These two Okinawan locals have a lot in common with the karate masters. They’ll stay out of your way minding their own business, but if you mess with them, they’ll inflict serious injury.
Lionfish have venomous fin rays which if touched will cause extreme pain in the healthy, and possible death to the young, elderly or sick. Lionfish can be found at many of the dive sites on Okinawa, but seem to be most common in calmer areas such as Malibu Beach. Lionfish are however easy to spot, and unless you’re completely unaware of your surroundings, relatively simple to stay clear of.
Stonefish are extremely well camouflaged and have a powerful neurotoxin that is more deadly than the sting of the lionfish. They usually sit quietly on the coral reef and want nothing to do with humans. If threatened they raise their dorsal fin spines and will inject their poison. Stand on a stonefish with bare feet and you’re going to experience severe pain and possible death. Last Saturday at Maeda, a half dead, but fully venomous, stonefish was right next to divers and snorkelers as they entered the water.
So what does this mean for those who want to enjoy marine sports on Okinawa?
Except for the netted off beaches, don’t walk into the ocean with bare feet. Ideally wear felt soled dive booties. Fins that you wear with bare feet are great for boat dives, but on Okinawa where you often dive from the shore, boots and open-heel fins are a better option.