Friday, January 1, 2016

Diving Dibba Rock on Dusty's birthday

My logged dives #1406-1407


December 29 this year and most years for that matter was my son Dusty's birthday, and as he was in town from Doha I offered to take him diving as a birthday present. Bobbi and granddaughter Gwenny had planned to accompany us to Nomad Ocean Adventure in Dibba Musandam but as we were pulling away from the house to get on the freeway for Dubai, Lauren rang us and told us they were cancelling diving that weekend due to rough weather, but she said they'd be diving on the Dibba UAE side. So we pulled off the highway, drove home to get beverages we had to be careful about carrying across the border into Oman, booked ourselves into Alia Suites in Dibba on our mobile phones as we retraced our steps, and set out anew to spend the night in Dibba, UAE.

We all slept too late for the early morning dive but woke up in time to have breakfast and pack and move down the road to the Royal Beach Hotel for the second dive at 11:00, where Nomad Ocean Adventure opened a dive center in 2015. We find it a little odd there because the staff caters to people who are diving or snorkeling the rock for the first time so we get dive briefings telling us where we will be led, but they are cool with my saying I'll just guide myself, thanks, I know where I want to go on Dibba Rock. There are moorings on the west and east sides of the small island. On the west side there is the aquarium, shallow coral teeming with fish, but the current was running that way so for our two dives that day we put in at the deeper east mooring both dives.

When they go down that mooring Nomad leads the dives to the left to go around the back of the rock. When I'm at that mooring I go in the sand to the right to find the sting rays living there, and sometimes the turtle that lives under a rock nearby. Discussing the plan on the boat before our second dive, the dive leader mentioned their "resident" turtle and when I said I was going right to check on the resident rays, she said, "We don't have any resident rays." I said, "Yes, you do."  You can see them in fact in the video below (https://youtu.be/WLYb3fEOk10).




This video is an 18 minute compilation from our two dives, and gives a good representation of what you can see if you know where to look at Dibba Rock. It starts with a pipe fish, which is the first thing that Dusty noticed when we descended on the first dive. We then move south over the sand flats to find the sting rays living there. We saw the shark on the second dive, amazing creatures, always more impressive when seen in real life, furtive and fleeting on video, especially when visibility is milky as it often is where the sharks are on Dibba Rock. From there we move to schools of barracuda, snappers, and jacks and other fish. I included some clown fish, cuttlefish, and batfish, before moving down over the reef into the aquarium where fish teem in the coral arches, and Dusty found a torpedo ray, perhaps the same one, on both dives.

On our last trip there, Nikki Blower and Bobbi and I found the turtle under the rock and filmed him in his lair: http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.ae/2015/09/fun-diving-with-sharks-turtles-and-rays.html

We were very glad we went diving that day. Nomad have a pleasant operation there, and the beach is great for families, with unrestricted use of the pool (but then Gwenny speaks Russian and so blends in with the clientele there). We all had a great time and always look forward to diving with Chris's team, hopefully in Musandam next time.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Diving from Gan, Addu Atoll, Maldives, Dec 2015

My logged dives #1394-1405


Diving in Addu Atoll, extreme south Maldives




We stayed at Equator Village http://www.equatorvillage.com/
$1900 for two people sharing room for 8 nights
All inclusive 3 meals, bottomless beverages, free  use of bicycles, a/c rooms
Plus $800 two airfares from Male to Gan, return
Plus airfare from Abu Dhabi to Male, half price about $500 each when going through Muscat

Dive sites around Gan http://www.equatorvillage.com/index.php/diving



This is a work in progress. More will be added shortly. Videos are being compiled as we speak. Internet on Gan is not however robust ...



