Okay, maybe “Jungle” isn’t the best word to describe Iriomote when you compare Japan to Southeast Asia. Not everyone is into a Southeast Asia style adventure though and if you want a bit of a jungle adventure in Japan, The ocean mangroves of Iriomote island should suit you perfectly.
Iriomote only allows a certain numbers of visitors daily to preserve the natural environment. You must also be accompanied by a certified and trained guide because nearly the whole island is a protected park.
The most popular way of seeing Iriomote is by kayaking and hiking. There are quite a few different hikes and courses to choose from. There are half day and full day hike options. Your guide company might also choose for you depending on weather conditions.
My friends and I did a one-day kayaking and trekking package to the Pinaisara Waterfall through 西表おさんぽ気分 trekking company, which was recommended to us by other ALTs and by our guesthouse. They were awesome. Our guide spoke easy to understand English and was hospitable without being overbearing and uncomfortable.
The day started out with kayaking through the mangroves up a river to the basin of the waterfall. The guide was great about pointing out different types of trees and animals as we passed them and explaining them in English.
When we arrived at the basin of the waterfall everyone was standing around taking pictures. Nobody was swimming! The water was still pretty cold since it was still technically spring, but we wanted to go swimming anyway. We might never come back to Iriomote! The waterfall was gorgeous and we were able to crawl all over the place. It was so fun! After we jumped in a bunch of Japanese families also joined in.
After swimming, we then hiked from the bottom of the falls to the top of the waterfall. There was only one other group that continued hiking to the top of the waterfall since everyone else who was doing the half day course turned around and kayaked back down the river. It was nice to have fewer people around in the afternoon.
We had lunch here with the beautiful view. The food they served us for lunch was also local Ishigaki style pork soba. It’s hard to tell if it tasted so good just because we worked hard for lunch or if it actually just tasted like pure heaven. I like to believe it was the latter. I even snapped a picture of it and I
NEVER hardly ever take pictures of my food.
After relaxing at the top, taking photos and napping (literally we took naps everywhere we went in Okinawa), we returned down and kayaked back to our bus.
On the way back to the bus we got separated from the last group at the top of the waterfall with us, so we had the whole river to ourselves. It was so beautiful!
Iriomote is the largest island in the Yaeyama island chain and is accessible by ferry. The ferry costs 2000 yen one-way and takes 40 minutes from the Iriomote ferry terminal.
Getting on the ferry was a far cry from the terrifying experience it had been in Indonesia. The ferries were full of kawaii families with Japanese children and far less drunken Australian surfers as well.
Ferry in Okinawa > Ferry in Indonesia.
I will gladly pay the 10 dollars more over and over again.
The ferry terminal is in Ishigaki city about a 40-minute bus ride from Kabira so my friends and I started our day early by catching the first bus from Kabira bay to the city.
Relaxing and enjoying the bus ride to and from Kabira was a great way to enjoy a leisurely paced day of admiring the beautiful scenery of Okinawa.
A++ review 西表おさんぽ気分 (Feeling walking Iriomote) company. Couldn’t have been better.
I can’t say enough good things about this experience. For me, I enjoyed this day even more than the day we spent diving with manta rays. I loved the relaxed pace of the day while still being active. The island was full of beautiful unique scenery and the remoteness of the afternoon really set it apart from the other experiences in Ishigaki.