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“Excellent Staff and Diving Spots!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Diving School UMICOZA - Diving & Snorkeling Tour

Diving School UMICOZA - Diving & Snorkeling Tour
1287-97 Kabira, Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture 907-0453, Japan
+81 980-88-2434
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Ranked #5 of 43 Activities in Ishigaki
Type: Classes/Workshops, Classes
Attraction details
New York City, New York
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
6 attraction reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
“Excellent Staff and Diving Spots!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 27, 2014

I am not a frequent diver. My last dive was about 4 years ago, and this was my first dive outside of the Caribbean. So I contacted Umicoza for a refresher course and two morning dives hoping to see some manta rays in the Kabira Bay area. The staff responded very quickly, answered all my concerns, and even helped book my hotel.

Everything from e-mail to dive briefing was very clear and communicated in English. I did not have to feel uncomfortable diving in a foreign country because of any language barrier. The staff was extremely patient with me when I couldn't decide whether it would be too cold to dive. (Japan was extremely cold this early March.) At the end, I moved my dive up one day as suggested by Miki (one of the staff) because the original date would indeed have been too cold. And she was absolutely correct!

The dive boats are small. But I did not feel any bit of sea sick without medication because the dive sites were not far from shore (20 minutes). The weather was also fantastic, so the ride was smooth. The next day was a completely different story, the wind was so strong that all the ferry companies were operating on a limited schedule.

As for manta rays, we saw a huge one swimming up to the boat when we were en route to the first dive spot and that was the only manta ray we saw that day.

Visited March 2014
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19 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • English first
  • French first
  • Japanese first
  • Russian first
  • Any
English first
Montreal, Canada
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
4 attraction reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
“First-Rate operation”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 17, 2014

I recently visited Ishigaki Island as a one day stop on a cruise and wanted to snorkel.

UMICOZA's English-speaking staff was able to answer our questions and coordinate a tour to accommodate our group of two singles and a couple.

We did have a bit of a miscommunication about where exactly the pick-up would take place so be sure to get very specific in email correspondence. I kept referring to the cruise-ship terminal and they kept referring to the ferry terminal. In the end, the van was outside the gate of the cruise ship terminal with a sign saying UMICOZA in the window but no logo on the side.

I had missed it and headed to the ferry terminal. With a quick phone call, the matter was resolved and we were on our way!

Toyo-san was our driver and guide. He spoke English very well but I had fun practicing my Japanese with him. Finally, away from the shipping containers and bus loads of tourists we began to see the beauty of Ishigaki Island.

Trees are a mix of tropical palms and deciduous. We saw a huge owl sitting calmly on an overhanging branch. There were green fields loaded with grazing cattle on one side and either rice fields or blue water on the other. Conditions were windless and warm.

It almost looked like the rolling hills of Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica that I had recently visited.

The road itself was smooth and the signs were in English and Japanese. It honestly would not be difficult to drive around in a rented car. At the shop, we were shown to an area with toilets, a place to store our clothes, rinse tanks etc. I zipped into my snorkel & wetsuit in ninety seconds. My companions...not so much. Hee! Wetsuit virgins, they were!

They had pre-ordered rental wetsuits by size and it was included in the price. The wetsuits were neatly laid out on the table with a name tag clothes pinned on with the respectful honorific-sama. Mine would have said "Rogue-Wave-sama."

Because it had taken a bit long to disembark, find the van and get dressed, we decided to scrap our second snorkel spot with the Manta Rays and just do the coral garden.

We hopped back into the van, drove five minutes to the spacious dive boat and waded into the super-clear water. The temperature in February was actually quite lovely. A two-step ladder into the flat-bottom boat and we were aboard with two additional UMICOZA staff. We were offered hot tea and there was a cooler filled with hot water in case we wanted to pour some into our wetsuits to keep the chill off.

The trip to the coral garden took only a few minutes. We were just south of the famous Kabira Bay where snorkelling is not permitted. To save time, I reviewed the guidelines while we were underway. Any current? Nope. Any dangerous creatures? Nope. Are we anchored? Yes. Well, bye bye then! I plopped into the water while the others fussed with their stuff.

Wow! It took a few seconds for the water to enter the wetsuit and make a warm layer next to the skin. The visibility was excellent and there was absolutely no current and very little chop on the surface.

The first species I identified was a Blue-Head Wrasse…very similar to those in my favourite place, Bonaire. There were also Princess Parrotfish, Butterflyfish and Angelfish.

Towards the bottom, were two sea snakes coiled together. I would have thought that they were mating but they appeared to be of different species.

Folks were still on the boat getting their snorkels and fins sorted. I asked them to plug their ears while I asked about the sea snakes...nope, not dangerous! So I continued on looking at the beautiful blue coral, anemone and dazzling fish. Unfortunately, we missed out on anything big like Cuttlefish or Mantas.