Day 1 Dec 12, 2015, Dives 1394-95, Hairaan Fara and Kuda Kandu Corner

Our first day diving in Gan Atoll, Maldives. One memory is shooting interesting fish life, I forget what exactly, but I pan to our dive guide Umar who is making the shark sign and pointing ahead. I swing the GoPro around and follow his point onto a grey white tipped reef shark whom I am able to close quarters with as he moves up the reef. It should have been an excellent video but my GoPro casing is wearing and not engaging always when I press to activate video. So this one is in cranial memory, but the others will be on YouTube soon. 

Day 2 Dec 13, 2015, Dives 1396- 97, attempted Mudakan and dived Bushy East

Today we started out with an odd concatenation of events. We are going to Mudhakan which Umar the guide says is a reef with sharks, but he always goes in first and then gets back on the boat and then re-positions it, then enters the water, and if all is good, he calls us in. We comprises Bobbi and I and a team of 3 Germans, two guys and a lady. Today, Umar announces there is "medium" current, enters the water, and calls us to join him. I have gone to the bow and jump when he calls but everyone else including Bobbi opts to use the amidship entry, which means they go one after another, and they crowd Bobbi, so she enters last. Meanwhile Umar is anxious to descend and he begins the dive. I don't see Bobbi so I call out to her, no response. I call again, but the Germans are descending. I assume Bobbi has descended already.

When I go down Umar is a bit ahead and I don't see Bobbi. I see the three Germans and perhaps someone at the surface. In 15 seconds it is apparent that Bobbi is with the Germans and I find later that the lady German had trouble ascending and was still at the surface. When I see that Bobbi is with the Germans I kick to catch up with Umar. But I, we in fact, have delayed too long. There is a furious current preventing forward movement. I can't catch Umar in mid-water, the only chance is to drop to the coral and hope for less current there, and pull myself forward using my reef hook.

I drop to the coral bed in 20 meters of water. Bobbi I find later employs the same strategy and drops to coral in 12 meters. We are now both in a cabbage coral bed that crumbles as we try to claw forward, like trying to pull yourself forward on potato chips. But I find a few solid bits to sink my reef hook onto. But now I am too low to see anyone else. Bobbi can see me, she says later, but I soon drop over the edge and out of site to 27 meters. Bobbi is alone and I am too. I can see no one else.

I can however see a parade of sharks just below me in the blue.  I pull forward. The current is buffeting me but I try to get pictures with my GoPro. It's pretty difficult and 11 min into the dive I'm down to half a tank 100 bar. I can't stay like this, alone at this depth. I decide to turn and let the current ride me up and out of there. I careen over the plateau at 12 meters, safe now, I'm just thinking to maybe do a safety stop, maybe ascend and find out what's going on with the others.

At the surface the boat picks me up. Bobbi is aboard. She did pretty much what I did, didn't see anyone else, couldn't go forward in the current, decided to let go and safely ascend wherever the current would pitch her out. At the surface she blew her whistle, and the boat came and got her.

So Bobbi and I were on the boat, our dives pretty much aborted, and no sign of the others. Later we found that Umar had seen the German lady was having problems, he saw Bobbi and I in the coral bed but prioritized the Germans, and returned to help the lady descend. By now going forward was out of the question, as was returning to where Bobbi and I were still trying to inch our way to against the current to the corner, but Umar knew that to ride the current would take you back to Manta Point which is where he took the Germans. So we collected them half an hour later, all chuffed that they had seen a Manta.

Day 3 Dec 14, 2015, Dives 1398- 99, successfully dived Mudhakan to Manta Point
and finished the day at Banana Thila




On day 3 of our diving, the Germans were no longer with us so it was just Bobbi and I. I suggested to Umar that as long as it was just us, we should go back to Mudakan corner and try to dive it properly. Bobbi and I had worked out that our not being together at the start of the dive had resulted in hesitation that had made it impossible for us to reach the corner, but if it was just Umar and the two of us, we could do a straight down descent and stay close to Umar. He agreed and we descended to the reef despite current that tried its best to sweep us off it. Bobbi landed furthest back but gamely did her best to join us, clawing to us over the coral. I had landed at 29 meters and positioned my reef hook to move up a couple meters to 27. Umar was at that depth and indicating sharks ahead, though it took us a while to see them.

