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Almost completely covered in jungle and mangrove swamps, Iriomote is a wild island. Its few villages are sparse and predominately focused near the ferry terminal that shuttles visitors from nearby Ishigaki Island. Take a guided walk along one of the jungle trails and you’re likely to encounter some of the many untouched and unnamed sandy coves that indent the island’s coastline.
To see why this island has been designated a national park, take a guided kayak tour to Funauki Beach. This remote stretch of honey-coloured sand can only be reached from the sea. A tranquil environment, it has become a refuge for wildlife, from the rare yamaneko (wild cat) to flourishing coral reefs and populations of manta rays.
Funauki’s powder-fine sand is ideal to laze on, shaded by the boughs of the mango trees that stretch down to the sea. From here, the jungle-clad coast rises steeply, keeping the beach hidden from nearby Funauki village, a settlement of about 50 people. Take a picnic and you can enjoy an afternoon snorkeling the reefs before kayaking back to civilisation.
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