For those of you who are new(er) to the island and looking for some great outdoor activities to help you explore the island – alone OR with a group -geocaching might be a great activity to look into.
This ‘Out of the Archives’ post was originally published on Okinawa Hai on February 8, 2013.
CONTRIBUTED BY AMY MADDOCKS
Need an adventure? Want to discover places you never imagined? Care to join a world-wide treasure hunt? Then Geocaching is exactly what you require! With around 700 Geocaches (and more being placed weekly) currently in Okinawa, you are in luck.
In short, Geocaching is a free, real-world, outdoor treasure hunt. Players attempt to locate hidden containers using any GPS enabled device and then log their adventures and experiences online. It all started in the year 2000 when the accuracy of GPS technology was greatly improved. GPS enthusiasts wanted to find a way to test how accurate the technology was, and Geocaching was born. You can go to HERE to tour around the Geocaching website and discover all there is to know. This article hopes to educate you on just a few highlights of the game.
Most people think you need a fancy GPS unit to play, but you can actually do it with any smart phone or tablet and it’s something people of all ages can participate in. There is an app that costs around ten dollars to download, but to register with the main site is free. You can choose between the free membership and the premium. The premium has a lot more perks, including caches that are only shown to premium members. I recommend you start with the basic membership, try your luck on a few caches, then upgrade to premium if you are going to continue. It is worth the thirty dollar per year membership fee for all the extra bonuses you get!
As for playing the actual “game,” you simply direct the app (or go online) to show you the caches nearest you. Click on the one you are interested in and it will give you the info you need to decide if you want to proceed. Caches are rated on terrain and difficulty, and will give you info on whether there is parking nearby, if it’s available 24/7, if it’s a good one for kids, etc. Read through the description of the cache along with logs of previous people to help you out…some cache owners will also put hints or spoiler pictures if you don’t want to be too challenged!
There are many things to consider, so the best advice I can give you is to play around with it and get to know the system. Your GPS unit or your app will direct you to the cache (or close to it). Once you find the cache, it will have a log you can sign saying you found it. Then, you log your find online. Some caches are tiny (the size of a large pencil eraser), some are the size of ammo containers, and you’ll find everything in-between. The bigger ones can hold objects for trading (if taking something out put something in of equal or greater value) and trackables (TB). That’s a whole other side to caching that some choose to participate in and others do not. Basically, people around the world place objects in caches with unique codes on them that you can then track and move the TB to another location based on its goal. Some have traveled the entire world; others may want to stay on Okinawa. It’s fun to see where things have been and help them on their way!
One of the biggest things you’ll need to remember is to not get caught finding a cache! Stealth is a MUST and for some caches you’ll need ninja-like skills to go unnoticed. When people that don’t cache (lovingly called “muggles” in the caching world) find a cache, it usually gets removed, destroyed, or the contents inside stolen. So, always be vigilant when looking for the hide, signing the logs, and replacing it the same way it was found.
You can click HERE to watch a short video on what Geocaching is all about. Hopefully it will inspire you to get out and discover the world around you! Please realize there are many other facets to Geocaching that I haven’t discussed here, but hopefully this will be enough to motivate you to get out and explore! Plus, since it is played all over the world, you can Geocache whenever you find yourself in a new location. We recently went on vacation to Thailand and had a blast finding caches there. There is even a Scouting Merit Badge that can be earned with Geocaching, and events you can attend to get to know other cachers in the area.
I will tell you this—after your first “find” you will be hooked! It is a truly addicting game. We have seen so many amazing and wonderful places that we wouldn’t have otherwise, and I am forever grateful for Geocaching for getting me out to see the world through different eyes. So, what are you waiting for? Get out and join the treasure hunt!