We watched them patrol until I was down to half a tank with just 10 minutes no deco and Umar suggested we move off, which we did, letting the current buffet us up the reef. I was gasping at air trying to stay on the plateau as the current was trying to move me down to 14 and then sweep me over the edge. Eventually Umar stopped as we had arrived at Manta Point and half a dozen mantas were at play here.

My personal consideration was that the mantas were at 18 meters and I was by now down to 50 bar, but of course with mantas around, you need to prioritize.



Day 4 Dec 15, 2015, Dives 1400- 01, Buda Hoholha and Manta Point with Axel and Umar

Axel was taking some German divers under his wing so he and Umar let us go on our own to Buda Hoholha, and then we all went to Manta Point together. The only thing about doing Manta Point after a deep dive was it was easy to slip into deco. Between us Bobbi and I have three computers, my Aladin which is the one that went into deco, and Bobbi's Zoop, which got bricked because it goes onto a tables algorithm if you stay down below 10 meters at the end of the second dive, and her other computer, which didn't register deco. We've ignored the zoop before and survived it - I think that's a seriously flawed computer. We dived the Aladin and did the deco stops. The mantas were great.


Day 5 Dec 16, 2015, Dives 1402-03, Manta Point and Bushy West with Axel

Umar took a day off so it was just Axel and two Germans Heinz and Pia, plueds Bobbi and I. We did our first dive this time on Manta Point. Strange things happened. Bobbi got lost on the descent. I thought one of the divers who were with Axel was Bobbi, but it wasn't. The four of us were hanging on in the current and Axel was telling me emphatically, thumbs up, get up there and find your buddy. It was an order and I was preparing to comply, but thinking what could I do at the surface, the current would sweep me off the site. There was nothing I could do for Bobbi up there, and if she had a problem she would have ascended, I'm sure of that, and the boat.would have picked her up. The only option would have been for her to get swept over the edge and the worst would be she might go down, but I didn't think she would have done that (and if she had, my going to the surface would not help her there).  

Axel was emphatic, I was to abort my dive, but then I saw what I thought might be bubbles, so I hooked onto the reef to hold my position in the current. Sure enough it was Bobbi. She said later she had seen our bubbles. She knew to stay at the edge of the reef dropoff. She knew the site, she did exactly what she should have done, she tried to join us in a calm and measured way, and I'm glad I had hesitated and waited. I was so happy to see her. She's my favorite dive buddy.

We hung out with mantas as usual there but Axel and the German couple had moved down from us. When we decided we needed to go up we found them hanging out above us. But apparently the couple surfaced prematurely and so we joined Axel on his safety stop. He seemed in a funk. We completed our 3 min at 5 meters and climbed back on the boat. Axel had banned the couple from further diving that morning since they had not done a safety stop (they had been to only 18 meters and had dived only 45 min). He was upset with Bobbi and I but took us on a second dive, to Bushy Island West. It turned out to be a great dive, lots of current, and my Aladdin kept wanting me to go higher. I think we were back in his good graces by the end of it.

Day 6 Dec 17, 2015, Dives 1404-05, Kuda Hoholha and Fihali Fara with Umar (sharks and eagles)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Diving with Jay and Robin Fortin in Daymaniyat islands with Oman Sail, The Wave, Seeb, Oman

My logged dives #1390-93


Oct 23-24 Diving with Jay and Robin Fortin in Daymaniyat islands with Oman Sail, The Wave, Seeb, Oman

Jay had a conference in Dubai at the start of the coming week but flew into Muscat with his wife Robin. Bobbi and I drove down from Al Ain and stayed at an apartment in Al Khod, a bustling and traffic-laden suburb of Seeb that was all desert scrub when we were living there last century and used to make long runs around the camel farms in the area. We all met up at Oman Sail on Friday morning and went diving.

