Gliding through the forest: touring the mangrove forests of Amami Oshima Gliding through the forest: touring the mangrove forests of Amami Oshima

Touring the Mangrove Forests of Amami Oshima



Gliding through the forest: touring the mangrove forests of Amami Oshima

Amami Oshima, bobbing between Kyushu and Okinawa, is an emerald gem. The island supports unique ecosystems that are home to plants and animals that exist nowhere else on the planet. The mangrove forests on the island’s coast are a natural wonder that anyone lucky enough to find themselves on Oshima should make the effort to discover.

  • The waters of Sumiyo Bay mix with fresh water coming down from Takinohanayama and the island’s central uplands, providing the perfect environment for mangroves that thrive in the salty coastal mud. When the tide rolls in, the gnarled trunks of the trees are submerged, leaving leafy green tunnels. This is the largest mangrove forest in the archipelago, save for a just slightly larger collection in Okinawa.

  • Some tour companies offer their own transportation down to the mangroves. If you’re making your way there solo, it’s about thirty minutes drive down from Amami, the biggest center on the island, through a landscape of rolling green hills, and slightly longer if you hop one of the buses that run down to the mangroves. Once you arrive in the area, feel free to poke around on foot. There are a number of walkways and boardwalks running through the forest. The forest is particularly beautiful at low tide when the roots of the mangrove trees are exposed, and the mud of the forest gives off an indescribably dank perfume, minerally and wet.

  • Most that make it down to the forest opt to rent a kayak and head out for a tour through the labyrinthine network of brackish streams that thread through the forest. Traveling through the trees by kayak, the sensation is akin to sailing through a forest. Moving almost silently along the water, the unique plants of the forest are at eye-level, and animals, like the fiddler crab, that thrive in the mangrove copses go about their daily lives inches away from your paddle.

  • A handful of operators have set up shop in the forest, running tours and renting boats. Mangrove Chaya, operating out of a rustic complex on the edge of the mangroves, comes highly recommended. Mangrove Chaya has a campground on site, and a nature experience zone where guests can stroll through a preserved section of the island. The reason some choose Mangrove Chaya is the option to set out without a tour guide. For 1700 yen, the staff will walk you through the basics, fit you with a life jacket, and send you out for two hours on the water. The streams that run through the mangroves are still, and the kayaks used by the outfitter are supremely stable, making the experience safe and enjoyable, even if you’ve never been in a kayak before.

  • Kuroshio no Mori Mangrove Park, another operator in the area, works with the local tourism board to introduce the forest’s unique characteristics and the species of animals and plants—some of them endangered and rare—that live in the mangroves. Their tours of the mangroves are a sort of workshop, designed to educate visitors to the islands about the fragile ecosystem.

  • The easiest way to reach the island, without renting a car, is to hop a ride with one of the tour companies operating out of Amami. That’s the best way to arrange the ideal time to visit, since much of the forest is inaccessible when the tide is out. The experience is worth the trip; the mangrove forests truly feel like another world.

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    Kuroshio no Mori Mangrove Park


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