Oman is situated in the Gulf, it is the third-largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The sea we dived in was the Gulf of Oman at the other side of which is Iran and Pakistan. Oman is a progressive modern Islamic state with a population of over 3 million, whose hereditary leader is Sultan Qaboos. It is a major exporter of oil. Its citizens benefit from the oil revenue by not having to pay taxes and there is free schooling and health-care in modern hospitals.
The plane was a new Airbus A330 (2:5:2 seating configuration) and the 6.5 hour flight passed quickly. We flew over Iran and crossed the coast of the Arabian Peninsula near Dubai. It's a pity we were on the port side of the plane else we may have seen the Palm/World development projects. We arrived in Muscat early in the morning. We each had to purchase a visa (6 OMR) before going through immigration. I bought some Bombay Sapphire gin for a very reasonable price in the duty-free shop at arrivals. Then we picked up our baggage and went outside the terminal. It was a bit chaotic but our driver found us and we were soon on our way to the resort, which is south of the capital (the airport is north). It took about 45 minutes to reach the resort
The bay is shallow for quite a way out and it was easy to wade to various small coves. The water is clean, but not too clear, as it has a bit of plankton in it. Of an evening we would wander down to the bar, order a round of drinks, chat about the day's diving then migrate to the open-air restaurant. The food was basic, but very good nevertheless. Neil and I shared a camel-burger for lunch one day that was delicious. There are no shops within walking distance of the resort. A large bottle of water cost 1 OMR, but you could bring an empty bottle to the restaurant and have it refilled for half the price. A bottle of (very drinkable Chilean) house wine cost about 10 OMR. No-one had any tummy troubles during the holiday. The waiters were pleasant, but a bit "laid back" and food orders could take a while to come. Breakfast was a buffet affair and we got on well with "the egg-man", who would cook omelets, scrambled egg, or other preparations to order. The bread was very good when it wasn't being used as an incendiary device (Marilyn almost burnt down the place by putting her bread long-ways, instead of sideways, into the conveyor-belt toaster).
The centre has a couple of smallish boats, comfortably accommodating up to 10 divers, more would be a bit of a squeeze. It also had one large boat, with a sun-bathing area on the roof. This boat could comfortably accommodate up to 30 divers. The dive centre has a deep swimming pool and does SSI courses. It has a small shop, but doesn't stock much in the way of dive kit or spare parts. Normally we would have breakfast from 7:15 onwards, then, about 08:00, walk past the pool to the kit cleaning room to retrieve our dive gear. Having checked and packed our gear we'd then take it along the jetty to one of the small boats. The bay is shallow, so sometimes (low-medium tide) we had to wade from the end of the jetty to the boat, which would take us to the large boat.
Dive briefings could have been done a bit better, they usually consisted of: "swim to the wall; keep it on your left shoulder; come back after 100 bar or 30 minutes with it on your right shoulder; you might see fish, nudibranchs, rays ...". A few diagrams wouldn't have gone amiss. However, having said that, the diving was not difficult. In general visibility was limited to about 15m, due to the plankton in the water. This wasn't a problem, although on one dive (Cat Rock) we were sometimes down to 5m viz and were in less than 1m of water, with spiny urchins below us! Many of the dives were drift dives, though on one of these, over at Fahal Island, we were wrongly advised to go against the current, not with it. My most favourite dives were: "Aquarium" and "police Bay" (Daymaniyat), Fahal Island, "Cockleshell Bay" and "Plug point".
The majority of the dive sites are within a 30 minute journey from the dive centre, except when one of the two outboard motors packs in, as happened on the way back from an afternoon dive one day. Most of the sites have loads of wildlife and while the coral is not as spectacular as the Red Sea, it is very good nevertheless. Further afield is Fahal Island, which is about 45 minutes away to the north. The diving here is excellent. We passed American, British and French warships, Omani police vessels and oil tankers to get to it. We were careful to give the American destroyer a wide berth. A couple of days previously the boat had been intercepted by the police and shoo'd away before the American captain could decide whether or not to fire a warning shot from their 5mm front gun turret. They're a bit tetchy in the Gulf, as well they should be. The two dives we did were well worth the longer ride and we ran into a school of about 30 dolphins on the way back. These were being followed by fishermen, who were hunting the tuna the dolphins were chasing.
Even further away is Daymaniyat. The small boat takes about 1.5 hours to get there and it can be quite a bumpy ride, but well worth it. We dived "The Aquarium" at Daymaniyat and it is obvious where it gets its name from. It was absolutely fantastic! The dive circles an underwater coral outcrop and the corals and wildlife there are stunning. Our second dive at Daymaniyat was a drift dive at "Police Bay", which although not as stunning as Aquarium, is still a fantastic dive. Do not leave Oman without diving Daymaniyat. Even though it took over 2 hours to get back on the most bumpy ride I've experienced outside Bluewater Rafting on Maui, we would have gone to Daymaniyat again had we been able to. The Al Sawadi Beach Resort, also run by Extra Divers, is the closest dive centre for Daymaniyat. Two guys who couldn't be fitted on the boat still wanted to go, so the dive centre arranged for them to be driven there, but it is a long way to go as it is way to the north of Muscat. The Daymaniyat Islands stretch out over 20kms, starting about 15kms from the coast, with "Police Bay" being one of the furthest dive sites.
