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!
Geocaching in Okinawa is great. This has to be one of the best places to get into this adventurous, family-friendly activity. As others have said, going after the caches here will take you places you would never find otherwise. Ive been doing it for 2 years and cant imagine ever stopping. A couple things came up while talking to a new cacher recently Id like to post about.
He asked about becoming a premium member on Geocaching.com or not. I explained that he’ll be able to see all the caches available as a member, and other “perks”. So why are so many caches for members only? When you place a cache, you decide if its for members only or not. According to the venerable cache master DDRAMS, a while back, there was a disgruntled cacher that started going to caches and stealing containers. He wasn’t a paid member so he could only see the public ones. Some cachers got together and decided to start placing member only caches from then on since it was doubtful that someone with nefarious intentions would make the $30 dollar a year commitment. Not surprisingly, the problem stopped.
Next question was, is the GeocachingOkinawa facebook page the only way to contact the community when you need assistance with a cache? Apparently there wasnt, and I dont do facebook either. So now theres a Google+ community made called Okinawa Geocache, link above, available for sharing pics and whatever, and also a G+ Hangouts chat room called Okinawa Geocache. They are made to allow anyone to add anyone once youre in. The community is private so ask for an invite and once youre in, everyone will be able to add their caching buddies, and so on.
So get out there and see more of what this island has to offer. Im not affiliated with this but it also has a lot of good stuff for Okinawa: http://www.mapitokinawa.com/
Geocaching social media links:
G+ Okinawa Geocache Community: https://plus.google.com/communities/116229991602144928642
G+ Hangouts Chat: Okinawa Geocache
Hey Orion!! Thanks for your comments, and especially the info about the Google+ community. I didn’t know about that, so I’m looking forward to connecting with more cachers!
Another geocacher here! It’s an awesome way to visit areas you would have otherwise missed, it’s fun for singles, couples, and families alike, and a great way to break up longer day trips across the island. We even use it in conjunction with geography, science, history, and math lessons for the kids.
If you choose to participate, please be respectful of the time that others dedicated to placing the cache, the cachers that will come after you, and the island itself! 😀
i just downloaded the free app on my iphone and found my first treasure!
Yay, Joyce! I hope you keep going!
Just letting everyone know there is an “Event Cache” happening this weekend. 1000 at the Starbucks in American Village on Saturday (Feb. 16th). Come and meet some awesome geocachers and learn from the pros!
Another geocaching fan here. it has led me to spots i wouldn’t have otherwise found!
I am SO glad someone posted this… it’s so much fun!! I’ve been geocaching for a few years now and it’s a great way to get out there and see some new sights while searching for those elusive caches 🙂 I used to keep a geocaching kit in my trunk stateside, I should probably make a new one up to keep here!
Our Geobag is always with us, Erin! Get yours now!
Thank you for posting this! We are active geocachers and are looking forward to caching here on the Island!