Many Brits dream of flying off to luxury holiday destination the Maldives for a week of turquoise water and white sand – but the cost can be prohibitive. However, the Indian Ocean island nation isn’t the only place in the world to boast such gorgeous coastlines.
Tourists have been praising a little known island called Zamami – the second largest of the Kerala Islands in Japan – which offers incredible clear waters and soft white sand. It’s a hotspot for swimming, snorkelling and diving with rich sea-life from fish to humpback whales that play in the water. Plus there’s plenty of spots to sunbathe.
While you may not have heard of the destination it’s growing in popularity as the village around the port is visited by more and more holidaymakers looking to enjoy the pristine beaches. Observation decks are scattered around the forested land interior letting you stare out at the incredible skyline of the island.
The two main beaches are just a 20 minute walk from the port where you’ll land on Zamami. Furuzamami Beach is on the southeast of the island and it the most popular – it has plenty of rental shops for water sports, beach shops and huts that sell delicious food. Plus there are loos and showers near to the bay.
Ama Beach is a quieter beach option on the southwest of the island. If you’re lucky you might spot the sea turtles that live and swim in the water here – it’s the best beach for snorkelling as you can see lots of coral, fish and other sea creatures. But, take some food as options are more limited.
It’s best to fly into Okinawa Airport on the mainland – flights cost from £528 on Skyscanner. Then get a combination of bus or ferry which will set you back from £5 according to Rome2Rio. That’s far cheaper than the cost of a flight to Male followed by a seaplane to an atoll or island in the Maldives. You can also apparently get a flight (with connections) directly to Kerala Airport and then get a ferry from there or from Naha Airport.
But, what is it that Zamami offers other than just its outstanding beaches? Well there are spectacular sunsets that make the sky glow orange, purple, pink and red over the hills of the island. You can watch them from the observation decks, the port or even sometimes on special boat or SUP tours.
The Whale Watching Association on the island can help you to go on a tour looking to spot the humpback whales that relax in the surrounding waters or you can head out on the water in kayaks to see the island from the water. Glass bottom boat rides (around £20pp) are also on offer so you can watch the teeming sea-life below your feet.
Two tiny islands – Gahi and Agenashiku – are nearby and completely uninhabited. You can visit them on a five minute boat ride and enjoy total seclusion in this tropical paradise alongside snorkelling opportunities.
Brits who want to experience the land more than sea can go hiking as you can explore the local plant and animal life by walking through the hilly landscape. Plus, find the observatories for the best views.
The best time to stay if you want to spot whales is from January to March. While the best time for swimming (due to the sea temperatures) is from May to October. There's plenty of accommodation available on the island through booking.com with the cheapest costing from £327 for five nights split between two adults at Minshuku Yadokari. That's just £32.70pp per night.