For many travelers, one of the most exciting things to do when on vacation is to pack up your kit bag, get on a boat, and dive beneath the ocean waves to discover the extraordinary world that exists underwater.
Scuba diving is a wonderful activity, and offers unique sights, sounds, and experiences that you genuinely can’t replicate on dry land.
When most people think about scuba diving, they will bring to mind images of bright coral and waving underwater plants, tiny electric-colored tropical fish and gigantic manta rays. Essentially, for most people scuba diving means tropical diving. And certainly, tropical diving is a truly stunning experience. But there are other ways of experiencing the underwater world that offer totally different experiences. One of the most different is ice diving.
Ice diving means putting on a drysuit, rather than a wetsuit, and plunging into freezing, icy waters. Gone are the brightly colored tropical fish, replaced with stunning visions of drifting icebergs, seals, and tiny (but no less remarkable) sea angels and other organisms that have adapted to the sub-zero temperatures.
When it comes to diving destinations, Japan might not spring to mind. But Japan offers a huge variety of dive sites, and lets you combine both tropical, warm-water scuba diving with more adventurous ice dives in the same trip!
So if you are considering cruising to Japan, check out this list of the best ice and tropical diving sites, and discover a magical world under the water.
Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido
Hokkaido is the center of ice diving in Japan, with the Shiretoko Peninsula its marvelous, magical heart. The frozen north of Japan offers seas covered in ice floes over the winter, but as the ice begins to break up as spring approaches, divers can journey underneath the floes, to discover a genuinely once-in-a-lifetime experience. The sea life here is obviously less abundant than in warmer waters, but divers will see plenty of cold-water fish, as well as other marine life like sea anemones, starfish, urchins, and the amazing, bizarre, almost alien lifeforms known as sea angels. Seals are also regular visitors to these waters, another wonderful bonus.
Izu Ocean Park, Izu Peninsula
One of the best sites close to Tokyo, Izu Ocean Park is a brilliant day trip from the capital, and extremely popular as a result. The park boasts a huge variety of underwater landscapes, from flat sandy expanses to ancient lava flows, and with vibrant coral reefs, stunning schools of groupers, and some truly dramatic marine life like dragon moray eels and eerie stingrays, there’s so much to see.
Ishigaki Island, Okinawa
Ishigaki Island off the coast of Okinawa prefecture, just under two hundred miles northeast of Taiwan, is one of Japan’s great dive sites, and a heaven for divers from all over the world. With crystal-clear warm water, pristine coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life, it’s not hard to see why. While all the diving is special here, the main event is the vast number of manta rays that congregate in this gorgeous tropical spot during late summer, creating a magnificent spectacle, and putting the cherry on the top of this very special spot.