One great thing about hiking and exploring Okinawa is the lack of large, dangerous land animals like bears and cougars. Meeting one of those is a sure way to ruin an outing, right? However, Okinawa's tropical islands have their fair share of deadly marine animals, pesky snakes and annoying bugs! Here are just a few you should watch out for...
The most common ones you'll encounter are cone shells, because their beautiful patterned shells are plentiful on many beaches. Cone shells are sea snails that will inject a powerful venom, usually when an unsuspecting collector attempts to pick up their shell! Luckily, cone shells have to be pretty big in order to inject enough venom to kill an adult, but even a small one hurts worse than a bee sting.
You might encounter these little masters of disguise if you go diving in Okinawa's coral reefs. These fish are mostly flat, and look exactly like a rock. If you step on one, you need to seek medical attention immediately - these are the most venomous fish on Earth! The best way to avoid them is by shuffling your feet and disturbing the sand before putting your foot down, and do your best not to surprise one.
(Head not pictured, got hit by a car...😅)
On land, you'll want to watch out for habu, a type of venomous pit viper native to Okinawa. You can recognize them by the eye-catching black geometric patterns along their back. Unlike most reptiles, these snakes are mostly active at night, so you'll be unlikely to run into one during the day. If you do see one, remember that they are irritable and quick to strike, so don't try to get closer or pick them up! The good news: their bites are very rarely fatal if you seek medical attention immediately.
It's good to watch out for these poisonous creatures, but they're definitely no reason to put off that diving expedition or wilderness hike. There are many more creatures who are harmless to humans, and some will even tolerate being pet (as we humans like to do), like the squishy and alien-looking Black Sea Cucumber! So get out there and get exploring!