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Extremely Dangerous Animals in Okinawa & what Wildlife to avoid

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Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture in Japan and as well as having beautiful landscapes, it also has some interesting animals and wildlife. Lush green forests, stunning white beaches and glorious sunshine that lasts for days on end. This is truly an island paradise.

But as with most tropical destinations, Okinawa has some animals that are deadly and could quite easily kill you. So I want to try and show you what you might encounter so you know what to avoid.

Many people travel to Okinawa to make the most of the weather and enjoy the relaxing island lifestyle. I know I do! It’s one of my favourite travel destinations to date and there is truly so much to explore across the many islands in the region.

Whether you are visiting to relax on a beach, take part in various water sporting activities, hike through the greenery or scuba dive on the reef, you will need to practice caution. Many of the animals in our list are easy to find – and if you get too close – could cause you severe harm.

In order to stay safe and stay connected while in Japan, it’s worth getting a Japanese SIM card during your trip. You can order them to your hotel a week in advance for 8,16 or 31 days.

Country:Japan
Currency:Japanese Yen / JPY
Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?Check here

One of the best ways to travel around the Okinawan islands is via a rental car. Many of the islands have car rental options and my favourite site to use is listed below. Have a look if they have a car for your upcoming trip!

Make sure you have a full driving licence from your home country and an IDP should your country require them.

300*250 RentalCars English


Erabu black-banded sea krait (Sea Snake)

stripey black and white Erabu snake swimming in the ocean which is one of the most deadly animals in Okinawa
Photo by Jong Marshes

When it comes to Okinawa wildlife, many people already know about the Habu, but what about the risk of sea snakes? This distinct black and white striped snake is named the Erabu (Laticauda semifasciata) and one can grow up to 4 feet in length. Sometimes these snakes are grey-blue in colour, but typically always have black bands.

They are also extremely venomous. To put it in perspective for you, their venom has been reported to be 10x more powerful than a rattlesnake. So you need to stay alert when in the sea.

These snakes are generally nocturnal and found near coral reefs and shorelines surrounding the Ryukyu Islands which includes Okinawa. They’re semi-aquatic but can spend up to 6 hours a time underwater before needing to come up for air. They also spend much less time on land than other species of sea krait.

Unlike many other snake bites, they’re less painful and sometimes not noticeable until symptoms arise. However, without appropriate treatment, the venom from these animals can cause paralysis and be fatal – so you need to get medical treatment ASAP locally in Okinawa.

If you see a snake on land or in the sea, back away as carefully and quickly as you can without causing a disruption.

Tips on how to avoid a bite from an Erabu Black-Banded Sea Krait:

  • Wear protective clothing in infested areas (ie. wetsuit).
  • Don’t put your hands into caves or holes in coral reefs.
  • Avoid spending time on the beach or near the shoreline at night.
  • Stay alert when in the ocean at all times.

Habu Snake

Arguably one of the most well-known dangerous animals in Okinawa is the habu snake. Its scientific name is Protobothrops Flavoviridis and it is a type of venomous pit viper. They can grow up to 8 feet in length!

They are yellow-green in colour with dark alternating patches along their back and have diamond-shaped heads.

They are solitary animals that are mostly nocturnal and they’re typically found in tall grassy areas around the Okinawan Prefecture. They’re unlike other snakes in that they give birth to live young instead of laying eggs, and they have been known to have an aggressive temperament. Typically, they won’t attack humans unless they feel they are being cornered or threatened.

If you happen to be hiking in the lush forests that are found across the islands, you need to tread carefully and stay on the highlighted trails to minimise your chances of crossing paths with these vipers.

If you get bitten by one: Seek Medical treatment immediately.

What makes the habu snake so much more frightening is the fact that if you have already received the anti-venom for it previously, you are at a high risk of anaphylaxis shock if you were to receive it a second time. This makes the treatment potentially ineffective when needed more than once.

Tips to avoid the Habu Snake bites:

  • Avoid travelling through forests and tall grass at night
  • Use a stick to move the grass ahead of you if you must walk through it
  • Wear protective clothing such as long trousers and boots

Crown of Thorns Starfish

A sharp crown of thorns starfish laying on rocks and coral another very dangerous types of sea animals in Okinawa
Photo by David Clode

The crown-of-thorns starfish (also known as Acanthaster Planci) has a highly dangerous neurotoxin that is released through the many spikes covering its body. Luckily for us humans, they don’t move as quickly or as far as other fish species so they’re very easy to get away from should you find one near you.

These starfish can have anywhere up to 21 arms pointing in various directions and can grow to be between 12 – 14 inches in size. They grow rapidly and are classed as a pest in the sea world. They are found in coral reefs and tend to eat the polyps found on the coral itself causing damage to the reef.

The symptoms of being stung by the spikes can lead to sharp pains lasting for hours after the initial contact. It’s highly toxic and needs quick treatment to prevent any lasting damage to the human body.

In order to avoid getting stung by a crown-of-thorns starfish you should:

  • Avoid touching the coral reef or swimming too close.
  • Always pay close attention to where you are swimming to make sure the current doesn’t push you too close to the reef.
  • Wear protective clothing that can also help prevent getting stung.

Reef Stonefish

This next addition to our list of wildlife in Okinawa, the reef stonefish (Synanceia Verrucosa), is a special one. It is not only the most poisonous animal found on the shores of Okinawa but it is also considered the most venomous fish in the world. They have a large dorsal fin that can eject their venom to nearby threats and have multiple spikes along their body.

They are often found underneath rocks and ledges of coral in the reef and can blend in extremely well with their surroundings. This means it is often difficult to see them which makes the reef so much more dangerous.

