The thick heavy clouds that were looming yesterday came during the night, and did they ever bring along rain. Our hearts sank a little. We realised that we were going to have a wet holiday in Okinawa… We’d anticipated rain today, so last night we made a plan B (plan A was beaches/snorkelling and aquarium). Plan B was the same, minus the beaches/snorkelling.
Before our host rushed off to work he suggested that we use some of the bread from last night to make French toast, so we did and it was amazing.
We waited for a break in the showers, put on our wet weather gear and hoped for sunshine, or at least for it to not rain too heavy on us. We made it a fair way back along the same tropical mountain pass that we rode along (in near darkness) last night without much more than a few small occasional showers. We were about half way (of the 50+km one-way journey) when the rain started. By the time we arrived at the aquarium, I was almost completely wet, even though I was wearing a raincoat… Luckily Risa had me to block the rain, so she was relatively dry.
The aquarium is one of Japan’s largest/finest, so we had high expectations. Tickets are usually ¥1800, but yesterday Risa saw that you could buy them in advance from a convenience store (Family Mart) for ¥1640. Not much of a saving, but a saving is a saving (enough change for me to try the weird Spam and egg onigiri).
The first area as you enter Churaumi (which means beautiful sea in Okinawan) aquarium is a touchy-feely pool, where you could stroke/poke/touch starfish/sea cucumbers etc. The sea cucumbers just felt like velvety water bombs. Not something I would find an think to try eating.
From the touchy-feely pool, we headed down to a giant reef, filled with all the beautiful/odd fish that you could wish for. Everywhere we looked we found new favourite fish, so beautiful. Though, I didn’t understand what is stopping the larger fish from eating the smaller ones.
The next major tank (and undoubtedly the feature attraction) was a 10,000ton (10,000,000 litre) tank, featuring not one, but three whale sharks, dozens of manta rays, tuna, sharks, bonito and other fish. They all looked gigantically impressive, until we got right close to the wall of the tank. Then they were freaking huge. Photos don’t give it a sense of scale. I don’t care if they only eat krill, I wouldn’t want to swim anywhere near whale sharks or rays.
Outside there were several dolphin/porpoise tanks. We caught the tail end of a dolphin show, where they were jumping/dancing/being cute. There were also some depressing small concrete tanks with sea turtles, and another with manatee. While it was generally a spacious zoo (by Japanese standards) I guess no zoos are great place for animals to live, especially for the larger animals. By paying to see them, I can’t help to feel implicated in their captivity.
Anyway, eventually we’d had enough and headed back across to the east coast to Higashi. Tonight our host wasn’t feeling great (he’d been training for a race) so we cooked a simple (nearly disastrous) dinner and had an early night.