Diving in the Musandam (Oman)

Finally the question that all of you have been asking….How is the diving in Musandam?

To be totally honest, I didn’t come here only for the diving. The primary reasons I made my way to this little corner of the world were wanderlust, wanting to be somewhere different than Southeast Asia and because the deal with my current employer sounded (and turned out to be!) pretty sweet. The dive industry is, after all, not really known for paying high or even decent wages, so when the opportunity presents itself, you grab it.

Well, the part about it being different is true. Compared to the tropical waters of Malaysia & Indonesia where I was diving before it is quite different. (Am I stating the obvious?) and since these countries offer some of the best diving in the world, it wouldn’t be entirely fair to compare them with Oman.

That being said, the diving here is pretty damn good!

Conditions

At the moment the water is colder than what I’m used to (water temperatures of 22°C at the moment), but divers that dive regularly in Europe laugh at me and my 5mm wetsuit with hood, gloves and booties while sweating it out in their 3mm, so I guess it’s a personal thing. These kind of temperatures are only seasonal and the temperature is slowly creeping up already untill it will reach to around 30°C in the summermonths when it’s almost too hot in boardshorts and rashguard.

Colorful soft corals

Visibility is not as great as, for example, the Red Sea. We’ve had viz as low as 4m during algae blooms, but also as good as 15+m with nice blue waters. I’d say the average is around 12m which isn’t too bad. Honestly, I don’t really mind because even in ‘bad’ viz conditions there are still plenty of critters and fish to look at, it’s just a bit more spooky when suddenly a school of trevallies come up out of nowhere! And keeping in mind that viz on the other side of the peninsula (around Dubai) can be truly terrible, we can’t complain.

Most divesites are slopes or walls so straightforward to navigate. Due to the geography of the Musandam, with deep fjords, steep mountains and situated at the Strait of Hormuz, there can be some current on the sites, but there are sites further inside the bays that are more sheltered from the current and waves so there’s always something for divers of all levels.

Marine Life

Is great! First of all, all the divesites are covered in soft corals. A LOT of softcorals, so they’re all very colorfull and pretty. Dark purple, blue, pink, bright yellow, orange….it’s all there. There’s a nice mix of colorful reef fish and schooling fish such as fusiliers, trevallies, snappers, rainbow runners etc. There are some bigger fish around as well. Big Pickhandle Barracudas and Kingfish are both pretty common. We regularly find big Cowtail- & Marbled stingrays in the sand and for those who are lucky you might even spot a Torpedo Ray, Eagle ray, Devil rays, one or two ‘resident’ Mola Molas, Leopard Shark and even Whale Shark. Unfortunately, I haven’t been so lucky yet to see one of Mola Molas or sharks, but the rays are not uncommon. One of the highlights was an Eagle Ray crossing directly in front of me as I swam out of a swimthrough!

Massive Honeycomb Moray & colorful corals

It’s full of Lionfish here, and other ‘stingers’ like Scorpionfish can be seen on every divesite as well, so are different species of Moray Eels. Especially the Honeycomb Morays get massive out here!

I’m very happy with the nudibranch we find here as well. There is not a huge variety, but for those with good nudi-eyes there are lots of them hanging out on the rocks or between the soft corals. Some of them are big and very colorful and I haven’t seen them before. Obviously, that makes me really excited. So do the Cuttlefish (I looooooooooooooooooooooooove Cuttlefish!). There are beautiful Spiny Lobsters hanging out in crevices and holes too!

And then there are turtles, turtles everywhere! Seriously, I have never seen so many turtles, not even in Malaysia or Indonesia. Sometimes we see 6 turtles on one dive. They’re mostly small Green- or Loggerhead turtles that like to nibble on all the softcorals. 

Dive Sites

There are a dozen or so dive sites in the Lima Rock/Lima Bay area where we dive frequently. Lima is a tiny coastal village north of Dibba (where I’m located) and only accessible by boat. To get to these sites it takes around 45-60 minutes by speedboat. Occassionally we take the speedboat farther up North, all the way to the Strait of Hormuz, where the reefs are even more unspoiled but the diving is more challenging due to depth & currents.

Look at this!

One of my favorite dives so far is Ras Marovi. Marovi is like a very well-tended coral garden full of soft corals. Especially in the shallows (4-8m) it’s like paradise, with turtles eating the corals and reef fish darting over the reef. In the sand around 10-15m we regularly see either Cowtail or Pointed-nose stingrays.

