Discover the gorgeous islands lying just off Ishigaki, which are so undeveloped that the best means to explore them is by ferry, riverboat and oxcart pulled by a water buffalo.
After a short drive from the pier, you will board the Ishigaki ferry for a picturesque cruise to Iriomote Island, a largely undeveloped oasis of dense jungle and winding rivers. Here, you will find Japan’s southernmost national park, a diverse ecosystem for exotic subtropical plants and animals such as the indigenous Iriomote wildcat, an endangered species not much larger than a domestic house cat.
Upon arriving on Iriomote, you will transfer to a riverboat and enjoy a leisurely ride up the meandering Nakama River, which cuts through a huge swath of mangrove forest. The entire watershed is protected so the landscape is lush and unspoiled. Along the way, you will stop at a specimen Looking-glass Mangrove that towers more than 60 feet high. The species’ wood is exceptionally hard and valued for boat building.
After approximately 1-hour, you will switch modes of transportation again; this time riding in a covered oxcart pulled by a water buffalo. Other than wading, there is no other way to get to your next destination of Yubujima Island because the surrounding waters are so shallow. It’s well worth the effort because you will have the opportunity to explore a small but remarkably diverse botanical garden.
You’ll enjoy a light lunch during your visit to Irimote Island.