Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bobbi and Vance fun diving Nomad Ocean Adventure Fujairah and Far North Musandam, UAE National Day Weekend

My logged dives #1507-1511

Wednesday, November 30 was my last day of work before National and Martyr’s Day holidays and an entire month of December off work. Characteristically or not, Bobbi and I had made no plan for how to spend our holidays even as I got off work that last working day, except that we had decided to go to Nomad Ocean Adventure for diving on Thursday, driving up right after work on Wednesday. Nomad have been experimenting with pricing of diving and accommodation, the new prices going into effect that very weekend, 400 dirhams for two in a double bed room plus meals extra. Bobbi got online, just looking, and found that we could get a room at the Golden Tulip Hotel for Wednesday, a weekday night, for 370 UAE dirhams plus tax, including breakfast buffet, coming out to a 43 Omani riyal charge on our credit card. We had never before stayed at the Golden Tulip and didn’t know whether to recommend it to families when the kids needed a beach to play on while some in the family went diving at Nomad. So we decided to see for ourselves and give it a try.

It was nice to luxuriate at the hotel, just 2.5 km from the dive center, driving or walking or jogging on the white sand beach, on the rare chance when we could get an advanced booking and would be there on a weekday. Bobbi checked the rates on the day and found the price had gone up to over 600. Thursday was even higher, while on the UAE side of the border hoteliers were doubling or tripling their room rates. Alia Suites, where we usually stay for 350 dirhams for a 2 br flat with kitchen and living room (just under $100), was charging around 1000 for the same accommodation in anticipation of the great demand for UAE National Day, and prices at the resort hotels, well, let’s just say various multiples of 4 digits, and if you have to ask, you can’t afford it anyway.
So a room anywhere on that coast for around 400 aed was a bargain at National Day weekend. Bobbi and I had thought we’d go over there Wednesday, spend the night, dive next day, see how the diving was, and play it by ear from there. There’s wifi at Nomad, so theoretically possible to make travel plans there, though we became otherwise preoccupied. Basically we just wanted to chill out and have no concerns for a while, which is what we ended up doing.

To make a long story short, we went diving in the Lima area from a Nomad speedboat on Thursday. Our first dive on Octopus Rock was one of the best of the weekend, good visibility and negligible current. Robyn asked us to take a third diver along with us, Piotr Jaworski, a scientist from Poland, Sweden, Spain, who had been studying great white shark nurseries in Turkey (DNA matching suggests they originate there and make their way south). He was using 15 liter tanks to our 12’s, which made him compatible with us on air, and hence in tune with us as a dive buddy.

Our second dive that day was at the caves, where we had poor visibility and found no sting rays, unusual for that dive site. Still the diving was pleasant enough, and we had already invested in the drive, so back at Nomad when we found they had one last double bed room available, I blurted “I guess we better grab it.” Unfortunately the Lima boat for next day was full with 13 clients, but they did have a north trip going, plenty of space on that one. This was getting to be a no-brainer.

Fanaku island and far north Musandam

North trips, to Fanaku Island just across the straights from Hormuz, Iran, happen rarely at Nomad. The last one the week before was cancelled due to rough seas and bad weather. They try to leave early in the morning because the boat ride can be two hours.

Fanaku Island - Far North Musandam - Soft corals, fusiliers, and a shark
Not much happens during this dive. The videos show a variety of soft corals, marginal visibility. But then at the end, we spot several sharks, one of which I barely manage to capture on film

When we arrived at Fanaku we dropped at the north tip of the island and followed a drift to the corner before turning south, where we had to fin hard against a stiff north current. We stayed shallow to enjoy the soft lavender and orange corals, and take advantage of the better light nearer the surface, so we didn’t consume so much air despite the constant up current exertion. We were diving with Piotr again, and he seemed happy with these logistics. I was thinking to put up with this until we reached 100 bar and then turn around and drift back even shallower, but at about that time in the dive the current lessened, my compass handle swung gradually north, and it seemed we were being carried with the current now.

Here the dive was beautiful, not great viz, but lovely topography and soft and hard corals, and plenty of fish to video when they caught our fancy. As we came to 50 bar and surfaced to 5 meters, the viz cleared, the light was excellent, and we noticed a bulky black-tipped reef shark swim down a ravine, see us, and bullet away. Looking more closely in the area, we found another shark, a slimmer one, who blundered into view, saw us, and it too shot away, but took a longer route up along the reef this time. The nonchalance of these creatures and then sudden sprint was remarkable. A third shark appeared, but as I brought my hand to my forehead in the universal vertical shark salute to signal the others, this sudden movement on my part caused it too to bolt. Piotr said he saw four sharks in all.

The appearance of the sharks made the dive, and our day. Here is Piotr's videos from the dive, which he posted here and told me about on Facebook:

Diving Far North Fanaku Island Dec 2016 from Piotr Jaworski on Vimeo.

This was just as well, as the next dive was not so good. We motored south past white rock and at the headland just past temple rock, we turned into the first bay on our right. The water looked green and clear in the bay, but underwater it was murky. We found a feather-tail ray almost immediately, and over the reef Piotr uplifted a flatworm which wriggled gracefully for us. Apart from these things it wasn’t our best dive, and it ended in shadow as it was late in the day. It was almost dusk when we made it back to the harbor.

Bobbi and I decided since it was so late, and would be around 11 when we got home that night, to just stay another night at Nomad, where our room was still available at only 400 dirhams. Our plan was to cross back over the border next morning and drop by Dibba Rock the next day, diving from the Fujairah branch of Nomad. A phone call was made and we were booked on the 10 a.m. dive the next morning. We settled in for an evening at Nomad Ocean Adventure, Musandam side of Dibba, winding up as ever, at the addictive ice slush machine, something Chris picked up at Dragon Mart in Dubai to make evenings pass more pleasantly at NoA.

Next day we crossed the border quickly, no traffic backup, no close scrutiny of a certain date discrepancy in our permits, and we were at Nomad Fujairah shortly after 9:00, where we met up with tech diver Imad Khashfeh,, who was diving with a friend of his, for a nice dive on Dibba Rock. The vis was not the best, and a strong current prevented us from going south, so we were prevented from visiting the sting rays on this trip, but we found nudibranchs and a big mackeral in the green deep water, and a feisty orange banded shrimp poking pugilistically at a fish that had taken shelter in its crevice, and other small things besides, as life goes on above and below water at Nomad Fujairah and Musandam.

Back home now, reflecting that this was one nice way to start a month-long holiday.


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