Nate and I decided to spend July 4th, 2016 camping in the Keramas. The Keramas is a cluster of around 20 different islands only 35 km west of our main island of Okinawa. Out of the 20 islands, there are 4 that are inhabited: Toshiki, Zamami, Aka, and Geruma. The Keramas are known for their beauty, excellent diving, crystal blue waters, snorkeling, whale watching, and turtles!
We were going to camp on Zamami island, but first, we took one of the ferries from Naha, Okinawa over there - which took about 2 hrs. Lucky for Ricky Bobby - we were able to bring him with us!
Once we arrived on the island (which only has one taxi that you have to reserve in advance FYI ;) ) we loaded all our camping gear onto the local bus and headed over to Ama Beach 阿真ビーチ. Once we arrived and checked in, we found a nice shaded area to set up shop for the weekend. All in all, there were only about 20 other tents at the site, Japanese and English - so not too crowded.
The beach at the campsite is very pretty and the best thing about it is that it's a popular feeding spot for turtles!! #myfavorite Once we were set up, we headed down to go check out the beach with Ricky Bobby and his new life jacket in tow ;) Ricky Bobby isn't a huge fan of the water..... but we're forcing him to like it slowly... whether he wants to or not. Plus, he's pretty damn cute in his life jacket. And the water here is much warmer than California (which is a plus for him). Nate and I took turns snorkeling and looking for turtles, and holding the dog child in the water. Unfortunately, in the middle of the afternoon, is not the best time to look for turtles, but the water was warm, clear, and had a few fish and coral to keep us entertained.
After our afternoon dip in the ocean, we headed back to camp (a whole 30 meters away), and started cooking dinner. Before we left, since we had limited space in our small cooler we brought, I looked up a few easy recipes on Pinterest to make it as easy on us as I could while there.
Our first camping meal: Campfire Pizza Log. Essentially, roll out some pizza dough in a rectangle, add sauce, cheese, pepperoni, etc and roll dough in the shape of a log, then roll in tin foil. Then just throw the wrapped pizza log into your grill/fire.
I was a bit skeptical and hoped this would work out, because hey, who doesn't love pizza?! (if you don't, you're a weirdo. Pizza is one of my main food groups...) All in all this worked out pretty good, but make sure to keep an eye on it to not overcook it - especially on one side.... which is what we did. Way too long on one side and basically burnt it to a blacken crisp. I'm not a huge fan of burnt pizza... crispy yes, but not where the whole crust is just black and hard. The other side and inside of the pizza log turned out great though! #silverlining
Once we removed as much of the bad side of our log as we could, we took our little hand held pizza log, and headed down to the beach for sunset.
For our nighttime treat - s'mores are obviously a must for camping. But we decided to try out a less messy version - Campfire s'more cones. Basically stuff sugar cones with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, then roll them in tin foil and toss'em into the fire.
This worked good! Wasn't too messy and a nice little treat before calling it a night :)
A tip for anyone who wants to camp in Okinawa, or it's surrounding islands in the summer - get ready for the HEAT. It was miserable trying to sleep and I think it cooled down to a nice 80 degrees at night with 100% humidity - meaning around 100 degree wind 'chill' according to our weather app. And once it turned dark, the flying cockroaches emerged! #worstnightmare #yesflyingcockroaches Once I discovered these suckers, Nate and I secured ourselves in our tent to read and play cards until we fell asleep.
Because it was so hot camping, it meant we woke up early, around 6am. This meant we got to enjoy nice little ocean swims to wake us up (and cool us off) first thing in the morning. And apparently, around 6-7 am is when those cute little turtles like to come feed at the beach we were at! Yay! So even though it was miserable at night, waking up and swimming with the sea turtles totally made it worth it :)
Once we got our morning turtle snorkel sesh in, we had some pre made breakfast burritos (I did bacon instead of sausage) to finish off our morning before we were picked up for scuba diving. (side note: Breakfast burritos were good, and easy to make ahead of time.)
