Friday, February 24, 2012

Virtual diving this weekend: Oman

I'm taking a break from diving to enjoy a brief visit from my granddaughter this weekend, except that I've been diving into Facebook and came on this ...
In case you can't read it, my comment says: "I lived and dived in Oman ten years 1985-1995 and I live in UAE now partly so as to live just over the Oman border. I've encountered all the animals shown in this video numerous times."

Here's the video that shows the animals we've encountered in Oman and in the UAE in the many years we've dived in both places:

To embed the video, Blogger asks you to input its title and it will search YouTube for it.  The search on the title of this video "Oman Diving, Scuba Diving - Ministry of Oman Tourism" got half a dozen hits.  One was on a film uploaded by the Oman Tourism authority on Dec 27, 2011 with this commentary:

"Many thanks to Khaled Sultani for sharing this video with us. The video is, to a certain extent, the 'best of' Dimaniyat Islands. It's an accumulation of around 4 awesome weekends of diving in this location in Oman, over the past few years. Sadly the visibility isn't always great but it's tough to beat when it comes to richness in Marine life."

Sadly, it's true what they say about the visibility. We had the honor and pleasure of diving with Khaled and his team of video photographers in the Damaniyites last September, on a weekend when the visibility was on 'sadly' status.  Still we got in some great diving.  My blog posting for that weekend features a YouTube embed that Khalid took on one of our dives.  Check it out:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Started PADI o/w course with Tim Chambers in Musandam with Nomad, Feb 17, 2012

My logged dives #1110 - 1113
Tim certified Feb 21, 2012

Through the grapevine I got put on to the fact that Tim Chambers was looking for someone to teach him diving, I agreed so he was put in touch with me, and we decided that the Nomad 1800 dirham deal for certification in one weekend all dives, accommodation, and meals included, would suit him.  He had done the elearning and he lived not far out of my way home from work, and he had a pool at his compound, so it made sense for me to pile some gear in my car and swing by his place one day after work to meet him and relax after a long day in the office in at least one pool module to start off his course.  That module went so well that as long as we were there with air in the tanks, I suggested we do the second one, which also went smoothly.

That put us two modules up on the course when we arrived at Nomad Thursday night.  Traffic was bad out of Abu Dhabi and we were delayed in creeping jams, so when we arrived we found our dinner waiting for us, the other half dozen guests having eaten already, Nomad uncharacteristically quiet, and even Ivor having gone to bed, having exhausted all his jokes for a change.

Tim and I agreed to meet at 7:30 next morning back at the hot water fountain for a cup of Nescafe before kitting up for the pool.  We had only module 3 to do, which we got through quickly since the pool thermometer showed 16 degrees, no urge to linger there.  But it wasn't actually that bad in 5 mm wetsuits and when Suzanne, one of the other instructors who would be diving on our boat with us, showed up with students at around 9:00 or so, we decided to push ahead with module 4 rather than sit around waiting on them.  It was very relaxing having got two modules out of the way before arrival at Nomad that weekend, not the usual rush to complete the minimum 3 modules before our first two ocean dives Friday morning.

We were all aboard the boat by 11 in good order, about a dozen of us, Aliona in charge, with intent to dive Ras Morovi and Ras Sanoot.  However, seas were rough and dark skies loomed offshore; Ivor said later he'd seen a water spout out there.  We were getting spray aboard increasingly as we neared Lima Rock, and it was clear that all the south and east facing rock faces, including Ras Sanoot (Wonder Wall) were taking crashing waves. At least it was warmer than the previous month.  I didn't put on anything over my t-shirt on the trip out until it started getting soaked, and I was warm enough even then in damp flannel and fleece.  We were glad to arrive finally in the sheltered bay of Ras Morovi, having been batted about for the past hour and rinsed with sea spray.

