Okinawa, a world-class coral paradise.

Although coral is often spoken of as a single entity, there are actually around 800 different species of coral, of which an impressive 200 inhabit Okinawa’s waters.
Corals serve as “a barometer for the ocean’s health,” as they can only aggregate and grow in waters that are warm, clear, and clean.
Okinawa’s expansive coral is some of the healthiest in the world, making its seas worthy of the title “coral paradise.”

Corals can be divided into two large categories: hermatypic corals, or those that build reefs, and ahermatypic corals, or those that live individually.
The so-called tropical island corals conjure up images of hermatypic corals, such as table corals and branching corals.
Colorful, popping coral reefs extend across Okinawa’s coastal waters and the reef tops of its open seas (with their steady currents).

In a broad sense of the word, “soft corals” can also be considered corals.
Like hard corals, soft corals are colorful and diverse. Found on reefs and drop offs, they resemble fields of blooming flowers.

Coral is a cradle for life In general, clear seas are said to be lacking in nutrients and life, while cloudy seas are abundant in nutrients and fish.
Corals, with their clear waters and abundance of fish, provide a solution to this dilemma.
Coral has a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic zooxanthellae, which create oxygen and nutrients necessary for aquatic life.
This results in the formation of a wide variety of habitats. All manner of creatures live nestled against the coral, seeking protection from invaders.
It is this symbiotic relationship that givers coral reefs their ability to maintain clear, clean waters while brimming with aquatic life.
The variety of fish that can be seen at reefs varies greatly with constituent coral. Approach reefs slowly and have a look for yourself.

Green chromi and other members of the family Pomacentridae flock to coral mounds dotting the sandy ocean floor. When approached by divers, they dart into the crevices of the coral to hide.

Redeye gobies form loose schools as they hover around coral.
As their name suggests, their eyes are red in color.

The whitelined coral goby.
Many creatures favor the crevices of coral.

Coral crevices are treasure troves for sea creatures. Some photo enthusiasts will spend an entire dive floating motionless over the coral, snapping pictures of these crevices.
The manta ray, Okinawa’s most popular sea creature, also loves coral?! Vying for the title of most popular among divers, the manta ray is what comes to mind when you think of large, beloved sea creatures.
Okinawa’s Ishigaki-jima Island is renowned for its “Manta Scramble” spot, so named because the frequency of mantas passing through is reminiscent of a scramble intersection.
Inhabited by coral, the reef tops (referred to as “cleaning stations) are a favorite spot of manta rays.

As they hover above the reefs, their bodies are pecked clean by the large number of “cleaning fish” that inhabit the nutrient-rich coral.
Sometimes several mantas visit at the same time and form a “manta train” that circles about the reef.

Protect earth’s precious coral! Coral performs many functions, cultivating life, cleaning the surrounding water, and serving as a natural breakwaters. But they are important not only to the ocean, but to the earth as a whole.
When considering the damage done to corals by the massive proliferation of crown-of-thorns starfish, coral bleaching caused by global warming, and other factors, you may ask yourself, “what can I, as a single person, do to help?” Well as a diver, you can start by being aware of and protecting the coral around you. And by causing absolutely no harm to corals.
That means endeavoring not to touch any coral while diving, and to perfect neutral buoyancy so as not to accidentally kick, break, or fall on coral.
Look for other Coral point

Photo by Takaji Ochi

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