One of the excursions to take from Ishigaki Island is a trip to Iriomote Island, the second largest of the Okinawan Islands. We arranged our tour with Ishigaki Dream Tours, and they took very good care of us. Of the total group of about fifty people we were the only English speakers. We were issued an audio guide to tell us about points of interest along the way, and the tour managers kept a pretty close eye on us – moving us to the front of things where they could make sure we didn’t wander off on them.
Part one of the trip was a forty minute boat ride to Iriomote Island. The reefs around the islands are very close to the surface – I was grateful for the skill of the captain as we zoomed between the small islands and atolls on the way.
The ‘Super Dream’ was a very comfortable ride. Once we arrived we transferred to smaller boats for a ride up the river. Iriomote Island is very mountainous, so though large it is lightly populated. Yesterday we kayaked amongst the mangroves, today it was power boat and a much bigger river. We made a stop to see a living natural treasure – a 400 year old tree in the forest.
The Looking Glass Mangrove has these huge buttresses at ground level – small trees grow out of them once they are a distance from the main tree.
After the river tour we headed up the coast for what was advertised as a cart ride to Yoba Island. Turns out that the island is across a shallow stretch of about 400 metres and we would ride in carts pulled by water buffalo. Like so:
This fine gentleman was our driver.
Part way over he pulled out a sanshin, the local guitar, to sing a song that most people on board knew – or at least knew the chorus to.
Yoba island is very small and p;retry much taken up with a botanical garden. We had tine to wander and admire the flowers, and visit a butterfly house. And eat lunch:
All delicious, even though parts were mysterious. The meal included the famous Okinawan purple potato (which is hiding behind the tempura in this picture and really, I should have taken a picture before I ate it because it is a shade of purple that is hard to believe. But it tastes just like a potato)
We caught the afternoon water buffalo back to the main island and returned to the ‘Super Dream’ to carry on to island number three – Taketomi Island. Which is very tiny and not much above sea level. Here we transferred to bikes to ride to explore the island.
Those sandy roads and even a slight hill made for a bit of a challenge. And then there I was, riding along, watching for cars and what do we come across but:
More water buffalo! They have the right of way!