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Zamami

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Zamami (座間味) is an island in Zamami Village.

Understand[edit]

Zamami Village is a part of the larger island group, the Kerama Islands (Keramashoto, 慶良間諸島), in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Zamami's only about an hour's high-speed ferry ride from Okinawa's capital, Naha, but worlds apart with turquoise waters, white sand beaches, abundant coral, and untouched old-growth forests. Zamami Village is a part of the recently designated Keramashoto National Park and was also designated as a Wetland of International Important under the Ramsar Convention. Known as a top diving locale since as early as the 60s, Zamami offers ideal conditions for snorkeling, sea kayaking, standup paddleboarding, fishing, Nordic walking, enjoying the beach, and more. Although a sub-tropical island destination, Zamami offers a rare corner of quiet, undeveloped, untouched, pristine nature. Zamami's not a resort, which is exactly what makes it great.

Zamami Village is comprised of three inhabited islands: Zamami, Aka (aka. Akajima), and Geruma.

Get in[edit]

Zamami is primarily reachable via the village-run ferries that depart from Tomari Port in Naha. All ferries stop at both Zamami Port (Zamami Island) and Aka Port (Aka Island). There are two ferries: the high-speed "Queen Zamami III" and the larger "Ferry Zamami III". The Queen takes 50-70 minutes to reach Zamami depending on which port it goes to first. The Queen costs \3140 one-way and \5970 round-trip. The Ferry Zamami takes approximately 2 hours to reach Zamami Island and costs \2120 one-way (\4030 round trip).

You can book ferry tickets online via the Web Reservation System. (Click the "Log In" button to proceed) Booking online requires a credit card. You can also book by phone by calling Zamami Village's ticket office in Tomari Port at Tel. 098-868-4567. You could always reserve tickets in person at Tomari Port. Reservations are always recommended during peak seasons (golden week, summer, August, September, October) as the ferries can become booked full (esp. Queen).

You can also get to Zamami Village from neighboring Tokashiki Village's (Tokashiki Island) Aharen Port. You have to reserve tickets for Zamami's Mitsushima Inter-Island Ferry's Kerama Route by calling the ticket office on Zamami Island at 098-987-2614. The Kerama Route costs \700 traveling to Zamami Village (Zamami or Aka) and \800 traveling to Tokashiki. (Tokashiki levies a \100 "environment tax" for entering their port)

Lastly, you can reach Zamami Village's Kerama Airport (Fukaji Island--connected to Geruma and Aka by bridges) via chartered helicopter. Excel Air Service operates charters (Japanese only). There are also a boat-charter operator in Zamami Village called Oscamintol (098-987-2356).

Please note: although the Zamami island isn't so far away from Tomari Port, the ferries are limited to only 2-3 times per day. You can either reach the island in the morning with the 9/10 am ferries or in the afternoon with the 4 pm ferry. By using the Web Reservation System (link above) you can see the schedule of the ferries. Also please check, if you want to make a day trip, when the afternoon ferry leaves.

Get around[edit]

You can walk to either of the beaches in about 20 minutes (1.5km). There are also bicycle, electric bicycle, scooter, and car rentals available in the area near the port. Stop by the tourist information center in the port to grab a map. Zamami's quite hilly, and it's quite the workout to try to go around the island without a motor.

There is a village run bus with two routes that go to either of the beaches. The bus costs \300 yen per person one-way. Stop by the tourist information center to check the schedule. It primarily runs in unison with the arrivals and departures of the ferries.

There was one taxi on the island (there only can be one due to stringent Japanese laws on transportation), but it is currently out of service. It might be operating when you go, but again stop by the information center to find out if it's operating.

The Mitsushima Inter-Island Ferry runs between Zamami Island and Aka Island and costs \300 yen per person one-way.

See[edit]

In addition to its white-sand beaches, Zamami has multiple observation decks spread over the island that offer stunning views. It's fun to bring a pre-made boxed lunch up for a picnic (always take your trash with you!). Other on-land sights include a host of tropical birds that frequent the island. Zamami's got nice sunsets and on clear nights you can even see the Milky Way.

In the water, you can see all kinds of coral and tropical fish. You generally must snorkel to see these things, but Kerama Ocean offers glass-boat tours. Lucky divers can even encounter manta rays during the right season.

Every winter (end of Dec. to beginning of Apr.) humpback whales return to the waters around Zamami to breed, give birth to, and raise their young. There are whale watching tours available from Zamami port during that time. Email the Whale Watching Association to make reservations.

Do[edit]

There are nice waters around the island so scuba diving is the most popular activity. Other options are snorkeling and sea kayaking. Most recently standup paddleboarding has been gaining popularity in the village. There are many marine-activity shops in the village, but the shops that accept customers who can only speak English seems to change quite frequently. Check the official English tourism page (Zamami Tourist Information) operated by the Zamami Village Office to see what shops are currently available and how to contact them.

