DAY THREE OKINAWA Saturday September 7, 2013
It is Saturday and our hosts took us on another adventure. Today we drove down south through the island to go to the Aquarium. On the way we passed many tombs that I mentioned in my Day Two post. Much of the Hour and a half drive was along or near the coastline. The traditions of placing deceased family members facing the ocean thus leads to many tombs built along these roadways. I snapped a couple of pictures as we traveled to show how there are not always designated locations like a cemetery for these structures.
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is world renowned and was mentioned to my friend as a destination we had to see while here. This was not like any of the Aquariums I had ever been to before for a couple of key reasons. While many of the exhibits were the same, the complex was immense. There were interior exhibits in three story tanks and small tanks that lined walls; exterior exhibits that housed the dolphin show, turtles, and manatees (who eat carrot sticks for lunch); play areas for kids that have net based obstacle courses and mist stations; beach walks, and a free aquatic museum all on the same complex. Aquariums are fascinating places full of fascinating creatures. I did not take pictures of all the creatures found there, but I picked some of the highlights.
The four story structure of the Interior exhibits houses a three story tank with a catwalk system on the fourth floor that goes over the tank. You can walk over the glass bottomed walk and look down at the various species, stand on the third level near the top of the tank, sit in a viewing gallery in the middle area, or sit along the bottom in the cafe or viewing area. There is also an area on one side of the tank that is bowed in creating a small area where you can walk under the aquatic life swimming above.
In this tank are several schools of fishes that swim in a tornado like fashion (very much like a few scenes from "Finding Nemo"), several Manta rays of various sizes, three dolphins (though I never did catch what specific breed), several shark types (the most impressive being the three whale sharks), and several other things I can't name. The first picture is one of the Whale sharks. The second is two of the larger rays.
The three pictures below show the progress of two of the whale sharks behind my head. This was on the lower level so it kind of gives you an idea of how big they really were.
Who doesn't love turtles? Here are some of the larger sea turtles that were in the exterior exhibit.
This is a very up close shot of the shark tank. This tank was full of sharks of various types. Many of them swim right up close beside the glass.
Coming back through the aquarium, heading to the deep sea section, is the bowed out glass section of the big tank. Upon arrival there were a few divers in the water cleaning the side of the tank (pictured below).
Up next after the aquarium was Pizza in the Sky. This is a well known and very popular restaurant near the aquarium. After driving through a small fishing village you head up a mountain to this lovely little house; because really that is what is on the road. After finding a parking spot in the very limited parking area you head up a cement driveway where you are treated to this view.
Proceeding up the covered walk you find benches with a variety of puzzle games for the kids, banana leaf fans to use for hot days, and large traditional hats to protect you from the sun while you wait or eat. Behind the house are two structures that are open air patios. These are the dinning areas. At night they are open to a beautiful view of the ocean in the distance and mountains to the left and right. During the hot day a woven grass or reed mat that is as tall as the walls is unrolled to block the sunlight from the table areas. The view is breath taking but the experience was just starting. After being seated the menu is on a folded fan, written in the folds, English on one side, Japanese on the other. There are not a lot of options. The Everything pizza would be similar to a supreme but here is the list of toppings: Pepperoni, Bacon, Onion, Corn, Green Pepper (Corn is very big here). The salad was ordered to start with and it had: Lettuce, Onion, Peppers, Carrots, Corn and Sesame Balsamic Vinegar dressing. No where on the table would you find utensils other than chopsticks. So you served and ate using chopsticks (surprisingly easy by the way) or you had to pick it up with your hands. The down side of eating with your hands was this was not a tick crust that as easy to pick up. The recommended beverage according to the menu was the Acerola Juice (a cherry juice that was kind of like a sparkling juice). All in all it was a great experience, great view, and delicious!
So that wraps up day three. Tomorrow looks to be another great day.... stay tuned!