Very nice dives this weekend. Friday July 6, Daniel taxi'd to my house and we drove over and picked up Nicki before 7 a.m. In 3 hours we were at the Nomad hostel on the east coast, drinking nescafe (yuk!#) and waiting for Chris to organize us. One boat had already left for the far north, but sea conditions were not good on this day. In fact, the UAE authorities had confined boats to harbor, as we learned via mobile on the drive down when contacting Freestyle about our diving the following day. Oman authorities were not so restrictive, and we got under way and headed north through rough seas, but not as rough as I have before seen them, heading for the relief of Ras Lima (Headland).
Our first dive there was a nice one. It was a leisurely refresher for my former student Daniel, shepherded through his open water and advanced, and now working ostensibly on his rescue course. We put in way back near the town of Lima, so as to avoid currents closer to the peninsula. As we were kitting up we noticed a fin breach the water and a whale-shark sized shadow lurking in the clear green. We grabbed snorkel gear as fast we could (where is my other boot, it was JUST here .. where?) but no one got in fast enough to see the elusive creature, so we treated that as a cooling off interruption in the 40+ July temperatures and resumed kitting for our diving, easing into the water, heading west with the reef on our right.
It was a nice dive. I saw over a dozen crayfish. We found lion fish, batfish, lots of blue triggers. Toward the end of the dive, over an hour, Nicki found a sting ray under a rock. While she was photographing it, I found a huge puffer the size of my thigh hiding in a rock ledge just above the stingray lair. Poking into more rocks, still waiting on Nicki, I discovered a crayfish whose tentacles were spread to where I could just reach each end with the fingers of my outstretched arms, that big. Lovely animals hiding in lairs on the headland that day.
Daniel couldn't get our attention so he brought the moray closer where we could see it too
We came up eventually and back on the boat were feasting on mystery meat sandwich wrap, pasta or rice salad, and Lulu pizza, followed by cupcakes and watermellon, when Chris asked where we wanted to go next. It seemed he though Ras Morovi would be nice but Nicki would have none of that. I interjected that there DID appear to be whalesharks around, and maybe Lima Rock north side would be a better option. Seas were rough but there was shelter there.
No one objected so we headed over to Lima where there were already dive boats around waiting out their surface intervals. We kitted up and went in leisurely. I'd been cold my first dive so I changed my 3 mm wetsuit for a more comfortable one of 5 mm and used that on through to the next day. Surface temperatures were a warm 30 C ++ but at depth we easily lost 5 degrees C. On this dive, I dropped to the sand at 18 meters, and immediately found a sting ray under a rock ledge there. The three of us gathered around it. I was shining a flashlight on it, Nicki was photographing it as usual, and Daniel was just observing, when Theo suddenly appeared next to us and pointed up. I thought for a moment that this might be a new diver recall procedure, but he was pointing with his index finger, not his thumb. I pointed to the ray we had found, thinking he might be interested in that, but he seemed adamant, so, ok, I looked up, and saw a whale shark passing overhead.
We were at 18 meters and the whaleshark was at 12, so we didn't head straight up, but we kept our eyes on our computers (ok, one eye on the computer, the other on the whale shark) and made a safe ascent while we kicked to overtake the whaleshark and the half dozen other divers who were riding shotgun. To everyone's credit, no one touched it, and we were able to come right alongside it, so close that when it turned to the right I had to back off to avoid being whisked by its tail.
And this is Daniel enjoying the view (he's dropped the ray by now - Nicki is behind the camera and didn't get in the photos :-)
These things are always curious when a bunch of other large bubbly creatures enter the water, though they keep moving slowly but steadily when among divers or snorkelers. So divers can keep up with them if they wish, or they can enjoy for a few minutes and conserve their air for other delights in diving. Someone reported spending 18 minutes with this particular whaleshark, but we dropped out after about 5 and went on with our dive at depth.
Or dive had not ended. We saw another ray later and later yet another marble ray, with ripple-span again as wide as my arms might stretch. But the unusual thing about this ray is I saw it coming toward us gliding over the reef, right at me, and then underneath me. And then it wheeled about and came back around us and again across my bow. I don't remember how many passes but it was only mildly perturbed at our presence and made a great show of itself, gliding near, as I said in my Facebook message, rippling like a Spanish dancer. Beautiful creature.
July 7 - Two dives on Inchcape 2
It would have been nice to return next day to Musandam with Nomad but we had made our booking with Freestyle, thinking originally to make a quick trip out to the Inchcape 2 wreck and return by 11 or so and head home to Abu Dhabi. But when we called to confirm that we learned that they were doing Inchcape 2 and then 1, two wrecks, the first in 30 meters and the second in about 26. Fish life is slightly different on each so we said sure, we'd be back around 1:30, early departure for Abu Dhabi, why not.
It was a nice plan and we got to see Andrew Moore again, who had facebooked that he had a weight belt with my name on it, so I could pick it up there, which I did. However, when we completed our first dive on the "inch" we were told, change of plan, the UAE coast guard didn't actually want us out there, so there had been a decision (made before we set out obviously, but we were just then informed) that we wouldn't be able to proceed further south that day so our second dive would be on the same wreck, the Inchcape 2.
It's a nice wreck, nice day out, who can complain, and 'nuff said, but on a wreck at 30 meters, the first dive is 20 minutes, and the second dive, after an hour (and nine minute) surface interval, is 12. Sami in his briefing said ten minutes, but we had checked the tables, since diving twice to 30 meters with no change in levels is essentially table diving, and seen that the NDL if your SI is 1:30 is 14 minutes, and if you give it 2 hours, you can have 17. So for those driving back to Abu Dhabi it was a question of 30 min. more sleep that night or 2 more minutes of dive time. Anyway these calculations give you something to do while having lunch and waiting out your surface interval on a small rocking boat, many fighting queasiness.
The Inchcape is a pretty dive, clouds of snappers covering the wreck, parting when divers ease through. Sometimes there are honeycomb morays there, and seahorses. There are often rays in the sand. On this dive a huge flounder was seen, and some strange looking crocodile-like fish in the sand. It's a cool dive.
Nicki and Vance hanging out at 30 meters. All photos in this post taken by Nicki Blower (or with her camera) with the exception of the Facebook screenshot shared by Julian Palmer