Oman Sail had very personable dive guides so diving with them was a gas but their boats left too late for us to get the sites we wanted to dive since the early birds already had boat-loads of divers on the best sites by the time we arrived. Still diving in Daymaniyats tends to be good no matter where you put in. We saw leopard sharks on both days, plenty of turtles, and  generally had some nice dive with good friends, all of whom have been my students at one time or another.

Friday Oct 23, 2015

Our first morning we set sail from the Wave hoping to get a morning dive in at the Aquarium, but on arrival at the site, we found it crowded with dive boats and our crew decided to take us to the bay at Police Island instead. I'd dived this place with Jay and Robin before; in fact I think they managed to see a leopard shark on one of our dives on the string of sites there that Bobbi and I somehow missed, see
http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.ae/2012/10/damaniyites-diving-with-global-divers.html.

In any event we saw a leopard shark on this dive.


Before setting out that day I had noticed a hiss from one of the second stages on my main regulator so I had gone to a spare reg on my dives that day. This turned out to have consequences for our second dive, which this time was on the Aquarium (the Aquarium tends to be best in the morning light, and after boat loads of divers have been there, the more interesting animals will have gone elsewhere for a while).

The dive guide had briefed me on what to do, descend to the top of the reef, head west, find the trench to the north, and follow it to the wall. We were starting on that plan, under water with me leading, when I realized that my compass was on my main regulator back on the boat. Damn, I had no idea where west was but I'd dived the site before, so I headed down to gradually increasing depths and followed the top of the reef in about 20 meters of water. I wasn't sure where to turn north (or in this case, approximately right) from there but eventually I did that and found the wall. We were drifting happily along that when one diver signaled low on air, so I found a gap to get us back onto the reef top. The trouble was there was not much to see there that we hadn't seen already. I think we were finning a little against the current, a prolonged slog with me hoping to find our way back to the high point of the reef that reaches just a few meters short of the surface. We couldn't see it so I was leading on dead reckoning, trying to head for wherever it seemed to be shallower, not sure of the direction exactly.


In the end we found the Aquarium submerged reef head just after Jay and Robin thought it wise to ascend, and this is where we found most of the honeycomb moray eels that appear in the video.

Saturday Oct 24, 2015

For our first dive on the second day we headed out for Garden of Eden but found it crowded so we took a drop-off on a site I didn't know though the boatmen described it to me quite well. But it was only Bobbi and I and Jay and Robin diving it in two buddy pairs. We were to drop on a wall that we could clearly see under the boat and follow it north and around the corner to the west.  When I got in the water I found the current pushing me west off the wall so I finned to stay in place and when the other divers got in I called for an immediate descent. On my descent I kicked hard to get on the east side of the wall where I reckoned there would be relief from the current. I arrived there to relative tranquility but I was alone. Bobbi appeared some seconds later, having managed to keep up by pulling herself along the top of the reef into the very strong current in order to drop down where I was. We waited there for Jay and Robin but the current had caught them unawares and they did a separate dive heading west from where Bobbi and I were.


I'm not sure what this site was but it should be easily identifiable from my videos. I call it the ghost reef because it had a white apparition of a sting ray living there, without his cow tail, which had been chewed off by some predator. The reef was full of staghorn table coral but a lot of this was covered by a massive ghost net (a ghost net is one that has been left in place by fishermen unable to retrieve it). The Daymaniyats are a marine reserve and fishing is prohibited here, or was, as far as I know. My video documents the damage to the reef this net is doing,
https://youtu.be/EAdgheLlOd8


The second dive of the day was much easier. Jay and Robin started with Bobbi and I in calm water and we soon came out on a leopard shark. We saw much more throughout the dive, which ended with Bobbi and I following a large turtle around for several minutes. The video has lengthy perspectives from both Bobbi's camera and mine, but we never get tired of watching these things.
https://youtu.be/AvDtQeyD2qw


