My friend Adrian once told me a good way to differentiate between stalagmites and stalactites is that a stalagmite will try to climb to reach the top of the cave with all their “might” whilst a stalactite will hold on “tight” to prevent from falling to the bottom of the cave. This little tidbit came especially useful during our visit over at the Gyokusendo cave located inside the Okinawa world theme park.
Gyokusendo is an underground cave which is one of the longest in Okinawa. The cave is properly routed and maintained to ensure that there is a proper pathway for tourist and visitors. Occasionally, you will see stalactites forming in the middle of the pathway but this is almost surgically trimmed to ensure that no excessive damage is done except to provide enough safe pathway throughout the cave. At first glance, the cave entrance almost seems quite typical to the ones you would see aboveground. However, this all changes when you reach about 200m into the cave. At that point, you start to feel the darkness as light struggles to enter the middle of the cave. The pathway becomes narrower and you start to see and hear streams of water and droplets all around. Did I mention the temperature drop? Why of course, as you enter the cave, the temperature drops about 2 to 3 degrees, easy. It almost seems like there is a working AC unit and yet, oddly, you will perspire. This is most probably due to the cool high humidity. By the end, I could not tell anymore if my head was soaked because of the sweat or because of the droplets from the stalactites (probably both). There are also displays of old pots and other cool stuffs that were buried there and recently uncovered that developed calcite formations. One unexpected surprise was that to show what kind of creatures live regularly in the cave, they showcased about 6 or 7 miniature fish tanks with shrimp and crabs and other creatures, and before you ask, no you may not feed them. Trust me, I asked. Above the cave you can find the rest of the Okinawa world theme park attractions such as the snake museum (which was a bit gloomy in my opinion), glass blowing center, a miniature Okinawan village, and my personal favorite – a beer brewery for souvenirs which also includes some Habu infused spirits.
All and all, it’s a good day trip. Definitely worth the 40 minute drive over to the city of Nanjo. The Okinawa world theme park entrance would cost you about 1,650 yen for all attractions or 1,250 for just the cave. Pro trip: find the Lawson convenience store nearby the theme park and get your ticket there to get about a 120 yen discount per person. Make sure to get there early so you don’t miss the shows!
AM 9:00 – PM 5:00 (last admission)
Closes at PM 6:00
Open throughout the year
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