Friday, April 27, 2012

Diving Musandam and Dibba April 20-21 2012

My logged dives #1114 - 1116

Bobbi and I didn't dive at all in March.  This was partly due to bad weather and partly to the fact that I was doing a lot of traveling to conferences that month.  I was in Morocco to give a plenary talk in February. In March I traveled to Erzincan Turkey one weekend, was at TESOL Arabia in Dubai another, and went to Philadelphia to give a presentation at the annual international TESOL conference there.

Our last attempt to dive in UAE resulted in cancellation last February, and I had to finish off Tim Chambers's dive course in frigid blustery conditions shore diving off Yas Island. In April we tried to dive in Oman but bad weather blew in and turned Al Sawadi beach into a froth of whitecaps, no boating that day. Ironically dispatches from further north that weekend gave excellent reports to Dibba Rock, with sharks and turtles and lots of animals sighted in fine conditions.

One week later, Bobbi and I turned up there with Michelle and Dusty, on a second day of diving where we drove up to Nomad on Friday, dived Musandam, spent the night, and then went over to Freestyle divers to do a morning dive and then head home on a drive taking all afternoon.  The weather had been unstable but Wind Guru promised us a break for the weekend. We were the only customers at the dive center that day. We found on arrival, not beforehand unfortunately, that the crowd was off on a dhow trip that weekend in memorial for our good friend Terry, whom we miss and dearly remember in a context where Dibba Rock used to be one of the best places to dive in the world.

Dibba Rock can still deliver, as it apparently had the weekend before, but on this day it was murky, and there was a current ripping across it east to west.  James and Chloe were there, and James did the boating.  We were the only customers and it could have been a great day.  But the buoy for the aquarium on the west shoulder was missing so we didn't have the usual reference when we descended there, and we were dropped closer to the rock than we were accustomed to, into coral heads that looked similar to but were shallower than the coral we normally start with on Dibba Rock.  This is critical because I follow those coral heads to the south and then cut west to put me on the reef proper.  On this day I followed the coral but it angled to the east which confused me.  Knowing my direction to be west, I led us that way but didn't come out on the reef I was looking for in the time I thought it should take.  I surfaced a couple of times trying to get a reference from the rock but that was useless and I finally called James over and asked him to spot the reef for us from his vantage on the boat.  He gave me a heading to the north which I followed until I got back into the aquarium area and then I basically followed the fish to the west, the swirls of snappers and traveli, quite beautiful, until we dropped right down on the spot where the mooring had been, where I had meant to begin the dive in the first place.

We were by then 44 minutes into our dive, but the good news is we all still had at least 100 bar, so from here I could try to find the reef.  Unfortunately this didn't work out so well either.  I went to the end of the coral on the aquarium, turned west, but didn't really come out on anything I could make out to be reef.  There were a number of reasons for this.  One was current effect, so I was probably just slightly to the north of where I had intended to be.  This would not have been a problem in decent vis as I would be able to see the reef to the south, but this day was so cloudy underwater that we had no such reference. As the reef disappears it's getting harder to find in any event. I turned south and tried to follow coral, but currents were tricky, and the by the time we surfaced after an hour of diving we had seen little of interest apart from beds of sea urchins.  James said that from our bubbles he had seen we had followed the edge of the reef, but it had been a disappointing day at Dibba Rock.Dusty said he doubted he'd ever go back there, and this is why even Freestyle schedules a lot of its dives elsewhere these days.

The day before we had dived Ras Morovi and Lima Rock with Nomad Divers.  Bobbi and I had our 5 mm suits, Dusty was wearing my 3 mm overalls with top that provides 6 mm at the core, but Michelle was wearing a 3 mm wetsuit with 2 mm legs and sleeves and she got chilled if we went too deep.  As usual at Ras Morovi I tried to find the deep spot with the barracuda but I've never been taken there and have never been able to find it from anyone's description.  We ended up coming up the channel where I know some caves where sometimes there are rays.

Coming around the corner there I saw a large flat mottled ray in the sand.  I paused and awaited the others and the ray, becoming aware of our presence, eventually rippled sand, moved off, and headed for one of the alcoves.  Flapping his wings slowly, he moved there deliberately, then positioned himself in the sand as we moved forward.  Suddenly another ray appeared from the left approaching like a glider to join the first ray in the sand.  We hovered nearby and watched them, and after a few minutes I decided to check out what might be in the cave at the end of this picturesque gully.  So I went over to the cave and entered it, shining my light into the back.

Then a really interesting thing happened. One of the rays came into the cave behind me and passed beneath me, startling me a bit, but as my buoyancy is good, there was room for the two of us.  He went on into the the back of the cave and I was thinking how strange that was when the other one followed and again passed right beneath me, in such a way that had he been aggressive he could have barbed me easily.  Now the two of them were ahead of me in the cave, having passed not a meter below me, in a confined space about three meters wide, and I was blocking the exit. One of them seemed to realize that as he maneuvered to where he was facing me, or maybe it was my torch shining in his eyes, but he started rippling his wings the way an elephant does its ears when he's becoming agitated.  So I backed out of the cave and regrouped with my dive buddies, and the rays came along behind and displayed some more formation flying, which we admired before leaving them in peace.

On all our dives that day we saw lots of pretty fish and a variety of morays, including the BIG gaping honeycomb ones. The only other things I recall from that dive are that right after Michelle and Dusty surfaced, Bobbi and I took advantage of the fact that Chris hadn't set a time limit on the dives and extended our dive to well over an hour, and in this part of it we found a large crayfish exposed to my torch beam when viewed from the side in his lair, and right at the end we were entertained by a school of squids in flights of fancy.

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