Sea Kayaking[edit]

Diving[edit]

The island has many dive charter companies, and diving is their main tourist attraction. There are over 400 species of coral and 200 species of fish in the village's waters.

Camping[edit]

There is a campground about a 15 minute walk from the ferry port on the beach with toilet, shower and bbq facilities. They also have some camping equipment to rent. The campground is in a grove of shady pine trees right on the Ama Beach in the Ama Hamlet. Call the campground to reserve rental equipment (098-987-3259). Tents start at \1000 per person per night. Otherwise there is a \300 yen fee per person per night to use the facilities. There are also a number of cottages available to rent for \20,000 per night. This page provides detailed information.

Snorkeling[edit]

There are a number of diving and snorkeling points around the island but most snorkel at Furuzamami Beach and the Ama Beach. You can rent snorkeling equipment at Furuzamami Beach and nearby Ama Beach during the summer and peak seasons. It costs approximately \1500 yen per day for a 3-item set (snorkel, mask, and fins). Always wear a lifejacket. It keeps both you and the coral safe. Without a lifejacket, swimmers inadvertently stand on and kicke the coral. This kills the coral and the fish that inhabit it lose their home and disappear. Wear a lifejacket.

Standup Paddleboarding[edit]

Standup paddleboarding (SUP) involves standing on a long board and propelling oneself with a paddle. Zamami's sheltered waters provide a calm sea for participants to learn how to SUP. Standing on the ultra-transparent waters, you can see all kinds of fish and coral below. Standup paddleboarding tours often involve paddling to a nearby uninhabited island, snorkeling around the island, and paddling back. Check Zamami Tourist Information (ZTI) for an updated list of tour services.

Geocaching[edit]

There are a number of geocaches on the island, most of them at the lookout points. http://www.geocaching.com

Zamami Festival[edit]

Zamami Festival is held usually on the third Saturday of August and includes performances such as Eisa drum dancing, local musicians, and fireworks. Local restaurants line the venue and sell food and drinks.

Sabani Race[edit]

The annual Sabani Race (a traditional Okinawan boat) from Furuzamami beach on Zamami Island to Okinawa Island runs the last weekend in June.

Buy[edit]

The Zamami-Mun Market in the Zamami Port Terminal building exclusively sells Zamami-made souvenirs from the locally grown mozuku seaweed and related products to t-shirts and cellphone cases.

There are three small grocery stores on the island, all located in the main Zamami Area next to the port.

  1. 105 Store: the largest of the three stores
  2. Komine Store: growing in both size and inventory.
  3. Zamami Store

Eat[edit]

There are many restaurants and "izakaya" (Japanese-style pubs) in the main Zamami Area. Grab a map in the information center and be sure to stop by the restaurant during the day to make a reservation for dinner if you are visiting during peak-season months.

There are two small parlors in the facilities at Furuzamami Beach that offer light food items such as Okinawa Soba, shaved ice, taco rice, etc. There are 1-2 small parlors located near Ama Beach during the summer that feature similar offerings.

There is a premade boxed lunch shop near the 105 store in the center of the Zamami Area. The grocery stores also sell premade boxed lunches, some made by the restaurants in Zamami, others sent from Okinawa Island.

You can find a cafe at 3 mins walk from the main port. "CHA-VILLA" serves coffee, tea and some cakes. You can enjoy them in or out, but getting out to the beautiful garden is highly recommended.

Drink[edit]

Most of the restaurants and all of the Izakaya in town sell ice-cold glasses of Orion beer. Awamori (Okinawan distilled rice wine) is a standard at all of the establishments as well. Many places offer an assortment of awamori-based cocktails.

Zamami Village had a distillery on Okinawa Island produce an infused awamori with bayberries that are naturally grow on and are locally harvested in Zamami Village. You can buy this "yama-momo shu" at the grocery store.

Sleep[edit]

There are over 30 small-scale pensions and inns on Zamami Island that accept customers who can only speak English. Many of Zamami's accommodations are "minshuku" (民宿). Minshuku are small, family-operated bed & breakfast establishments. Breakfast is not a requirement, and you can even include dinner with you accommodations depending on the minshuku. Many minshuku feature Japanese-style futon-on-tatami sleeping arrangements and shared bathrooms. However, there are minshuku with western-style bed rooms that include private bathrooms. These are also called "pension," but the distinction is a blurry one.

Zamami Tourist Information has a comprehensive list of accommodations with descriptions and contact information.

You can also stay at the Ama Beach Campground in the Ama Hamlet as described above.

Connect[edit]

Within the official Japanese website, you can find a link to the official English-information page, Zamami Tourist Information.

There is a guide in English written by a former English teacher on the island. Some of the information is dated. [1]

Go next[edit]

Take the Mitsushima Inter-Island Ferry to Akajima or go on a tour boat.

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