The guides were very attentive to anyone with a question or a gear issue. I had my own gear other than booties and fins. They were also fun and friendly with us and we spent a lot of time laughing as well as enjoying the beautiful scenery.

It was overcast and started to rain a bit so after an hour we headed back to the shop.

There were hot showers (indoor or outdoor) and tea for us after the snorkel. They dropped us off at an excellent Ishigaki Island beef restaurant close to the ferry terminal.

It was a very positive experience with professional staff and a family-run feel to the shop. I can't wait to go back to see those Mantas!

Visited February 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
Contributor
17 reviews 17 reviews
9 attraction reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
“A very friendly diving school”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 12, 2014

I had two really fun dives with Diving School Umicoza while in Ishigaki. Unfortunately I only had 3 days in Ishigaki, and for two of those I was trapped in a hotel as a typhoon passed over the island. I had been scheduled to dive on one of those days, but the dive had to be cancelled. Thankfully on my last day the typhoon had mostly subsided and Umicoza were able to let me dive then instead.

They picked me up from my hotel and we drove to the diving school. The equipment was all in good condition and the dive staff were extremely friendly. I was in a group of 5 for two dives. The second dive was at manta ray point, but unfortunately we saw no manta rays. Despite the lack of manta rays they were really enjoyable dives, and back at the school there was a lovely meal for all of us.

If I ever go back to Ishigaki I will definitely dive with these guys again, and hopefully this time the manta rays will cooperate!

Visited August 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ダイビングスクール海講座, マネージャー at Diving School UMICOZA - Diving & Snorkeling Tour, responded to this review, February 17, 2014
Thank you for joining us! It was great time to dove with you!!
It was unfortunately typhoon time on August,
but we really appreciate that you enjoyed to diving with us :)
Hopefully, we dive again together, with Manta rays!!

We are looking forward to diving with you again!
Thank you!!
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Toronto, Canada
1 review
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
“Fantastic! Saw 6 manta rays in early November...”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 11, 2013 via mobile

Just returned from Ishigaki and have to say that I absolutely loved my experience at Umicoza. Finding English speakers on the island is no small feat, and the staff at Umicoza were very proficient. Such a nice treat. My friend and I did the half-day package of two dives and lunch and can't say enough good things about the experience.

The first dive was a bit so-so (it was overcast and choppy so the visibility wasn't great) but the second dive - at Manta Point - was absolutely UNBELIEVABLE. My friend and I were worried we'd come too late to see the manta scramble, which is advertised as taking place during May to August. But boy of oh boy - were we ever (pleasantly) wrong! We had no less than 6 or 7 of the majestic creatures cruising all around us in the turquoise blue waters. It was simply magical. Apparently, October and November is prime manta-viewing time. The weather can be a bit windier, though, so the dive operators can't go out every day, depending on the sea conditions. But often, early November is the hands-down best time to see mantas! (Something the guide books don't tell you).

In any case, we thoroughly enjoyed our day. The Umicoza team is knowledgable and friendly, the scuba equipment is new and in fantastic condition, the dive team is extremely experienced and the lunch included in the half-day package was delicious.

Highly recommended! You won't be disappointed. And don't be afraid to dive in October or November - just leave yourself some extra days to account for choppy weather.


Visited November 2013
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akokisan, マネージャー at Diving School UMICOZA - Diving & Snorkeling Tour, responded to this review, November 14, 2013
Thank you for joining us!! It was nice to see you guys too! Amd very glad to hear you enjoyed diving with us :)
That time was really awesome to see many mantas!
We look forward to dive with you guys again!
Thank you do much!

AKO
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Warsaw, Poland
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
7 attraction reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
“Perfect diving day!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 24, 2013

Very proffesional and friendly diveshop. There were no delays, everything went smooth and all we had to do was to enjoy a beautiful day. Diving equipment was the best I have ever seen in a dive shop, the staff was wonderful and spoke very good English, diving itself was a wonderful experience. The waters around Ishigaki are crystal clear, visiblity was at least 25-30m. There were only 4 of divers and a divemaster for every 2 of us. On our first dive we've seen a trumpet fish, needle fish, sea snake, lots of anemones and a whitetip shark! The second dive was in a manta scrumble where we saw two mantas playing which was amazing.
After diving and returning to the dive shop we got okinawan lunch in the garden with ocean view. Ican't reccomend Umikoza higly enough. I really hope to visit them again someday.

Visited April 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ダイビングスクール海講座, マネージャー at Diving School UMICOZA - Diving & Snorkeling Tour, responded to this review, April 26, 2013
Thank you for joining us that day!
It was great sunny day and really clear water, we had awesome diving with you guys.
We are soooo glad to hear that you guys spent a good time at UMICOZA.
We are waiting for you anytime :)
See you next time!
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