Saturday, April 29, 2017

Guiding dive boats for Nomad and fun diving with Greg Raglow, Musandam, Oman

My logged dives #1536-1539
April 28-29, 2017

Guiding dives again at Nomad Oman Adventures, Musandam

It's official, what we have known for some time, that Chris Chellapermal is closing down Nomad Ocean Adventures effective end of May. He has let staff go and this is why he has asked me to act as dive guide the past few weekends. Of course I am trying to make myself free as much as possible in order to help out, and to enjoy the unique atmosphere at Nomad Ocean Adventure for as long as Chris can sustain his business. But he seems happy with his decision to move on to projects that will allow him to spend his time close to his family in Dubai.

First dive Friday, Lima Rock north

Guiding boats means that I can choose the dive sites, but it also means I have to choose the sites responsibly, since I need to make sure that everyone is comfortable in the water. My choice of first dive was Lima Rock but when I entered the water to check the current just after arriving at the south side, I found myself being swept to the east. This was not going to be a good day to dive that side, so I had the boatman take us to the north side and put us in at a more sheltered spot where the current was not so bad. When I give briefings for Lima Rock I always explain about the current and how it can sneak up on you and take you on a one-way ride, not only in the direction of Iran, but also down deeper if you don't watch your depth. Some divers seemed uncomfortable and wanted to dive with Greg and I; e.g. wanted to be guided on the dive. For this reason I took it conservatively. When we entered the water I led to the east, but when I felt the current pick up I turned the dive and moved us up the rock faces back the way we had come. We ended the dive in the same sheltered cove where we had started.

One of the divers on the other Nomad boat, Stewart, went with the current to the point and said afterwards he had never seen so many barracuda. This is the nice thing about Lima Rock in a current. Current attracts big stuff, including whale sharks that like to fin facing into it while filtering plankton in over their gill rakers.

Video here on YouTube:

This dive was a rather tame one. In the video, we start with a banner fish making a meal of one of the jellyfishes that were stinging some of the divers when they surfaced from their dive. Next an electric torpedo ray is found, and alongside it a pair of nudibranchs that not all our divers notice despite my trying to point them out. Next up, we enjoy a lion fish ballet. Then, a gopie guards a hole where a shrimp is excavating. The shrimp tries to move a load beyond his capabilities, I edge closer to get a better look, the gopie retreats suddenly, and the house of card collapses. A yellow mouthed moray appears amid pretty pink and blue soft corals in a garden terrain. Around a corner a bat fish is enjoying being administered to by cleaner wrasse, and a green moray peeks out from blue soft coral. Pinks and blues adorn these rocks as we move our way shallow, into the natural light. We encounter needle fish, chase yellow snappers into swim-throughs, and toy with clown fish in anemones waving in the current.

Second dive, Lu'lu Island

Video here on YouTube:

We entered the water behind Lu'lu Island to find a fishnet on the reef and a live lobster trapped inside. We tried to free it but decided it wasn't worth the time - a snorkeler who wanted it for dinner probably rescued it after we left. We rounded the rock and kept on an easterly heading over the sand to arrive at more islands a couple hundred meters distant. I brief this part of the dive by telling people there are clown fish there so bored that they rush up from anemones on the bottom to meet approaching divers, which is what you see in the video. We looked for rays in the sand but found only flounders. On the far rocks we found morays and pretty corals tableaux, and Greg and I ended amid schools of reef fish on the south end of the island chain. Unfortunately algae in the water compromised visibility there.

Diving  Saturday April 29, Octopus Rock and Lima Rock

Video here on YouTube:

Our first dive was on Octopus Rock. I was keeping an eye on Dr. Bob, who was working through some buoyancy issues following recent surgery. As dive guide it was my responsibility to look after him, but Chris had sorted him out nicely the day before, and he was fine while diving with us. We stuck close to Pascal, a.k.a. PQ de Nomad, because he was taking care of open water students and would not go deep, which seemed an appropriate pairing for us. I buddied with Greg Raglow. We filmed moray eels, pretty swim-throughs with schools of blue triggers, a scorpion fish, banner fish, bat fish, cray fish, jacks, and schools near the top of the reef where there was a dead parrot fish caught in a ghost net. Due to uncertainties with this group of divers I didn't follow my normal route, got confounded by the terrain, and ended up mistaking a shallow reef for Octopus Rock, so we ended the dive stranded to the west of the preferred end point.

Stewart wanted to return to Lima Rock to see if he could revisit the barracuda he had seen the day before, but on this day, current was not so pronounced. As we began our dive, a pair of high tech divers passed us with their scooters. Moving more slowly, we found lion fish, a puffer, and arrived at the ropes at the point with Greg and I still had a good hundred bar, half a tank. We decided to explore, and filmed an angel fish on our way down to 24 meters, where circling the rock, we found barracudas off the point. We returned to the ropes and followed them up before letting ourselves go with the current to our safety stop. At 5 meters we drifted through the school of barracudas you can see in my video.

Back on the boat all were accounted for except the divers with the scooters. We found them on the far side of the rock, blabbering about a mola mola they had seen just past where Greg and I had ascended from 24 meters after swimming with the barracudas. I guess you miss the small stuff with your scooters, but you can catch the big game.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Diving on Earth Day weekend: Guiding dives for Nomad Ocean Adventures and for the Earthcasting students at Rye Jr.High New Hampshire USA

My logged dives #1532-1535

Guiding dives at Nomad 

Owner Chris Chellapermal needed help again this weekend at Nomad Ocean Adventures, on the Musandam side of Dibba, just across the border in Oman. He wanted me to guide a boat each day to accommodate those wishing to dive on the long Islamic holiday weekend. It's a non-paid position but it comes with free meals and accommodation and free diving for me for two days, which is what I like to be doing anyway with my weekends.