They can bury themselves under the sand too so if you happen to be walking along the sand and shoreline you need to watch where you are stepping.

If you are unfortunate enough to come into contact with one of these dangerous fish, you need to seek medical treatment immediately. Some of the symptoms you could experience if the venom entered your body are as follows:

  • Paralysis
  • Headaches
  • Delirium
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain at the sting site
  • Nausea & Vomiting
  • & more

Lionfish

stripey lion fish  swimming
Image by David Mark

In much of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, you could run (swim?) into the beautiful lionfish (also known as Pterois). This fish looks majestic and fabulous but is extremely dangerous. They are one of the animals found swimming around the reefs that cover much of the shoreline near the islands of Okinawa.

Unlike the other fish in our list of dangerous Okinawa wildlife, the lionfish is not only found in reefs. They have been known to be found in most habitats in the Indo-Pacific Oceans.

They can be found in saltwater mangroves, extremely deep water, reefs, near seagrass and more. They are often deemed to be an invasive species too.

Surprisingly, this fish is actually a delicacy in some countries so it’s good to know that they are not poisonous, but they are certainly venomous should you be pricked by their spines. If stung by one, you could have symptoms that last anywhere from 8 hours to 30 days.

This depends on the severity of the sting, where on your body it is and whether one or multiple spines were involved.

Due to the potency of their venom, you should expect to seek help ASAP if stung by one.


Box Jellyfish

Many parts of the world have to be careful of sea animals such as jellyfish, and Okinawa is no exception. There are many different species all varying in size.

Some of the largest box jellyfish are around 8 inches in body with up to 10ft long tentacles. One of the smallest species is the Irukandji (often found near Australia) which is smaller than a human thumbnail – even though it’s one of the most deadly.

In the tropical ocean surrounding the islands, this small box jellyfish is another species of wildlife in Okinawa that needs to be taken seriously. Getting stung by one of these can lead to cardiac arrest and an attack on your nervous system and any contact with one needs treatment very quickly.

They tend to move in migratory patterns so there is often a “jellyfish season” when they return to the same regions at the same time each year. This makes it significantly easier for people to judge when not to go in the water.

If you do need to go in the ocean during this period, there are specific wetsuits used to keep your skin protected and avoid contact with them. Plus you should always pay attention to any signs located on beaches so you know whether it is safe.


Blue-ringed Octopus

tiny blue ringed octopus floating and swimming through the water
Image by Penny

The blue-ringed octopus is another wildlife addition to the dangerous animals found around Okinawa. They are small in size, typically between 5 and 8 inches but they are very toxic to humans if provoked. They are generally docile and rarely attack humans unless they feel threatened.

Although they are up there as one of the most deadly sea animals in the ocean, very few people have died from contact with one. They tend to live in shallow shorelines close to the vibrant reefs and normally are a neutral beige or grey colour. The coloured blue rings typically appear when the octopus is under stress or alarmed.

What’s interesting about them is that they don’t actually create the venom themselves. They take bacteria found in the water and store it inside themselves to mix with their saliva, they then inject this saliva into their prey with their beak. This immobilises and paralyzes the prey.

Please seek help as soon as possible if you are bitten by one. They have enough venom to kill 26 humans in minutes.

Some common symptoms of a bite from one include:

  • Vomiting & nausea
  • Problems with your vision
  • Weakness throughout your body which gets worse over time
  • Numbness
  • Burning and stinging at the bite location

Geography Cone snail

The geography cone snail (Conus geographus) is a lesser-known threat than many other submissions to our Okinawa wildlife list. It is a species of predatory snail that lives in the tropical reefs of the Indo-Pacific Oceans and has a potent venom toxic enough to kill humans.

There are over 500 different species of cone snail and this happens to be the most venomous one.

They have been known to stab and sting their prey and can often swallow their prey whole. Their brightly

The good news is that these animals are not aggressive in Okinawa or any other part of the world they inhabit. When people are stung, it is usually because a human has handled them and put the animal under stress. So unlike some other creatures that might be hiding in the sand, these are very easy to avoid.

Make sure not to touch the underside of the snails and if you do, make sure to get medical treatment as quickly as possible.

Ready to check out some more Okinawa content?


Banana Spiders

Long legged banana spider hanging from its web in a tree is one of the wildlife species to avoid in Okinawa
Image by annebarca

Arachnophobes look away now. Unfortunately, there are banana spiders all over the islands. Also known as golden orb weavers (Nephila pilipes), these spiders vary in size and can look daunting. With females averaging anywhere between 30–50 mm and males considerably smaller at 5–6 mm.

These spiders are native to many tropical countries and you’ll likely see them in parks, gardens, forests and anywhere else green that a spider could weaver a web.

The females stay in their webs 24/7 and they often cannot survive long outside of them. This is great as it means they generally won’t harm you. If you happen to threaten one or walk into one (they have a tendency to weave webs about head height in forest trails) then you may be unfortunate enough to be bitten.

They are a venomous type of spider which is why they’re on our Okinawa wildlife list so you know to stay away from them. If you do get bitten by one it can cause multiple unpleasant and painful symptoms that need to be treated relatively quickly.


Final Thoughts on Dangerous Animals in Okinawa

This list above might seem daunting, but don’t let these animals put you off visiting this wonderful region. There are endless things to see and do and you are guaranteed to fall in love with the relaxing way of life here.

By staying alert to your surroundings when enjoying your time in the ocean and in the forests, you’ll be able to keep yourself safe.

Have you seen any of these animals in person?

Want to see some animals in Okinawa that are less likely to harm you? What about sea turtles? Tokashiku Beach, and Ama Beach in the Keramas Islands have large groups of them that feed on seagrass here

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