Million River Mangroves in Kin
If you're feeling the heat of the summer in Okinawa planning an outdoor activity probably isn't high on your list. I usually try and figure out how we can beat the summer heat. You might be surprised to hear that I would still plan a visit to the mangroves even in the summer!
As you walk up to the mangroves you are instantly surrounded by the quiet serenity that a forest brings. If you time the visit right for the early morning or the evening in the summer you will also be greeted with the quintessential buzzing of cicadas. Mangroves grow in a tangled root system that gives a wonderful shade under the tree tops. Perfect for a summer walk! When the coastal breeze comes in it's like heaven on a hot, humid summer day.
The path through the mangrove forest is well-kept and paved. It is easy to walk or bike on the path. And if you're so inclined, it's even a great place to go for a run. (Although I wouldn't recommend this for a first visit because there is so much beauty to slowly take in.) The signs are all in Japanese so if you don't read it, it is helpful to use Google Translate to learn more as you walk through. My kids had so many wonderful questions that I just didn't have the answers to!
Mangroves are unique because they only grow in coastal saline or brackish water. They are only found in tropical and subtropical latitudes. The water is slow moving around them in the intertidal zone so many species of fish are attracted to them for food and protection from predators. Mangroves manage to survive in hot, muddy, and salty conditions that will kill most plants!
Mangroves live in a delicate ecosystem that supports a huge diversity of creatures. If you get to walk through the mangroves at low tide it is incredible to see the roots pushing up out of the ground. Kids will enjoy using this time to see how many different species you can find in the mangrove forest. Depending on where the mangrove forest is, you may even see brittle stars, sea urchins, oysters, and barnacles! We are always drawn to the hermit crabs and we enjoy watching them climb the trees.
If you'd like to get on the river, then you can rent kayaks and slowly meander through the forest. You can get up close with the root system this way. Every time I've been to the mangroves, whether it was in the summer or in the winter, I've seen people enjoying the mangrove forests on the water. If you get lucky you'll get to see white herons silently hunting for fish. There will also be lots of other coastal birds to watch.
If you want to get a view of the mangroves from up high and look out over the treetops there are several areas where you can do that. There are a couple flights of stairs that will take you up and over the treetops. There is even an observation platform that will allow you to see the whole forest at once and all the way out to the ocean.
If you can believe it, mangroves make up for less than 2 percent of marine environments! And if your kids are anything like mine, they will no doubt have tons of questions for you. I would recommend this thorough and educational website from Smithsonian Ocean to help answer those questions or just to learn more if you're interested.
It is a beautiful area with an incredible ecosystem to appreciate. I hope you're able to get out in the mangroves and experience this special species for yourself!