Okinawa, a world-class coral paradise.
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.
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.
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.
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.