We did one wreck dive on the holiday, the 84m long Al Munnassir, sunk by the Royal Oman Navy as an artificial reef.
It is lying upright, with the bottom at the stern being in about 30m of water, rising up to about 6m below the surface.
If you have the relevant qualification you can enter the wreck.
The side of the wreck is absolutely covered in nudibranchs. I have never seen so many in one place before.
There are several eels hiding in the superstructure.
On several of the dives we saw cuttlefish, which are amazing. They usually appear in pairs and would stay still long enough for you to photograph them, then, as they moved away you could see them change colour to match that of the coral over which they were traveling. We also saw giant seahorses about 6 inches (15cm) long, hawksbill turtles, rays and eels, as well as the usual fish. We saw a couple of sharks at a distance, and some of us saw a lemon shark while snorkelling between dives.
We had a bit of excitement on a couple of dives. On one, a buddy pair got separated at the beginning of the dive.
On another (the other) Sue managed to flood her underwater housing causing the camera to stop working and losing the photos on her memory card.
Three of us went on a night dive. We were dropped quite a way from the wall and didn't take a compass reading before descending.
Instead of heading straight for the wall we stopped to see some sights on the bottom and consequently got disoriented, so much so that we never reached the cliff wall.
Then one of us three had a problem and had to surface. The remaining two surfaced after a safety stop only to find we couldn't see
the third diver, nor could we see the boat, which was not showing any lights.
To make matters worse we had gone in the opposite direction to where we should have gone and were in open water instead of being inside the bay.
A few shouts and wiggling of lights drew the attention of those on the boat and we were eventually picked, to be re-united with our third diver.
This emphasises the importance of taking a compass reading before starting a dive in particular a night dive.
Our last bit of excitement was at the "Cat Rock" dive site, close to Sultan Qaboos's palace.
The visibility was very low. We almost lost each other a couple of times. At one point we ended up in less than 1m of water.
There were a very large number of urchins around and Marilyn had several stings on her leg when we came up.
However, we did see a fantastic turtle on this dive.
The dive centre was very good and in fact did not charge us for the Cat Rock and night dives.
We then went on to see some camels; one just a few days old - oooooow-aaaaaah! We stopped off at a restaurant for lunch. The prices were about one-tenth of those in the resort restaurant. It cost in total 11 OMR for the nine of us (six plus a Belgian lady, who has travelled by local transport from Egypt(!) and the two drivers)! The wadi was a lovely oasis with plantations of date palms and large rock pools that some of us swam in. It was a long day out (about 12 hours in total) and we were all quite tired by the time we got back to the resort.
This was yet another great holiday. Being only six of us meant that it was cosier than some of the other trips with The Divecrew, especially as we all gone on so well with each other. The resort was great. The informality of the hut arrangement meant that we were not crowded together and each had their own space. While it wasn't really possible to go off-reort easily, most of us were sufficiently worn out at the end of a day's diving not to bother about this. The weather was brilliant all the time; it was not too hot or oppressive. However, we were told it could get well over 40°C in June. I would definitely recommend this as a diving holiday destination.
|Date||Depth (m)||Time (min)||EANx||Oman Dive|
|19 Oct||21.3||50||-||Cockleshell Bay - lovely dive, lots of fish, some nudibranchs|
|19 Oct||17.1||56||-||Memaid's Cove - another lovely dive, millions of fish|
|20 Oct||21.3||50||-||Fahal Island (North Bay) - loads of fish, quite a bit of current though|
|20 Oct||13.1||59||-||Fahal Island (East Bay) - interesting topography & trillions of fish|
|20 Oct||15.9||22||-||The Point - night dive, but a waste of time (see report)|
|21 Oct||22.6||41||-||Daymaniyat Islands (Aquarium) - best dive of the holiday!|
|21 Oct||17.4||57||-||Daymaniyat Islands (Police Bay) - Fabulous dive, colourful corals|
|22 Oct||30.0||36||-||Al Munnassir wreck - hundreds of nudibranchs & an electric ray|
|22 Oct||14.0||58||-||Cave Site - poor viz at first, but turned out to be a good dive|
|22 Oct||17.7||53||-||Happy Wall - very good drift dive, lots to see|
|23 Oct||22.0||56||-||Novice Bay - lots of fish, some turtles, nice and easy|
|23 Oct||11.6||61||-||Plug Point - beautiful dive, trillions of fish, turtles and rays and eels|
|23 Oct||11.6||57||-||Cat Rock - very poor viz, spent a lot of time looking after buddies|