9 Days of Rustic Kyushu, Day 4 (Part 1): Dolphin Cruise + Unzen Jigoku Hell

Sunday, 19 February 2017


Day 4: Kazusa Dolphin Watching Cruise --> Unzen Jigoku Hell (雲仙地獄) --> Shimabara Spring Group --> Shimabara Castle --> Samurai Houses --> Dejima --> Hotel
Day 4 saw us taking a day trip out to Shimabara and our first stop was a dolphin watching cruise in Kazusa Town.

While we were there pretty early (at about 9 am), there was already a Japanese family ahead of us. We were first made to go through a briefing. Unfortunately, it was again done in Japanese and of not much use to us. Our guide did translate here and there, but I'm pretty sure there was much that he didn't really tell us.

What little bits I did get, was that dolphins were actually a pretty common sight in that part of Japan. However, sightings would depend sometimes on where the dolphins were headed for food. I'm also quite sure that the briefing included some basic biology of the dolphins. No way to mistake that when the lady pointed to their size and weight that was indicated on the board. Plus, there were hand gestures that mimicked the shape of the dolphins.
Sigh. Someone should really help them with getting some audio tape support.

That's the boat we took for the cruise! It looks kind of tiny after the ferry we took to Hashima Island but actually well-served its purpose. Besides, you wouldn't want too many people fighting with you to catch sight of the dolphins. This way, everyone on board was ensured that they would get to see the dolphins even when remaining seated.
Yup! We were warned not to lean too far out in our dolphin excitement and that it was best to remain seated. Despite the language barrier, the cruise operators were very strict on safety protocols. They made sure that our guide translated that portion of the briefing. They also ensured that we had our life vests on, and knew what to do with them before they allowed us to board the boat.

Our first indication that we were in luck.
Once we were out of the port, it was not long before we caught sight of our first dolphin! Once someone shouted and pointed it out, we could immediately see a whole shoal of them!
Seriously, I meant that. Of course, in the "OMG! Look at them! So cute!" way. Well, at least that's what I assumed the Japanese were saying. I'm pretty sure they said Kawaii a few times. But really, it was amazing seeing them so up close and in the wild.
We were not allowed to feed the dolphins, something which I completely agree with. The dolphins need to survive in the wild and human interference should really be kept minimal. But even without the lure of food, these lovely water creatures were not shy! Our boatman killed the engines the minute the dolphins were spotted, so we were just drifting. And these dolphins just swam really close to the boat; to the left, to the right, under the boat.
Even my mom, who was groaning at the thought of another boat trip (she's got motion sickness and is never without her pills on trips) got jubilant at seeing the dolphins. She actually clapped her hands like a kid who just got sweets.

By the way, that's a baby dolphin swimming with its mama!
OK. I assume mama but it could be papa for all I know...
Anyway, a word of caution. Please do put on some sunscreen and bring along water as well. I was too excited with the dolphins, too was occupied with taking photos and lulled by the strong sea breeze into thinking that everything was ok. I forgot all about the sun and hydrating myself until it was a little too late. Obviously, that didn't help my flu one bit but I swear, you'll forget all that during the dolphin cruise.

My departing shot of the lovely dolphins as we left to head back towards land.
I was really quite sad to end this part of the tour. It was really enjoyable even if we weren't allowed to do anything much. This was also one of my dad's favourite part of the tour.

On my original itinerary, once we were done with the dolphins, we were supposed to head to Shimabara Castle. However, our guide told us that we had plenty of time, and brought us to another attraction that was along the way: Unzen Jigoku Hell.

Unzen Jigoku is pretty famed for its onsen (hot spring) resorts. Similar to the Jigokudani Hell Valley that we visited in Hokkaido, this was a hotspot of volcanic activity. Basically, hot water, gases and white steam are abound. The sulphur stink here was also very strong. Unfortunately, my mom couldn't take it and we left the place within 30 minutes. It was a good thing that admission was free!


Although I did not get to explore much of the place, Unzen Jigoku Hell was also a nature park. There are trails that lead to the woods and to various onsen resorts.

Interestingly, Unzen Jigoku Hell was also a site where Christians were martyred during the period where they were persecuted in Japan. They were tortured in the boiling waters and many did not make it out alive. I cannot imagine the pain they would have gone through, just take a look at the video of the boiling water there. Hell was definitely a apt name for the place.

Tourist Information

Kazusa Dolphin Watching
Address: 251-11 Otsu, Kazusa-cho, Minamishimabara 859-2605, Nagasaki Prefecture
Local address: 〒859-2605加津佐町乙251-11 
DID: +81 957-87-4640

Unzen Jigoku Hell
Address: Obamacho Unzen, Unzen 854-0621, Nagasaki Prefecture
Local Address: 〒854-0621小浜町雲仙
Website: http://unzen.org/tourism/spot1.html
Admission: Free



  1. Could you share the contact for your private arranged tour. I am thinking of doing thw same for my parents and kids. Thank you.

    1. Apologies! I only saw this now!
      I did my Kyushu private tour via Dynasty Travels. I didn't really like the driver-guide hence will be trying out another one via Chan Brothers in an upcoming trip. If this one is better, I'll pass you the contacts. Otherwise you can check with most of the major local tour agencies, they do provide private tours.