Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fun diving DIbba Rock with Freestyle and Musandam with Luke Ingles and Nomad Ocean Adventure

Feb 14, 2014 on Dibba Rock, Freestyle Divers; 15th in Musandam with Nomad

My logged dives #1270-1272

We've been busy and it's been cold this winter in UAE, so our first dive of the year turned out to be a Valentine's day treat with a dive off Dibba Rock, just Bobbi and I on the boat, and long-time friend Andrew Moore giving us the lift out to the rock. Dibba Rock is showing slow signs of recovery, very slow since the double whammy of cyclone Gonu and red tide many years ago decimated the coral and wildlife there, but life is returning. We were diving at low tide so the currents left us alone to find a flounder in the sand and barracudas in the shallows around the rock, where we meandered in search of sharks, which we didn't find. We found a flat brown delta-shaped ray in the sand. We'd put Bobbi in with 130 bar and a small tank against my 200 with the same 12 liter tank, so for once she ran low on air before I did. After an hour diving there, we'd rounded the rock and were getting chilled in the 18 degree cold, a challenge for my 5 mm wetsuit with a lycra underneath. Andrew told us he'd seen a devil ray breach the water while waiting for us on the boat.

Afterwards we went over the border to Nomad for our Valentine's dinner, meeting Luke Ingles there to share our table and small doses of pleasure we had managed to get across the border. We haven't been hassled there our past several trips across, but many people are leaving their alcohol at home in UAE rather than bother with the sometimes assiduous Sharjah border police, which I guess is how they wish it.

My GoPro yielded only one video from this whole weekend. I'm not sure what was wrong with it. The memory card seemed to have lots of space. It might have been not fully charged. On the positive side we did capture this cameo of a beautiful day in Musandam, just me, Antonio, Luke, and Bobbi on the boat

Next day, Bobbi, Luke, and I had the boat to ourselves and were assigned newcomer to Nomad staff Antonio from Valencia to accompany us on our dives. Since it was just us, we got to specify the dive sites and despite the full moon, suggesting possible currents, I selected Octopus Rock as our first destination. We hit it lucky, high tide and no current, and I got to show Antonio the rock under ideal conditions. We went in on the south edge and moved northeast toward the deep trenches we sometimes hide in when there is a current, but with easy conditions we crossed the north edge to the west side of the rock, where all the blue trigger fish like to hang out. VIsibility was maybe 8 or 9 meters, so we could easily see the ridge to the west and follow it along to the north, rounding it at its deep end. From there we followed it south back side from the rock and rounded back to its eastern side.  We found bat fish at cleaning stations and a lot of moray eels. Luke was running low on air and that ridge is a little deep for a safety stop, meaning everyone has to come off it when one person is low on air, so I led a return to Octopus Rock on an easterly compass heading across deep sand. We picked up the south edge of the rock, where we had started the dive, just as Luke was dipping below 50 bar and so we rose to 5 meters and counted down 3 minutes. Antonio thanked me for the guided tour and in return had shown us a remarkable large nudibranch, Plocamopherus margaretae, photographed by Valles & Gosliner, 2006 and pictured here:

The photo credits say copyright is with the authors and doesn't specify whether they allow reproduction of their photos online. If I get a moment I'll write and ask them for permission.

For our second dive we selected Dibba Rock. Since the current was so favorable we planned to check out the eastern corner and do it from one of the faces toward the end of the rock. We approached by boat from the north but found that side almost in shadow so we opted to dive on the south side, for better light. On a morning dive the north side would be the better choice since there is much of interest all the way to the eastern edge, whereas on the south, you have to move for 5 min along a rock wall with little to see on it, a significant amount of time on your dive. In retrospect it would have been better to have put in on the north and rounded the rock in the gap and ride the current west on the south side. But the boatman predicted east current and the south is prettier in sunlight so that's what we did. I don't recall that we found much there that we hadn't seen already that day, except for a large honeycomb moray. We moved east at around 20 meters when around the edge where the long wall starts, we hit a back current, and with Luke at about 70 bar, we had no choice but to turn back. We moved into safety stop position and when it was time I conducted Luke to the surface, instructing through signals Bobbi and Antonio to carry on.  At the surface, the boatman was right there so I easily found bubbles and rejoined my buddies below.  But Luke need not be concerned.  It was pleasant diving, chilly but effortless, and apart from the pleasure of it, we saw little more of great interest.

My GoPro wasn't functioning, probably because the memory card was full. It was hard to interpret the cryptic displays mid-dive, and now that I'm home I haven't been able to locate it.  I might have a video or two. When I find it I'll post them here.