The Yonaguni Ruins are an amazing underwater structure that has divers arguing – is it the lost city of the legendary Atlantis?
Was it swallowed by the ocean thousands of years ago? Was it built by aliens? Or is it a natural rock formation that just looks amazingly like an ancient monument?
The incredible structure was first discovered by local diver Kihachirou Aratake back in the 1980s and when he first set eyes on it, in his words; he thought he’d discovered an “underwater Machu Picchu!”
Three decades, several books and a few documentaries later, divers are still arguing about the origins of the Yonaguni Ruins.
When you first set eyes on this massive structure, you’re instantly mesmerised. The entrance to the site is through a small tunnel which opens out on to a flat square area.
Right in front of you are two massive columns, perfectly square with sharp edges, stretching up to the water’s surface.
From here you follow a flat road around the tall walls of the monument to an area that looks much like a stage. There are large steps leading up to the stage, and on to higher levels of the structure.
At the edge of the stage, the walls drop down around 20 metres, and you can just imagine crowds standing in the valley below looking up at some kind of spectacle on this tall monument.
Past the stage there is a deep triangular alcove, which Aratake believes to have been some kind of chapel or alter. It faces exactly due north and there is a large slab of rock placed just before the apex, almost like a sacrificial alter.
A little further along is another almost symmetrical structure, that looks uncannily like a giant turtle. Could this have been a god-like creature that the ancients worshipped?
Whether or not you believe this is a man-made structure or a natural sedimentary rock formation (as some geologists have theorised), it’s still an incredible sight to see, and it’s not the only amazing dive site here in remote Yonaguni, part of Japan’s Okinawa province.
The island is the western-most point of Japan, and it is so close to Taiwan, on a clear day you can actually see it. The water is so clear here it would not be surprising to think you might see Taiwan from underwater as well! With visibility between 50 to 60 metres, divers (and turtles) look like they are flying.
The island is surrounded by 67 surveyed dive sites, many with beautiful caverns and caves to explore, pristine coral reefs and many striking features, such as this meadow of orange anemones. And better still, even in November the water temperature here is 29 degrees, thanks to a warm current tan runs up the east coast of Taiwan.
There’s plenty of marine life here too, everything from anemone fish, anthias, butterfly fish and surgeon fish, to turtles, rays, and in season, huge schools of hammerhead sharks.