Another favorite dive is Wonderwall where everybody else keeps seeing Mola Mola except for me, so I’ll keep my hopes up. But even without Mola Mola it’s a beautiful divesite with a wall covered in purple whip corals and some big boulders that form swimthroughs. There are a couple of resident Pickhandle Barracudas and schools of Rainbow Runners like to hang out in the current on the corner.

Perhaps the most challenging dive in the Lima Bay area is Lima Rock East. Lima Rock is a small rocky island with the east side directly facing the Gulf of Oman, but those who don’t mind the strong currents can be rewarded with big pelagics such as Devil Rays or even -if you’re lucky- a Whaleshark. Octopus Rock is another more challenging dive, starting with a small pinnacle leading to a submerged reef where you can find a resident Seahorse, big rays foraging in the sand and lots of colorful reef fish.

Want to know more about diving in the Musandam? Ask me! 

 *All photos in this post are from the Nomad Ocean Adventures website (that’s where I work, check it out!)

First impressions of Oman

1. Arrival in the Dubai (United Arab Emirates). This city is insane. It consists for approximately 80% of highways in a big, entangled mess. An 8-lane highway in the middle of the city. Seriously?

2. There are a lot of really expensive cars that drive in really dangerous ways. Eek.

IMG_8910

3. The border crossing into Oman (Musandam) is the easiest border ever. They don’t even stamp your passport! Which is probably a good thing, since mine is almost running out of pages.

4. The dive center where we’ll work is next to a Shell petrol station and a burger joint. Screw you, people that said that this place is really remote.

5. As you can see, we’re not located directly on the beach. This means we’ll load everything into a jeep and drive to the harbour, which is located exactly 3.42 minutes away (with a full car) or 3.02 minutes with an empty one.

In action with my first Open Water student in here

In action with my first Open Water student in here. Photo by Dro Madery

6. There’s a swimming pool! This will be my first time teaching in a swimming pool! This will be my first time diving in a swimming pool.

7. Boatrides! Contrary to places I’ve worked before, the boatride to the dive site takes around 45-60 minutes. This is where beanies and windbreakers come in handy.

8. Diving. Cold! I mean, not really, but this is coming from a spoiled tropical warm-water diver. 21°C. Thank you, 5mm wetsuit!

On the left. Student on the right. Photo by Dro Madery

On the left. Student on the right. Photo by Dro Madery

9. And green. -ish. Better now, but when we arrived visibility was around 5m. Doesn’t matter, there are nudibranch to look at!

10. It’s so pretty! There are purple, pink and blue soft corals everywhere. I just want to hover and watch them sway back and forth in the mild surge.

11. Baby turtles. Need I say more?

12. I miss my camera. I need an underwater housing.

13. Food is amazing. We have a cook. That’s weird. It’s not really our cook, but he works for the resort and since we live in the resort, he kind of is our cook too. I love him.

14. Everything outside is brown. Or grey. Or beige. And then people that have been in the UAE for years come over and yell “Oh my god it’s so GREEEEEEEEEEEEn here!!”. And we’re like, really? This is how green it is. I’ll let you decide.

IMG_9006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15. It’s still amazingly, beautiful. The mountains have this pink hue when the sun rises. Very hard to capture on camera, but very, very pretty.

16. Mosques. Mosques everywhere. We hear the adhan, the call to prayer, five times a day. The mosques are not quite synchronized so it’s this echo of noise coming from six different angles.

Mosque sunrise17. I love the way the sun rises from behind the mosque in front of the dive center.

18. Days off are amazing. They almost make you feel like a normal working person. I mean, we’ve had days off in the past but they were never really a thing. More, oh, there’s nothing going on, might as well have a day off. Here, they’re institutionalized. And awesome.

19. Except when you decide to drive to Dubai to surprise your boyfriend for his birthday and get hoplessly lost. Grrrrr.

20. Cake for breakfast.

More to follow

Packing Anxiety (or how to apply rescue diver skills to packing your backpack)

suitcase

You would think that after 2 years of travelling & living abroad I know how to deal with something simple as packing.

 

Turns out you’re wrong.

