Something I always wish to see when I’m in the ocean, are sea turtles.
The idea of just casually swimming in the ocean and coming face to face with a sea turtle gliding through the water with its large body may seem next to impossible. Nevertheless there is a place that we know of where there is a higher than 90% chance of seeing them – and that place is Hachijojima.
What is Hachijojima like?
Hachijojima, Tokyo Prefecture.
Streets lined with palm trees and a relatively warm climate creates a tropical island feel. 2 majestic mountains stand on both sides of the town, and the feel of a tropical island together with the vastness of mountains creates a distinctly Hachijojima-like atmosphere.
A trip to a tropical island may sound like quite the trip, but in fact it’s only a 45 minute flight from Tokyo Haneda Airport. By boat it takes 10 hours, but as the boat travels overnight on the way to the island, you can sleep through most of the journey and arrive around the time that you wake up. Plus, it’s affordable, a round trip ticket only costs ¥15,000-20,000.
A tropical island feel paired with plentiful fresh fish as only possible on an island with an active fishing industry, plenty of activities to do in the mountains and in the water, and onsen hot springs to heal your sun damaged skin… it’s an island loaded with attractions for a perfect way to spend your holiday.
What’s more, at Hachijojima, there is a higher than 90% chance that you will see sea turtles.
What’s the secret to seeing sea turtles at a higher than 90% chance?
So what are the ways in which you can see sea turtles on Hachijojima? There are two ways.
These are snorkeling and diving.
To be more precise, it’s snorkeling and diving in the summer, and just diving in winter. In Hachijojima, even in the winter the water temperature is higher than 20 degrees celsius. Oftentimes you are required to have a license to go diving, but at Hachijojima there are options to join a guided dive for which no license is required, or go snorkeling with kids and still get to see sea turtles.
There are tricks to reaching the hot spots for sea turtles, so it’s best to go with an instructor to raise your chances.
Hachijojima Snorkeling Guide – Hachijojima Tourism Association (Only in Japanese)
Hachijojima Diving Guide – Hachijojima Scuba Diving Business Association (Only in Japanese)
You are free to go snorkeling without a guide, but for a better chance of spotting sea turtles, or else you aren’t an experienced snorkeler, it’s safer to be accompanied by a guide.
Have your photo taken on a guided dive!
You can hold those memories spent swimming with sea turtles in your heart, but wouldn’t it be even better if you actually have a photographic record? Some of the shops offering guided dives help take photos of you with the sea turtles. Some even give you the data for free.
The diving shop I used this trip is called Arabesque (The website is written in Japanese).
It wasn’t until quite recently that I went snorkeling for the first time in a decade, so needless to say I was quite nervous about trying out diving, a next level up for me. That said, I was given proper training prior to going in the water, and even once in the water the guide stayed close to me so I wouldn’t get scared. I eventually got comfortable enough to swim with the sea turtles, and admire the cute tropical fish swimming by, but most of all I enjoyed the surreal experience of recognizing that I was swimming inside of the great ocean.
All the photos of myself in the water with sea turtles were given to me by Arabesque. I am very satisfied with the quality of the photos.
Go see some sea turtles any time of year!
Hachijojima is great even for a short weekend trip. With tropical plants, seasonal glowing mushrooms, hiking, onsens and more, there are a ton of activities to be enjoyed.
How about going there next weekend?
Enjoy a relaxing trip where you can be close to sea turtles and nature.