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Old 31 July 2020, 04:43
Freeballs Freeballs is offline
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Question Open Water Certification Help, Okinawa

Iím planning on getting a recreational SCUBA certification and rec diving while Iím in Okinawa. From forum searches Iíve noticed a lot of folks on this site have gone recreational diving in Okinawa. Iíve heard that the instructor makes the course and Iíd like to get the most out of my time possible. So long story short, can anyone help me out with a recommendation on which dive shop/program to get certified through? Or maybe more important, any places to stay away from? I asked my cousin, but he was here 12 years ago and couldnít remember any of the shops he used.

I already have all the ďcheapĒ gear, so renting fins, mask, etc. isnít a concern, and my general fitness level right now is okay if a little shitty. Iíve been a lazy POS for the past 6 months or so with no pool access and the last 4 weeks of ROM hasnít helped, but Iíd say I can still pass a PST. Hopefully that answers most of the common questions. I did do a couple thread searches, if I missed the ďGet Certified Here in OkinawaĒ thread Iíll happily go waterboard myself.
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Old 31 July 2020, 05:09
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My friend who has lived as a civilian in Oki for years says that if you fall under the SOFA agreement, the on base dive shops are the best bet.

Let us know if you don’t have base access. That will require some follow-up.
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Old 31 July 2020, 05:43
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I appreciate the quick response, I'm under SOFA and have base access so that will work. Just wanted to make sure I was getting the best instruction I could. I didn't want a rubber stamp course that'd give me just enough training to get myself killed.

Might be a stupid question, but are the on base shops the best for renting gear after you get certified as well?
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Old 31 July 2020, 07:00
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Enjoy the Sea Snakes.
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Old 31 July 2020, 07:14
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My wife and I were in Oki last April for a visit. We used the shop on Kadena and Camp Foster. Both shops on that Camp had a decent selection of stuff and services. Both shops were good and left me with a positive impression. They had some dive packages as well, I'd think that they would be networked in with the locals as far as decent sites. That and going on a charter with Americans might be a good option for you, if you don't speak the language. Camp Foster's shop was larger and had more options, overall nicer shop than many I've been to here in the U.S.

We stayed at Okuma Beach as well, an MWR location that had cabins and plenty of water activities + gear rentals. The water was amazing but the damn sea snakes were plentiful.

We are going back in 2021 (pending restrictions) and will use the base shops to do some diving.
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Old 31 July 2020, 07:16
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Enjoy the Sea Snakes.
F**k the sea snakes. We came across 7 in an hour, one seemed to be in a playful mood and wanted to swim parallel to me (about 10 ft away) for some time, I made a turn and the sombitch thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.
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Old 31 July 2020, 07:36
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Virtually all of the bases on Oki have dive shops they offer training and certification:

Torii Station (where I was certified ages ago)
Kadena Marina
Camp Foster

There may be others but those are the most centrally located

Oki has become a tourist hub for mainlanders and Chinese and in fact before COVID shut down travel to Japan, Okinawa surpassed Hawaii as a Japanese tourist destination. The result is that local dives shops have sprung up all over the place as well. But if you can access a base, I would do so. Most have Facebook pages or websites so you should be able to contact them before you go and set up arrangements.
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Old 31 July 2020, 07:43
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Thanks, I appreciate all the quick replies. I don't speak the language yet, I'm planning on trying to pick it up while I'm here. I'm studying for my advancement exam, so learning Japanese is currently backburnered. I'm pretty sure Camp Foster is relatively close to me, and I work at Kadena. I just got here so I'm still figuring out geography and place names. I'll just stick to the on base dive shops till I get my act figured out enough to get a little more adventurous.

If you do make it out in 21 Godzilla, I'll be here, feel free to look me up. Although I'd definitely get more out of it then you would, I haven't done shit yet.

I remember reading in the dive manual that sea snakes are fairly venomous, but they don't usually manage to actually inject it. They just break their teeth off in you. Either way, sounds like a blast.
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Old 31 July 2020, 08:04
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...If you do make it out in 21 Godzilla, I'll be here, feel free to look me up. Although I'd definitely get more out of it then you would, I haven't done shit yet. ...
Will do. I speak the language and my wife knows many of the cool spots. You will likely have a good idea of the area by the time we get there in April. I don't know if you're into history or not? I'd recommend signing up for the Battle of Okinawa tour. It's led by a former USMC that is the curator for the USMC museum on the island. He has extensive knowledge of the area, battles, and anecdotal stories of the battles from various perspectives. He does group and private tours. We did a private tour (full day) where he picked us up on Kadena and took us around. One day is not enough to get a full appreciation of the battles that took place on the island during WW 2.
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Old 31 July 2020, 08:22
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I'd definitely be interested in that. I'll have to look it up, especially if he'll pick me up. Haven't gotten around to getting a car yet. I like real history, especially WW2, but I'm afraid don't know as much of it as I should. Since I'm going to be here 3 years it'd be stupid not to take advantage of the opportunities here. I'm occasionally... dense, but I prefer to think I'm not stupid.
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Old 31 July 2020, 08:34
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I'd definitely be interested in that. I'll have to look it up, especially if he'll pick me up. Haven't gotten around to getting a car yet. I like real history, especially WW2, but I'm afraid don't know as much of it as I should. Since I'm going to be here 3 years it'd be stupid not to take advantage of the opportunities here. I'm occasionally... dense, but I prefer to think I'm not stupid.
We'll go through our files and find the POC for you. IIRC, my wife found the POC on FB and then coordinated via email. I'll post the contact info for the tour after work.
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Old 31 July 2020, 08:41
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Appreciate it. This website is a hell of a community and resource. Ask about darn near anything and somebody is going to answer the question and go out of their way to give you a hand.
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Old 31 July 2020, 10:02
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Agreed with picking any dive shop on base. I got certified in Oki back in 2008 or so (doesn't feel like it was that long ago). I recall doing a lot of the starter stuff in a pool, and then we went down to a spot near Kadena to do some dives. All in all it was a great experience! Felt bottomed boots, felt bottomed boots, felt bottomed boots...the coral there is no joke.