Aliona had no students and she invited Bobbi to accompany her to see the barracuda.  I think I know where they are now, to the right or west of the tongue starting south underwater, not on the east side as I'd presumed last time with Nicki and Luke.  But Tim and I down for his first dive ever were not going so deep as to see them.  We took our time entering the water and meandered out into the sand looking for rays, found none, and headed back to the picturesque reef at Ras Morovi, teeming with snappers and blue tang surgeon fish.  I pointed out bream and ten minutes into the dive we came upon a school of batfish at a cleaning station where one of them was getting a makeover by an accommodating wrasse.  We found a few eels, including a small honeycomb moray, and in the sponge coral past the saddle heading north, we came on a turtle who seemed not to mind that we came to watch him munch on whatever it was he was eating.  We also found a huge crayfish under a rock ledge relying on armor for protection, as he was fully exposed in my torch beam and had he been a sea cucumber I could have reached in and grabbed him.  But then had he been a cucumber, I wouldn't have bothered.

Tim did well on his first dive and was properly amazed by it all, but we lasted only 31 minutes plus a 3 minute safety stop before having to return to the surface.  This would improve with better buoyancy which for Tim had been quite good for a first time diver, and he certainly enjoyed it.

The weather was turning for the worse and we encountered light rain as we motored across the bay to the shelter of the Ras Lima headland.  There we found a massive red tide.  We had lunch and then motored around looking for an end to it, but eventually decided to return to Ras Morovi, the only sheltered sea cove in the region with known decent visibility.

We did our second dive there.  This was a skills dive for Tim.  We started on a surface compass heading and did snorkel / regulator exchanges over to shallow water, then descended on a patch of raspberry coral.  I stopped short of the coral and took Tim through the module 2 skill set in the sand there. At the deep side of the coral patch we found a rope attached to a metal object and decided to use that for our controlled emergency swimming ascent practice.  Returning to the depths we used the rope as a landmark to do a compass heading to the south and return to the north, Tim spot on.  All that out of the way we went for a dive in a westerly direction, a direction I've not dived before, and we found rock walls there, looking nice with trigger fish and some lion fish in the sand. We followed our noses down to 16 meters before returning the way we had come, as we'd been asked to meet back in the cove where we'd started.  We found a honeycomb moray and near the raspberry patch a huge coelenterate the size of a basketball with pulsing tentacles and a floater chewed into by turtles.  That was interesting to watch for a while.  This dive went for 47 minutes, and we arrived at the surface just in time to see the boat round the point to the east so we had to wait ten or 15 min for it to return.  Tim did his tired diver tows while we waited.

That night back at Nomad Ivor informed us that dives next day were cancelled so Tim and I decided to get our last pool module out of the way before dinner and see if we could get in any shore diving next day at Freestyle where they have a breakwater that might have offered some protection.  But in the morning we found seas raging with white water waves all up and down the coast.  No boats were going anywhere that day.  We went over to Freestyle but found it deserted and no chance of a shore dive in the cauldron the sea had become.  We drove back over into Oman and headed up Wadi Bih and tried to gate crash the road to Zighy Beach, but this exclusive hotel had a no riffraff rule and somehow we didn't pass muster and without a booking they wouldn't let us in the gate.  I'm not sure I'd want a booking at that resort though it's reputed to be nice (no riffraff there I hear :-)

Anyway we gave up, mission unaccomplished, all we could do was head back to Abu Dhabi and hope to regroup later to complete Tim's last two dives of his course.
Four days later, we finished the job.  We used a stretch of beach opposite the highway from Ikea on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, and got wet in about 8 meters of water with a clay bottom that stuck to my dive boots.  It was cold and windy with white horses on the water, but actually warmer in the water (at least with 5 mm wetsuit) despite its being about 21 degrees.  We did two dives of about 15-20 minutes each.  On one of them I saw a feather-like tail in the sand and saw the body of a small stingray bolt just as we got in sight of it, leaving a cloud of silt to conceal its exit.  Apart from that we found not much apart from a few rocks, not many fish.  Tim ran through his remaining skills and we got him certified.