent time. 

As I was not so experienced about tours in general (independent traveler), I was a bit confused in the beginning, because our guide was so keen on meeting Finnish people, especially me for some reason! We were a group of 4, tree guys and one lady. In the beginning Robert talked only to me as if the guys never existed, and he knew so many words in our language and had been to Finland and knew also a lot of places in there. So, I guess he was just super exited to guide his first Finnish group, learn more Finnish etc  that he forgot to tell about the tour itself, the method of payment and about himself. But, fine with me. 





Instead of the city center we met at Smichov train station (Praha 5) and headed outside Prague. On our way I sensed that we were a special group in many ways since we were not in hurry and just took our time in the forest, took photos and just enjoyed the nice weather, as did our guide. Without him, we would have never known about a place called Prague-Cibulka or that the small trains transported heating coal all over the city. 






All in all the tour made me think a lot about social differences and the strong will of these people who dare to open up about their experiences what they meet outside the "normal" society...and what are the things that lead to that. It might only need a sick parent, some other illnesses, lack of trust, care and comfort or positive feedback...We all can get there. 

I hope that whoever reads this and travels to Prague, would take a change to support this amazing experiment!  



os. Nàrodni 417/35, Praha 1, 110 00
+420 725 314 930
pragulic@pragulic.cz

    2015-02-19

    Miss Mureena Enterprises! What is your next destination?


    ~New & recycled memories~

    I have been quite busy lately, but with a one nice thing; I started my own small handicrafts business! 

    My main product is travel inspired jewelry (used maps and recycled beads), and handmade postcards based on my imagination. Also some reflectors available. The reflectors are uncommon outside Scandinavia, take a look. 

     I have not managed to code an online shop yet, but it is coming...slowly. I am also slowly spreading my collections available outside Tampere, but of course you can make orders already now through contacting me through the contact from here or through Miss Mureena Enterprises in Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/miss.mureena.enterprises (please like!)  or simply choosing to send an email to miss.mureena.enterprises@gmail.com.

    The jewelry is available now in Kahvila Runo (cafe) and in Forget Me Not (shop&cafe) in Tampere central city. 

    So, if you have someone special in mind, who needs to be reminded of you or some nice place, please think about me. I am more than happy to share a travel dream with you in a form of a ring, earrings or a pendant. What will be your next destination? Mine will be Prague, Czech Republic and the nice craft shops in there. 

    Happy travels, and sweet dreams of your favorite destination!






    2015-01-04

    Communication tips for locals



    Communication tips for "locals";
    How to meet a foreigner in your own country?

    1. Breath, do not freeze.
    2. Do not run away.
    3. Keep eye contact (if it is not offensive in your culture) and smile.
    4. Keep it simple, do not shout.
    5. Try a new way of communication; write, draw, act, pantomime...use the dictionary in your phone?
    6. Do not give up!


    And most of all, remember that the other person is not an idiot just because you do not speak the same language!


    2014-08-20

    Budget travel in Finland // Part 3 // by train



    As some people, who have been here, say, that traveling on budget is not possible in Finland. I am about to prove you wrong. I will cover all means of travel (bus, car, plane and train) and provide some tips that even only a few locals know. This is budget travel in Finland by Miss Mureena.

    The topic of today is the train.

    I have unfortunately a love/hate relationship with the train travel in Finland and the reason you can read in here.  It is a typical moaning about how things work and don´t work on Finnish railroads. Finlands railways, VR a.k.a Valtion Rautatiet (further mentioned  VR) has a monopoly in the country (at the moment) and there are no other companies. This makes the prices high, sometimes unbearable, but they are starting to realize what happens when the costs get too high...no customers. Train travel in general and it´s best; safe, relatively reliable, fast and comfortable. Easy as well, since all the announcements are in Finnish, Swedish and English. The network is ok, but as usual the horizontal west-east connections are failing. The latest disappointment has been to see how the company cuts off small stations and the trains do not stop everywhere anymore, then the only option will be a bus.


    Click the picture and you´ll be forwarded to  more detailed maps on VR site. 


    Most of the trains (long haul) have a free wifi and restaurant car (or a trolley) and decent toilets. The purchases in the restaurant car are limited and pricey --> bring your own snacks and water if possible, but note, that alcohol consumption is allowed only in the restaurant car, unless there the trolley moving.

    There are several ways to get the tickets; online service, ticket booth and the ticket office at the train station. You can now also buy and get the tickets at any R-Kioski around Finland. And there is also a possibility to buy the ticket on the train, nut it will be very expensive and I do not recommend it.

    To make a reservation/ buy the ticket go to https://www.vr.fi/cs/vr/en/frontpage. The service is available in 4 languages, Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian and it is very easy to use. The so called "pre-tickets" can be very cheap when purchased ahead through the online service. To increase the cast flow to the source there is also now a system for even cheaper tickets and it is called VETURI (locomotive in Finnish). It is worthwhile to register to be a user and you´ll get better discounts and last-minute-ticket-discounts for certain routes. This is highly recommended. the key is, book as soon as possible, and preferable through VETURI- memberpages.

    Through the previous pages you can also see the live train updates. Meaning, you can see if your train is late. This can be useful while sitting on the train itself, if you do not hear the announcements (if the train is late, it is normally informed only in Finnish) and want to know when to start putting your winter coat on.

    If you own a student card, but it is not issued in any Finnish institution, do not bother. You are not going to get a student discount!

    2014-07-28

    1st Miss Mureena travel test // Konjac sponge, part 3



    The sponge usage was going well untill the end of week 3, despite the fact that I had been able to keep it hanging freely for ony one week in a village of waterfalls. In Tad Lo, Laos we had a very nice bungalow with superb spacy bathroom and hand crafted tree branches that were to be used as a perfect sponge hanger.

    When we got back to Vietnam, I noted some small black areas on the sponge, but used it anyway since it did not smell. This time I used only the curved side, which happened to be free from any form of fungus activity, that I thought the black spots were. Or, the alternative was that it was just dirt from my face. Anyway, I kept storing the sponge as usual and tried to hang it dry whenever it was possible. I also kept my eye on any possible free riders (insects and similar) that could use the sponge as their new home.

    One morning (week 4) I woke up and went to perfrom my routines in the bathroom when I saw some rusty reddish antenna like thingies on the sponge. At first I thought that they were parts of sticks. When I rinsed the sponge under the tap, the antennas started moving and as I pushed the water out, there was someting more. A CENTIPEDE CRAWLED OUT OF THE SPONGE!! I threw the sponge to the sink, the centipede took a hike through the sewer system and I kept shivering. It was the time to let the sponge go.


    I burried the sponge ceremonically in Vietnam, at the Hoi An beach called Cam An. On the background you can see the local round rowing boats (still cannot figure out how they can be moved...). The burial was recommended by the manufacturer, because the sponge is natural fiber. The same night it was the new moon and the citizens were burning paper money to pray and show respect to their ancestors and by setting up a small altar in the front of the house where they served food and drinks. We had Biere Larue. We did not burn anything.

    Summary;
    This has been a very rough and extreme testing where I only used tap water to clean the sponge and did not do any treatments to clean it, but as said, it did not start smelling. Though a rinse in vinegar would have been good to perform every week and the container would have allowed me to rinse the sponge also in bottled/purified water. I do recommend them both if you want to have your Konjac-sponce to last longer, meaning longer than a month travel.

    Konjac-sponge is now travel tested in extreme conditions on a five week trip to South-East Asia during the monsoon season. Miss Mureena recommends with 5/5 stars and therefore Konjac-sponce recieves a record as a loyal & worthy travel companion!