 

The arrival of my brand new 5mm wetsuit the other day almost send me into a panick attack: How will I EVER fit that and ALL my other stuff in bags?!

 

Wait…packing? 5mm wetsuit? What’s going on?

 

I’m moving again! The new destination will be Oman. This is all very exciting and I’ve known for over a month. I just kept quiet because I was afraid that I would jinx it, but now it looks like it’s really happening.

 

Oman

We (A. is coming along too) will be based in the Musandam, an exclave of Oman proper, much closer to Dubai than Muscat. It’s right on the northeastern tip of the Arabian peninsula, right across Iran sticking out into the Strait of Hormuz (my friends already joked that it would be awesome -but terrifying- to see a US submarine sneaking up to Iran while diving).

 

You should all come and visit, even though there might not be much to do besides diving and admiring the desert and fjords and starry skies and sunsets. Oh, and eating the most delicious food. And perhaps hanging around the swimming pool. Because we’ll have a swimming pool. Can I say that again? We’ll have a swimming pool. You’re welcome.

 

Oman is very exciting and interesting for numerous reasons. The culture, obviously, but more about that when I’m actually there. The climate might be a close second. In summer it will be bloody hot of course but in a couple of weeks, when we arrive, it won’t be as hot as you might think. The biggest difference compared to, let’s say Indonesia, is that it can actually get a bit chilly in the evenings and early mornings. This won’t really be a problem because almost anything is better than this sad excuse of a winter we’re having in The Netherlands right now.

 

Is this going to be part of my work attire?

Is this going to be part of my work attire?

But did I mention the water? The water temperature is where it’s at. Sometimes it’s a mere 23 degrees C and the thought of it already numbs my toes and makes me pee my wetsuit. My friend that is already working there warned me about bringing a warm woolly hat and a windbreaker for on the boat and that kind of freaked me out.

 Packing

So instead of breezy tropical-heat resistant summer clothes I have to bring along hoodies, windbreakers, knitted hats, a huge bulky wetsuit and basically everything else for a temperature range from 14-40 degrees Celcius. It’s really easy to stack 6 flimsy shirts and 2 pairs of cotton harem trousers in a backpack but this will be a different matter.

 

You want to know what the ridiculous thing is? We’re leaving in three weeks and I’m already freaking out about this.

 

OK. So what did I do?

First of all, breathe. Then Stop. Think. Act. (I’ve been teaching this to people. I can do this!)

 

Stop. Assess the situation. I pulled out all my clothes, sorted them on my bed and counted. Turns out I have less than 45 items of clothing already, which is not a bad number to start with. This excludes coats, shoes, underwear, workout gear and dive specific clothing. Remember to always put your own safety first, so if you have one of those closets that are so full they’ll explode by just looking at them, you might want to put on a helmet or something.

 

At least half of the items wouldn’t stand a chance to be taken to Oman because they’re too hot, too formal, too wrinkly, too dumb or too irrelevant.

All my clothes. The dorky catskirt won't make the cut.

All my clothes. The dorky catskirt won’t make the cut.

 

Think. That leaves around 25 items, which would be pretty good for a capsule wardrobe but still takes up too much space in my backpack, so we’ll need to select further. My rules: every item should be:

 

1) Wearable with several other items. I don’t need to explain this, do I?

2) Be practical, because miniskirts might be totally sexy, climbing in and out of docked boats with them is not. Especially not in Oman, because, modesty.

3) Look pulled together. Easy one! Just choose a boring color scheme of blacks, greys and maroons like I do and you’ll be fine.

4) Preferably be multi-functional. Leggings double as running tights. A long skirt is great for chilling out but can also look fancy for trips into town.

 

Yeah, that sounds boring to me too, but life is no fashion show. At least not for me, at this moment. If it is for you, that’s totally OK too.

 

Act. Make a shortlist of 10 items of cloting and see how many outfits you can make with them? 4 bottoms (leggings, long skirt, shorts and jeans), 5 shirts (2 longsleeve, 2 shortsleeve, 1 tanktop) and 1 hoodie got me really far. I’ll probably bring some extra shirts because I’ll be living there instead of just travelling around but this will basically be it!

 

Now breathe again and smile at the thought of how much space you have in your backpack to smuggle a supply of cheese and cookies into the country. If there ever was a reason to minimize your clothing, this is it people. Don’t let all those minimalists fool you.

« Older Entries