Friday, October 9, 2015

A day in the life of a diver in Musandam: Octopus Rock and Lima Rock South

My logged dives #1388-89



After an exhausting work week I was happy to get home at 1:30 on Thursday, get packed, and get rolling on the highway through Shwaib to Madam, Dhaid, Masafi, and Dibba where we pitched up at the border and waited for Sampat to come along with our permits. It was hardly busy when we crossed just at dusk. Alcohol? the guard asked. "No," I replied. "I will check," his compatriot asserted. "Tfudel" I said, indicating the car. Be my guest. The guard handed back my papers through the window. His compatriot made no move to leave his kiosk and carry out inspection, so we drove on through the border and arrived at Nomad Ocean Adventure 5 minutes later.

We were looking forward to a chill weekend, starting right after a quick 5 km jog down to the Golden Tulip at the end of the beach and back again. Sweaty from our jog we relaxed in the pool. Buffet dinner was served by the time we exited and showered. There weren't many people around. Those who were went to bed early. Bobbi and I stayed online for a while in the commons room and then went to bed and right to sleep.

Next day the weather was ideal for diving, still balmy out, no need for warm clothes on the boat the hour out and back to and from the dive sites. Our first dive was at Octopus Rock, what we used to call The Stack. Most people like the dive and it's a treat to go there because it attracts currents, so we usually don't go when there are any students on the boat. 

Even today Hassan, the dive guide for the day, almost didn't take us there because there were two open water divers on board. But one had had over 300 dives, his friend just 35, but in the end Hassan took us there, for a very pleasant dive.

Because I was diving with two ladies who hardly breathe air, Kelly Harris had joined Bobbi and I that morning, I got to play with the site and vary from my usual route. When the current is lax I like to keep the rock on the right and lead north into the descending ridges to the north of the rock, then move to the north-heading ridge and follow that, reef on the left. We get down to around 20 meters as we round it and come back up its other side heading south. The trick then is to know where to pop over the ridge so as to swim across sand back to Octopus Rock just to the east. This is sometimes where we end our dive when some in our group run low on air, so we circle the rock at decreasing depth letting those who need to go to the surface.

Today it was a little different. There was current present so I led the the east, Octopus Rock on our left. If the current had been strong we could have escaped to the ridges running to depth in that direction and hidden from it that way. But today it let us work our way to the north past schools of trigger fish and fusiliers. We kept a reasonable depth 15-18 meters as we crossed the north of the rock and kept heading west to the next ridge over, where i found an intimidating chameleon scorpion fish. Then we swam slowly to where that ridge lets us round it and came up its back side. There were more triggers here, and jacks, and as we popped over the ridge I came down on a batfish being cleaned by wrasse. Visibility was good and we could see Octopus Rock just over the sand. That's not always the case, sometimes I just go blind to the east. 

But this brought us to the rock where again there is abundant fish-life, especially the blue triggers, and some morays, including  a large honeycomb eel.

My group were just coming down to 100 bar here so I felt we could explore a little to the east of the rock. I led us that way to the nearest finger of ridge that plunged invitingly to depth. It was too late in the dive to go to the sand and easy to get disoriented without paying close attention to a compass. But our way back was west so I led in that direction and came out just south of the rock. Now we could expend time and gas spiraling up and around the rock, where batfish moved in close to check us out.

I've been to the dentist a couple of times in the last year over a decayed molar. The first time was last Christmas, an emergency with pain that the dentist resolved by cutting away the rotted parts, leaving a hole in my tooth. It never really gave problems after that and the college I work for does not provide dental insurance, so I never went in for the root canal work the doctor had intended to do. But ten months later, it started to become annoying, I was constantly having to remove food bits from the hole, so I went in to have that cemented over just last week. Now on this dive, I came up with pain in my tooth but thought it was from the way I was biting on the regulator. In any event, the pain went away over lunch on the boat, and on the next dive I was careful to bite on the regulator mouthpiece in my good jaw, and even held the hose in such as way that would position the reg in my mouth so I could better do this.

