Thanks to the internet I found out that the other island visible from Sesoko beach next to Iejima is also inhabited and that there is a ferry going there. The island is called Minna and the much smaller ferry to it left from a small port called Toguchi not too far away from Motobu port. There were two ferries per day during the winter, one left at 11:00, the other at 17:00. If you go with the one at 11:00 you can catch the ferry back to the main island at 14:00, which is the last ferry leaving back to the mainland.
Minna Island is so far the tiniest inhabited island I have been to. There are fifty or less people living there.
I asked at the harbor whether I can take my bicycle. A guy in the office, who turned out to be the ferry’s captain, said you don’t need a bicycle, you can walk the entirety of the island in one hour and the roads are too bad too. Okay 😉 So I left my bicycle at the harbor. The comment about the roads being “too bad” translated into dirt paths outside the paved hundred meters of village.
The place is insanely beautiful but tiny indeed. In summer they have tourists on the beach, but now people are not swimming due to those venomous creatures around between November and March, so the place is lonely. In summer it must be quite a party island. It’s shaped like a croissant and the inner bay and the beach outside are both fantastic.
I first walked to the crescent bay, then around one arm. Then around the other. They have a school with two or so students on the island and some ten houses nestle around the school. There is no shop and not even a road really.
After two hours you indeed don’t know what to do anymore and I returned to the harbor where the ferry still sat waiting.
Walking up and down the beach I ran into this fellow here, it even walked once in while 😉
Back at the main island at already 14:15, the day was still young and I rode my bicycle inland in search for a forest park. The place is lovely and gave me that jungle feeling of Iriomote island for a few moments.
Then, I was determined to find out more about the mystery of the white buildings of Sesoko below the school which I again had seen from the ship to Minna island. I rode around Sesoko, trying to find a way there and ended up dumping the bicycle and trying on foot, but neglected sugar cane fields full of two and more meters high weed stood between me and the white buildings and I saw no getting through. I was about to give up when I ran into a guy on a scooter who looked like kind of a guard. He stopped and told me that the road I’m on is a dead end. I asked him about the buildings and he said, oh they are part of the failed resort hotel too and off limits. They were supposed to be the bungalow part of the hotel.
Hurray. The mystery was solved and I went back to my bicycle and rode to my functioning hotel. Whatever company tried to develop the resort must have bought the whole northwest corner of the island. What a shame that it now stands there all and rots. It wold have been nice had they torn down the modern ruins and returned the land to the people or the Okinawa government or something.
Churaumi part two
Back to the aquarium on my last day of holidays but a lot of other stuff before that. I bicycled beyond the ocean expo park area to the Bise Furugiya road, an “old” village with dirt paths between the houses that are lined with trees. The trees stand so close together that they produce tree tunnels. In some of the houses regular people are living, while some of the houses are pensions, but I wouldn’t want to live where tourists are wandering over my front yard every day! Amazing.
Then I went back to the Ocean Expo park. At first into a pacific ocean museum, which is mostly Polynesian themed, describing the islanders lives and their canoes. Then I visited a planetarium session about the winter sky in Okinawa with a nice local legend about the Pleiades.
On the way to the botanical garden are traditional Okinawa houses, and yes, times were tough when everything was made from wood and bast fibers. Then on to the botanical garden through the park. Every detail is beautifully designed in this place and it must be such a big amount of work to keep it all up and running. The botanical garden is insanely beautiful with every detail in perfect order. Thousands of orchids and other plants are there to enchant. I think this is one of the best botanical gardens I have seen so far. It only competes with the botanical gardens of Singapore.
Then I returned to the aquarium. I had been there the first time in the morning and noon and had learned that there is whale shark feeding at 15:00 and also 17:00 every day. The guys eat krill. They suck it in together with water and for that purpose they turn to “stand” in the water, which is the only time they do a thing like that. It’s quite impressive to see these eight meter long beasts standing in the water while they eat.
After the feeding there is some krill left and it makes the waters a bit fuzzy. To clear it up they blow oxygen from below the tank, and a pillar of water bubbles rises in its middle. The black manta had its fun with the bubbles and made somersaults inside it.
I hope the plan of making the whale sharks breed works, I would take the opportunity to come back to this aquarium to see a few hundred tiny whale sharks in the tank. 😉 I learned at this second visit that they also have another female whale shark, which is not in the main tank. She is not yet big enough to swim with the two others. Sounds like she is the “spare” candidate in case the two in the tank don’t like each other. 😉 Looking around in the internet shows that actually not that much is known about whale sharks. They might get over 70 years old. They reach sexual maturity only at around 30 years. Well, let’s hope the three in Okinawa will teach us a bit more about their reproduction.
I said good bye to the aquarium and the expo park then and bicycled home to “my” island, where I checked the sunset at the local beach again, but it was too cloudy to see the sun sink, nevertheless the sky and the sea were magnificent.
The next morning, one of the hotel staff brought me to the bus stop for the bus to the airport again and I asked him when the high season is and it indeed is summer. So far I’ve been to Okinawa prefecture only in spring, autumn and now winter, summer is still missing 😉 but, the hotel gentleman said every year they have to bring three, four guests to the hospital with severe sunburns! Okinawan people try to stay indoors during the day and only go out in the morning or the evening while the – he didn’t say stupid, but he meant it – stupid tourists go outside and swim e.g. without t-shirts on to protect themselves against the intense sunlight. If a local goes into the water, they all wear t-shirts, he said. Well, since I’m not only a colored but also a slight natural redhead and get sunburns after five minutes, I usually walk around quite thoroughly dressed even if it’s hot, so I should be fine also in summer 😉
It’s been a great and stress-free trip.
But the next adventure awaits – my “real” holidays of this winter – 70,000 tons of metal! Starting 2nd of February. uhhhh!