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February 21, 2018 - Southern Odyssey - Iriomote
After catching the Nakama River Cruise earlier in the day, I decided to drive around the rest of Iriomote in the Yaeyama Islands. This island is closer to Taiwan than Okinawa main island. The island also has only one main road which traverses 70% of the island at a top speed of 40 kilometers an hour.
My first stop for this post was the tacky/touristy but highly enjoyable Yubu Island, which costs 1400 yen to enter. To get there, you need to catch a buffalo ride between the two islands which takes around 15 minutes one way.
The crossing is quite shallow and I was very impressed with how they looked after the buffalo. Each buffalo is allowed to carry a certain number of passengers and he would test the weight and get people to move to make it easier. The driver (if you can call him that) tells us about the life of the buffalo and sings some songs as well.
Apart from the buffalo ride, there is also a reasonable number of things to do on the island itself. There are the obligatory restaurant and stores, along with a butterfly house, botanical gardens and a small zoo of sorts.
The butterfly house is quite small but it is quite impressive. There are many opportunities to take photos of the butterflies which can be seen all through the island, even in the middle of winter.
My next stop for around 60-70 minutes away and is called the Niimori Residence. It's around 150 years old and is currently having it's tatami replaced very slowly.
At the location where people can take the Urauchi River Cruise there is also a 1km walk to an old coal mine in the middle of the forest. Its very well signed in Japanese and should take around 30-40 minutes to complete for most people.
For people who want to see the forest and mangroves but don't want to catch the boat, this is a good option. Note that you really need a car to get here as there is VERY LIMITED public transport on the island.
This may look like something out of Indiana Jones, but this is the remains of some buildings for the coal mine. It just shows you how wild this island can be.
My next stop is the most famous beach on the island - Hoshizuna Beach, which has sand made out of the exoskeleton of dead sea creatures.
My second last stop for the day was Iriomote Wildlife Sanctuary which tells the story (in Japanese and English) about the different fauna and flora found on the island.
My last stop for the day was a short walk 7 kilometers from Ohara Port that shows some trees with large roots. Unfortunately, the best trees are a bit difficult to see.
Iriomote really is a beautiful island but I decided to leave on the last boat back instead of stay another night as there is NOTHING TO DO in Taketomi at night. Also, the frogs and crickets were so loud that I had trouble sleeping last night. I'm now on the 7th floor of a cheap hotel in Ishigaki looking over the port from my balcony instead of listening to crickets/frogs for 12 hours!. For tomorrow, I decided to hire a car and see what Ishigaki has to offer.
Yubu Island: http://www.yubujima.com/english/index.html