The second dive was on Lima Rock South. We started from the west end of the rock intending to dive to the east point with the reef on our left. Hassan thought the current would be less than at Octopus Rock and when he entered the water he said it was pushing to the east, the way we wanted to go. Other divers entering the water said the visibility beneath us was excellent.

We found that to be the case when we finally went in. I was last in and was swimming to join Kelly and Bobbi when some snorkelers by the boat told me I had dropped my tank banger and they could see it on a rock ten meters below. At about that moment the two open water divers surfaced and shouted to us that they wanted to join us. I wanted to retrieve my rod while I could see it, so I dropped down to get it. I saw Bobbi and Kelly above and saw that they had thought through the fact that they should join me rather than expect me to surface. I also saw the open water divers following behind them.

Actually it was only one o/w diver. His buddy had had ear problems and had aborted the dive (he was all the time on the boat puffing on a e-cigarette device, likely the cause of his sinus issues). The one with the 300 dives had no buddy and was joining us. This was inappropriate because we were not diving his profile. O/w divers are limited to 18 meters. Everyone else on the boat could exceed that.

I was told later that this diver joined yet another group, and signaled to Bobbi what he was doing. In any event he wasn't with us when we pushed down to 26 meters. We gradually ascended along the boring wall and soon came up on the gap before the point. 

The current had been pushing us to and fro, an exhausting sort of dive, but we all had over 100 bar when we found ourselves being swept off the point at around 16 meters, except for an old fishnet I knew was there and directed everyone down to so we could hold on in the current. The fish life is often exciting here, but today not so. We were joined by some very curious bat fish, you'll meet them in the video, and a school of jacks was congregated just off the point. I didn't dare swim over to them. It looked like that would be a one-way trip.

It was all we could do to pull on rocks and fin back against the current and find 10 and then 5 meters in lighter current back from the point to do a safety stop in. Here again we were annoyed by batfish :-) just kidding. Marvelous creatures!  We surfaced at 51 minutes, the ladies both at 50 bar, me a bit less. The ladies didn't seem to enjoy the dive all that much, too stressful, unpredictable.

I had a problem again with tooth pain. It was very uncomfortable on the boat ride back and I didn't feel like talking. But it had subsided a bit by the time we reached harbor, and that evening, I felt up for another jog to the Golden Tulip and back. It was clearly caused by an air bubble in the space beneath the cap on my tooth expanding on the ascent from 26 meters to the surface, an almost four-fold expansion. We were all contemplating aborting diving the next day but I decided I'd give it the night and maybe it would go anyway.

However the night was not all that comfortable. I had arrived on Thursday with a tooth in stable condition and after the air bubble expansion, my tooth was throbbing in the night. I had no way of knowing what depth was causing the problem, if a two-fold expansion from 10 meters to the surface was dangerous, or if 15 meters was too much. I decided during wakeful moments that night that I would not dive the next day, and Bobbi and I departed that morning.

If we had made that decision the evening before, Kelly was talking like she would leave as well. The dives had not been that great on the Friday. However, next morning as long as she was there, she decided to stay. So we didn't dive Saturday and she did. While posting this blog, we read this on Facebook, from Kelly's dive on Saturday.:


Friday, September 25, 2015

Fun diving with sharks, turtles, and rays off Dibba Rock

My logged dives #1386-87



Our good friend Nicki Blower has just eased back into UAE after a brief exit and so for our Eid staycation or playcation Bobbi and I decided to have her down to Al Ain for a couple of nights. When she arrived on Wednesday we took her for a jog in Jimi and Al Qattara oases and then got her up at 5 a.m. for a drive over to Dibba for diving on Thursday. We drove back Thursday evening because all the accommodation on that side as much as quadruples in price during Eid holidays, and we had an all you can eat fish dinner at the Danat Hotel in Al Ain that evening rather than pay the exorbitant accommodation costs in Dibba. Next day Friday we took her to the bus station for her ride back to Abu Dhabi and retrieved our car from Danat parking, and came home and blogged our dives.