There are some great dive locations around the island. One that stands out is Cape Maeda. Make sure to check out the 'Blue Cave' while you're there!
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Old 31 July 2020, 10:26
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...the coral there is no joke.
Lots of things/critters there will cause pain, the Sea urchins are/were all over the place. They posed more of a hazard than the too friendly snakes.

Some of the animals that live in shells are deadly.

I found that the water was the clearest I've ever seen. I guess it was because when I was there, there was one beach and it's sand was imported from Hawaii.

3 years in the mid 70's.
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Old 31 July 2020, 13:08
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Originally Posted by Freeballs View Post
I'd definitely be interested in that. I'll have to look it up, especially if he'll pick me up. Haven't gotten around to getting a car yet. I like real history, especially WW2, but I'm afraid don't know as much of it as I should. Since I'm going to be here 3 years it'd be stupid not to take advantage of the opportunities here. I'm occasionally... dense, but I prefer to think I'm not stupid.
Battle of Oki.PNG

Chris is the dude you want to ask for. As I stated, we did the private tour so it was just the two of us. Private tours cost more, I don't recall what the overall cost was? We got to coordinate for the sites we wanted to visit. The set tours would be a good COA since you have some time there on the island and will be able to see other locations during your tour.
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Old 31 July 2020, 16:40
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Wow, some memories in this thread.

I got certified in 1986 at Camp Hansen. Two evening classes during week one followed by four hours a day in the base pool that weekend. Week 2 we had two more evening classes followed by two days in open water off the Kadena Sea Wall. Cost $100 and provided everything except mask/snorkel/fins/weight belt. Once we were certified the dive locker on base charged $1 for a full tank of air and $5 a day for the BCV/regulator. I never bought my own gear because it was cheaper to rent. Water so warm you didn't need a wetsuit.

Good times.
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  #17  
Old 31 July 2020, 22:44
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It's not quite that cheap anymore. The on base dive shops offer the OW PADI certification course for $285, which seems reasonable 34 years later.

You can get a private class for $500, which while tempting, sounds like too much money for my budget right now. It looks like they still have roughly the same course setup, 2 evenings classroom instruction, 2 pool dives that weekend, and then 4 open water dives on the next weekend.

I need to buy a pair of booties anyway, my old pair died. I'll take that advice on the felt bottoms for sure. I need to go through this forum and make a list of all the must see dive spots around, I'll add Blue Cave at Cape Meada to that list.

Thanks for the contact info Godzilla, that looks like a fun way to learn my way around a little and get some history in at the same time.

I'm tentatively planning on taking leave (gotta love Covid) while I'm out here to see Australia and New Zealand, a plane ticket from Okinawa is a fair bit cheaper than one from the states, if anyone has any recommendations on dives there.
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Old 2 August 2020, 20:30
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Which branch are you in (civ or AD doesn't matter)? Due to an outbreak in positive COVID cases, Navy and Marine personnel are locked down, but as far as I know, AF are OK to do what they want. Second hand info (I'm up in Yokosuka), but a buddy of mine said even DoN folks stationed on Kadena are in shelter in place and aren't allowed to do anything but commute to work, go to the grocery store and get take out food from restaurants.
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Old 2 August 2020, 21:27
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I'm AD Navy... That's charming. I figured on having to wait to travel anywhere off island, but I was hoping for a little bit of freedom. Thanks for the heads up. I'll ask about it today if I get out of ROM. They could have put that info somewhere in the 4 hour long virtual indoc. Maybe instead of the 20 minute bit about Japanese superstitions. But hey, at least now I know not to lie down after eating or I'll turn into a cow.
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Old 3 August 2020, 06:21
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Sites I use for Oki news:
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/tag/okinawa/
https://okinawa.stripes.com/
https://www.visitokinawa.jp/news
https://www.okinawa.marines.mil/News/

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200803_03/

http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/

http://www.japanupdate.com/
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