Monday, July 4, 2011

Dive Log: Musandam, Oman

UPDATE! Thanks to Hana, one of our fellow divers on the trip, here are a few pictures.

The primary reason for our trip to Fujairah this past weekend was scuba diving. Brian and I have been diving for around 5 years now and have had some amazing underwater adventures, and we were excited to add UAE to the list. We were also very hopeful as this will be the first time we've lived less than a plane ride away from a decent diving opportunity (no, Devil's Lake doesn't count! ;)

I did some research online and exchanged a number of emails and settled on Freestyle Divers who operate out of the Royal Beach hotel in Dibba. The funniest part of the exchange was the directions to the harbor ...

"right at the dolphin roundabout, then left at the clocktower roundabout, then past the gravel area to the men with guns ..."

We wondered just what we had gotten ourselves into! Well, as you saw from the photos on my previous post, Dibba has made their roundabouts into artwork and the reference to the 'men with guns' was simply the border crossing into Oman (nothing scary in the least). In fact, on the way home, they didn't even look at our passports, just waved us through ... hmmm, maybe it was the salt-crusted faces and windblown hair that persuaded them we were safe?

We found the harbour without too much trouble and met our divemaster, Tom, at the dock. There were 8 divers and 3 snorkelers, which left us plenty of room to spread out on the boat and underwater. (Which was very lucky as the boat ride to our dive site was over one hour!) Tom's from South Africa so he asked us to get "kitted up" and then we were off ... or so we thought. After the motor killed the 4th or 5th time, we headed back to the dock to have one of the engineers take a look. He ended up jumping on board with us and had a day out at sea. We never did quite figure out what the trouble was, but from what I could tell, they needed someone to stand on the motor cover on the back of the boat when the throttle was wide open (the engineer and Tom took turns doing this for the trip out and back). On the way out, the snorkel group sang songs from the radio and the divers chatted about where we'd all been and the latest story of the couple being left on the Great Barrier reef in Australia by their guides ... probably not the best topic given our circumstances, but maybe Tom overheard and took an even more careful headcount! :) We also passed 2 different pods of dolphins and watched them frolic around the boat for a while.

We eventually reached our destination, which was somewhere along the Musandam coast of Oman, and jumped in. The water was very warm (93 at the surface and 88 at the bottom). Definitely the warmest diving we've ever done and the first time I didn't wear a wetsuit - it was fantastic not to get chilled. Visibility was about 5 to 15 meters and not great, but not too bad. It was a wall dive, which is pretty easy from a navigation perspective (just keep the wall to your right) and is home to lots of fish, eels, crabs ... Overall, a great diving experience and something we'll do again.

They had a full lunch on board during our break between dives and during lunch we were all on the lookout for whale sharks. Whale sharks are the world's biggest fish (not actually sharks at all) and they are really cool to watch. They are plankton feeders and cruise along the top of the water with their mouths wide open to scoop in plankton. We had snorkeled with them in Mexico and were hoping to see some of their Arabic cousins, but no such luck.

Second dive was also a nice and easy wall dive with lots of fish and beautiful coral. This area has deep ocean currents coming up from the bottom and mixing with the warm water of the surface which made for some very interesting thermoclimes. You'd be swimming along and all of a sudden, you'd feel this really cold current on one arm or across your legs or over your face. Very fun.

Our dives over, we stored our gear and settled in for the long ride home. Tom broke up the trip by  letting us snorkel at a place he had seen huge amounts of fish before. He talked it up by telling us that a short swim around this rock and bam! we would see tons of fish ... they must have been on holiday as well because when we came around the rock ... there were NO fish. We gave Tom a hard time and climbed back in the boat.

So, a great day diving and an easy trip for us to make again on a weekend!

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