Diving on Dibba Rock is bouncing back. Visibility was great for the 9:30 dive, where we were just four on the boat, Bobbi, Nicki, and I plus a lady named Anastasia from Moscow whom we were assigned to guide. She enjoyed her dives, claimed to see two sharks and a turtle rather than one shark the rest of us saw on that dive, but the three of us saw the sharks and turtles and rays when we went diving again on Dibba Rock at 1:30 that afternoon. We saw much more besides, as you can see as well from our video. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Diving Musandam for Dan Miles's 100th Dive

My logged dives #1382-85


Dan Miles got in touch recently to ask if we would accompany him and Molly Carter on Dan's 100th ever dive. The timing was over the weekend before eid break, not ideal for us, but we're never sure of our eid holidays until the last minute.  In the event, it turned out my school was indeed out for the whole week (so this trip comprised the most fun part of our eid vacation) but for Dan and Molly, it turned out their anticipated Tue, Wed, Thu holiday was shortened to just two days, Wed and Thu, for most schools in the UAE.  Good thing we went diving when we did.

We made arrangements to spend the weekend at Nomad Ocean Adventures, and Dan's 100th dive was our second on the Friday, which happened to be at Lima Rock. Molly and Dan had prepared a banner for the occasion which they unfurled as we descended on the dive. Fortunately I had a camera handy, or perhaps that's why they asked me along :-)


Dives on Lima Rock can be challenging. This one was not bad for current but there was enough of one to make us be careful as we explored the point, but not enough to lure the fishes in great numbers. We saw a few jacks and batfish, but no barracudas or devil rays, no eagle rays darting out suddenly as sometimes happens. Molly did quite well with current and buoyancy (I certified her recently and blogged it here: http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.ae/2014/11/certified-molly-carter-padi-open-water.html).

Our first dive of the day was actually our best. It was off Ras Morovi, north side. Brad proposed to drop in to the east of the bay and lead the divers west into the bay and then north at the far side. Bobbi and I did the same except that we started our dive heading east to deeper water as far as what I call the quarry, an alcove that looks like it was quarried from the surrounding rock. It's on the video. We found a honeycomb moray on that side and a marble ray under a rock. Back into the bay we passed over table coral and found a feather-tail ray in the sand. On the way to the surface we found many crayfish in the rocks, including one wandering about outside his lair. Nice dive.


The next day our first dive was at Lulu Island, which is sometimes home to eagle rays, but on this day there was not much home apart from a scorpion fish and some morays. The current was strong as we rounded the ridge and the dive was not all that pleasant although the last of it where we escaped the current in the coral gardens to the south of the island was pretty for diving.  I'm not sure if I'll put the video up at YouTube; thinking about it, but not right now.

Our last dive was at Ras Hamra. It was a lovely dive as you can see from the video below and included an encounter with a circling turtle.





Saturday, September 12, 2015

Fun diving Daymaniyat Islands, the usual buddies and a leopard shark

My logged dives #1378-81


Another September rolls around and was time again to go diving with our usual group of friends from around the UAE for this time of year. Jay Fortin kicks us off by announcing he'll be flying in from Bahrain, and David Muirhead and Bruce Ora agree to meet him wherever he wants to dive. Same as for this time last year, we chose Daymaniyats in Oman


Rhea Lynn had just moved from UAE to Muscat but was pleased to drive the two hours west to meet us coming down three hours heading southeast. Kelly Harris drove down to Al Ain from Abu Dhabi and rode the rest of the way with Bobbi and I. Walter Crammerstetter turned up with his lady Roberta, and a few others I hadn't met before joined us as well. 

