National Parks of Japan Protecting our natural heritage for future generations

Tokashiki, ZamamiKeramashoto National Park

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Whale Watching Course

Whale Watching Courseの写真
Type:
Boat ホエールウォッチング
Time Required:
-
Distance:
-
Come see the incredible, dynamic performances of the whales!

Course Outline

On this course, you can experience one of Keramashoto National Park’s most unique adventures: whale watching. Humpback whales return to the seas around the Kerama Islands every year from the end of December until April to breed and raise their young. Since there is no one given location in the sea to spot whales, every day during the winter, whale watchers gather at view points, such as Inazaki Observatory on Zamami-jima Island or Tokashiki-jima Island’s Teruyama Observatory, and go out on whale watching boats to search for these magnificent creatures. If the waves are too rough for the boats to go out, you can look for whales from the observatories found on each island.

Highlights

Whale watching from a boat
Whale watching from a boat

Riding on a whale watching boat

Humpback whales are mammals that can grow to 13 to 15 meters in length and weigh approximately 30 tons. Their pectoral fins are long, up to a third of the whale’s length, and the width of their tail fins can also be up to a third of the animal’s length. Humpback whales have distinctive fist-sized lumps on their heads as well. Whale watching boats follow strict rules in order to protect the whale breeding grounds, including slowing down when the boat comes within 300 meters of a whale, making no sudden movements when within 100 meters, and doing nothing to interfere with the humpback whales’ activities.

Tail slap!
Tail slap!

A humpback whale

The whales have a variety of different behaviors, the most well-known being the blow, or exhalation; breaching, or leaping into the air; and tail slapping, as seen in the photo. A tail slap is when a whale lifts its tail high above the sea’s surface and then smacks it down against the water. In many cases, they do this not just once, but repeat slapping many times over, some times with their belly facing down and other times with it facing up. Like the behaviors above, there are still many things about humpback whale behavior we do not understand.

Whale watching from land
Whale watching from land

The trail to Inazaki Observatory and Teruyama Observatory.

If the sea is too rough for the whale watching vessels to go out or you are not comfortable riding in boats, you can still watch the whales from the land. Locations such as the Inazaki Observatory and Takatsukiyama Observatory in Zamami Village, and the Teruyama Observatory and the Mihanabaru Nature Trail in Tokashiki Village provide good vantage points from which you can look for whales—just be sure you have binoculars due to the far distance. In winter, the temperatures are pleasant for walking and the flowers begin to bloom around February, so you can enjoy a leisurely stroll along with your whale watching activities.

Course Map

Whale Watching Course

Course Time

1
Tokashiki Port
10 min.
3.3 km
2
Teruyama Observatory


1
Tokashiki Port
18 min.
6.1 km
2
Mihanabaru Nature Trail


1
Zamami Port
9 min.
3.1 km
2
Inazaki Observatory


1
Zamami Port
5 min.
1.5 km
2
Takatsukiyama Observatory
*Course time and distance are estimates.