We booked our scuba diving session in the Keramas with Joy Diving. The spoke a little English (enough for us to get by) and when I asked how long our dives would be since we were debating about bringing Ricky Bobby with us, they told us we were welcome to bring him along with us! #awesome #divedog #doglifejacket #islandlife (My dad wanted me to write 'Shark bait' on his life jacket) I had no idea whether Ricky Bob would like the diving boat or not, but he's pretty easy so we figured we'd try it. And, as expected, he had no problem at all, and tried to make friends with the other divers on the boat on the way out to the first site. Basically, it was Nate and I, and then about 5 Japanese divers and a little broken English/Japanese. But it didn't matter - diving is pretty easy and just stay with your group :) And the captain was more than happy to hang with Ricky Bob while we went under since he has 2 small dogs himself.
I don't know the site of our first stop of the day, but we started at around 20 ft below with some beautiful coral and fish, and ended up about 60 ft deep. It was here we got to look up and see 2 sea turtles swimming above us. It was mesmerizing actually swimming with these beautiful creatures instead of just snorkeling and seeing from above. This view actually reminded me of a paint nite painting I had seen (shown below). (Who wants to paint this with me when I'm back in the states?!) I wanted to stay here and not leave, but sadly, you can only breathe under water for so long, plus Ricky Bob, the official dive dog mascot, was waiting for us.
After our first dive, we headed back to Zamami to rest for 2 hours in between our dives. Nate and I headed out to go find some lunch and stumbled upon a yummy burger spot - Zamami Burger - which is also a hostel and guest house. The burgers hit the spot and were just the thing we needed to get our energy up for our next dive!
For our second and final dive of the day, we headed out to a beautiful (and one of my most favorite) dive spot. Here we got down and started swimming only about 5 mins and saw turtles! Lots of them! We first swam up on 2 turtles resting on some coral. Then saw two turtles swimming through the area. Then found another 2-3 resting around the area. It was serene and an awesome experience to get up close to these guys under water.
After our amazing sea turtle experience, I didn't think our dive could get any better but it did. We kept swimming and found an underwater canyon. It was surreal going through this canyon 40 ft below the surface with the sunlight peaking through the water up above. Hard to describe how beautiful it was and I don't think pictures do this dive (or scuba diving in general) justice.
After diving all day, we headed back to our campsite. In the late afternoon, we headed back into the water to go swim the sea turtles feeding in the afternoon at Ama Beach because apparently we hadn't had our turtle fix yet for the day! We were exhausted after spending all day swimming in the crystal clear ocean, and had an easy dinner of Shrimp Sausage packets with corn and potato. Threw them into the campfire to cook and enjoyed! (Then quickly got inside our tent to avoid the gross flying cockroaches!)
Our last morning camping at Ama Beach, we enjoyed one last snorkel sesh with the turtles. #cantgetenough Then tried a different version of one of my favorite camping meals. I've done orange blueberry muffins before, but saw an idea for cinnamon roll oranges (stuff scooped out oranges with cinnamon rolls, wrap in tin foil, and cook in the campfire). These turned out fantastic and either one makes an easy, delicious morning treat!
After packing up, we took all our stuff back to the Zamami port. We left it in a corner of the waiting room (yes - you can do that kind of stuff in Japan because people don't steal stuff #whataconcept), then headed over to another beach on the island - Furuzamami Beach. This is the most popular beach on Zamami island and is known for it's snorkeling since it has a lot of coral pockets with colorful fish. Nate and I took turns snorkeling, and watching Ricky Bobby before heading back on the ferry to Okinawa.
Once back on Okinawa, we dressed up in our all American gear and headed down to American Village to celebrate the 4th of July with some beer, like any good American would :) Happy 4th and cheers!
Follow in our footsteps:
Ferry information here or www.zamamienglishguide.com/ferrieshere
Reserve your ticket in advance by calling 098-868-4567 - definitely recommend if you're headed over on a weekend (Say "Eggo-gah, wakaree-maskah" (written phonetically - not correctly - translating to "Do you understand English?")
Ama Beach campground info
Call to make reservations 098-987-3259
English Zamami guide
434-2 Zamami, Zamami-vi OKINAWA 901-3402
They respond quickly through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
126 Zamami, Shimajiri District, Okinawa Prefecture
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!