The weather showed a moderate breeze from the north which could be a problem when diving from a sandy beach facing that direction, according to Windyty for Daymaniyat Islands https://www.windyty.com/spot/location/24.102/57.412?2015-09-11-09,23.785,58.586,10
except we would be diving from a proper marina, and there was no swell, both good signs, and in the end, we had no problem:
http://screencast.com/t/6SczWrYs

Euro-Divers had just abandoned their base at Al Sawadi Beach Resort, which was gouging them on commission for using the premises to the point where they had decided to shift operations to the Millennium Hotel in Mussanah, Oman, 30 minutes by boat or car from the resort. At this writing Al Sawadi is now without a dive center for the first time in recent memory. Mussanah is that much closer to us in UAE but that much farther out of Muscat, and a twice as long a boat ride from the western Daymaniyats as well, see map http://screencast.com/t/avj4aBt3I. 



Because of this it was not possible to persuade Euro-Divers to take us even further away to the Aquarium or Police Rock. Even when diving from Al Sawadi the preponderance of our diving has been in the western Daymaniyats, Sira, Jun, Waleed Jun. Those are great sites but we've dived them dozens of times. It's less likely diving from Mussanah that we'll be able to break that routine. The alternative is to add two hours to our drive time, 4 hours round trip, to use the operators in the Seeb / Muscat area, whose focus will be on the eastern Daymaniyats.

We caught Euro-Divers at a transition time, one of their boats had just been sent to port to fix a faulty fuel pump, the boat they were able to send for us was a little rickety (e.g. top canopy jury rigged and unstable, a supporting bar worked itself loose, fell unexpectedly, and hit Bobbi square on the head, not good to let that happen to the wife of a blogger :-). Stan, the graying but ramrod fit French dive pro, was fun to dive with in the end but annoyed us at first with trying to keep everyone strictly together at the surface (became a problem in current) before descending en mass, though he lightened up as we all learned to get along during the course of the weekend. 

One thing we all love about diving locally is the operators mostly know us, we know the sites, and as long as we all get back on the surface in an hour everyone is happy. This is what I have come to realize is my greatest disappointment in diving internationally, the control they place on you, which I accept and understand to be necessary, since they don't know you and deal with a lot of characters ranging from inept to cowboy. But diving on our turf, it's usually a different atmosphere, we are trusted, the guides take a laisez-faire approach, we are all responsible and usually follow the same current anyway. 

In retrospect, overall, Stan did his best with what he had and I hope to dive with him again. For the record, Oman Sail also runs dive trips from the Millennium marina and has good reviews on Trip Advisor: 

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g2440932-d7171219-Reviews-Oman_Sail_Dive_Centre_Day_Adventures-Al_Mussanah_Muscat_Governorate.html

As we continued our dives, I found I stuck pretty close to Stan. He knew the sites well, enjoyed diving as much as I do, and was good at finding the micro critters. Hopefully as Euro-Divers settles into the Millennium they'll get their boats in order, not tell people they don't have gas to to get to the farther dive sites (the remedy for that is carry more gas, assess a per-diver surcharge if you have to, if it's competitive).

As for the diving, it was excellent. We started on Jun Island, north side, heading west with the reef on our left, and winding up in the bay with the white sand beach we aren't suppose to go onto, except some people do. The next dive was on the small island to the east, Waleed Jun.

Next morning Stan chose Sira for us, which started out with a leopard shark and ended shallow over lovely table coral. Our next dive was in the part of Waleed Jun where the artificial reef has become overgrown with table coral. 

The video above speaks for itself, - it's a compilation of best clips from the four dives over the two days.

Bobbi and Rhea were glad to be diving together again


Euro-Divers website shows a lovely manta on its blurb for Oman http://www.euro-divers.com/scuba-diving-oman/. We see devil or mobular rays there sometimes, but never mantas.