Earth Day 2017

This weekend was a special occasion. Earth Day was on April 22 this year, It's not the first time I have participated in events on the occasion. In 2011 a group of friends and I walked over to Aqabat Talhat in Oman and cleaned up a bunch of Isostar cans left there presumably by soldiers on a military training exercise. See

But this year Earth Day proper fell on a Saturday, so Sheila Adams at Rye Jr. High School in Rye, New Hampshire celebrated by streaming her 10th annual Earthcast on Friday, April 21, for five hours from noon to 1700 UTC, when the kids could stream from school. There's more information about that, including links to her recordings, here:

Sheila asked me if I would participate and I agreed to do what I could. I decided to make a video of our diving on April 21 and dedicate it to the earthcasting students at Rye Jr. High in Rye, New Hampshire, USA. I hope they enjoy this video, showing the state of one part of the planet in great need of protection on the day they were about to start webcasting from another part of the planet half a world away.

April 21, 2017: Diving at Ras Morovi and Ras Sanut

Because they might not be familiar with the animals seen in the video I'll explain a little about what we are doing here. First of all, as guide of the trip I made sure that all divers were in the water and knew where they were going. All buddy teams were diving independently, as they liked, and we were last in the water to begin our dive. As we started out we caught up with the team of Fahad and Yousef, both from Kuwait, Yousef Alwazzan is waiting for me to publish the video on YouTube where they are pictured in the first clip.

The reef we were diving on is called Ras Morovi. It has a beautiful top side just 8 meters deep full of reef fish and colorful blue and orange coral. In the second frame, a trigger fish tries to hide in the rocks. If he finds a hole he can hide in he'll lie hidden, only his blue tail will be sticking out. Enemies fail to notice this apparently. Trigger fish also have another interesting habit. When they lay eggs, they will circle the humps of sand where the eggs are and swim menacingly at any fish, or divers, that come close. The blue triggers are not that aggressive, but the larger titan trigger fish will bite divers (usually they go for the swim fins) and will even remember them on a later occasion and zero in on them if they return to the spot where the eggs are.

In an alcove we encounter a school of batfish. These are interesting fish that like to come around divers in midwater. They come quite close and appear curious about divers ascending or descending. But on reefs they appear shy and can be herded in unison. Here the school escapes over tufts of orange coral. I continue filming as we pass over the reef teeming with blue (red-toothed) triggers, blue angel fish with vertical yellow stripes, yellow, white and black striped sergeant majors, banner fish with arched white top fins sweeping back, large rainbow-colored parrot fishes, yellow snappers, and schools of jacks.

Coming down off the reef to 15 meters or so we find sand and green whip coral, among which we find a flounder, or moses sole. These fish have evolved with both eyes on one lateral surface, so they can crawl across the sand bottom on the other surface. They have also evolved camoflage with the sand, but can easily be spotted if disturbed.

Meanwhile Nicki has come upon an unusual spotted eel with orange whiskers on white snout. Later I find a pair of them. She is also filmed poking a clump of anenomes to expose the tiny anemome shrimp hiding there.

In the whip coral I find a green moray, much more common than the spotted ones. Moray eels try to look menacing, but if they aren't provoked, they are not dangerous to divers.

Later I film a pair of lion fish under a ledge, causing an invertebrate that was feeding on the opposite rock to shorten his straw and pull in his feeding head. I'm not sure what this invertebrate is called. If you can identify it for me I would appreciate it.

Our last film from this dive is Nicki finding some spiny crayfish under a rock. Some people call them lobsters, but these ones don't have claws, so I think they are crayfish.

The next frame is from our second dive of the day on Ras Sanut, which we also call Wonder Wall. Here we find a pair of pipe fish, distant relatives of sea horses but much more common. Leaving the pipe fish, I chase a blue wrasse manning his cleaning station. Bigger fish come where these wrasse hang out to get parasites removed, a symbiotic relationship that benefits both the big fish and the tiny wrasse.

We begin to move among picturesque schools of snappers. Kelly waves in passing. We follow the snappers into an alcove and notice a huge marble ray on the reef above. He reappears from around an undersea bolder and leads us along the reef. He is faster than we are and can easily move away. He isn't afraid of us, and as he's lost his tail in a prior encounter with something he should have been afraid of, he isn't dangerous to us. Actually nothing in the water is particularly dangerous as long as you respect it's space and don't provoke it.

April 22, 2017: Diving at Octopus Rock and Lima Rock South

The next video was taken Apr 22, 2017 on a dive on Octopus Rock in Musandam Oman. I was diving with Nicki Blower, Kelly Harris, and my favorite dive buddy Bobbi Stevens.

We started to the east down to almost 30 meters looking for sea horses, found none but worked our way up to the base of the rock at 18 meters, crossed to and rounded the next rock over..There we came up through schools of blue triggers to find jacks, fusiliers, barracudas, and preening bat fish in the shallower parts of the ridge and on our return to the rock proper.

The final video from this Earth Day weekend shows our dive on Lima Rock South. It was a nice dive, starting with a cleaning station at 25 meters, with a lone fish being administered to near a big boulder with blue coral and green whip. Bobbi and I went ahead but Nicki caught up to us carrying a dancing flatworm in its little rock home, which we then set in motion. In the same video segment I pan to a lion fish, and then to a feathertail ray in one single video segment. Suddenly we were caught in a current that nudged us onwards but would not let us return where we'd come from. We were careful with it, but passed several honeycomb morays. Deco was becoming an issue as well and we were soon caught in a box no deeper than 10-12 meters and with an envelope of only one direction. But soon we were gingerly rounding the point to the north side of Lima Rock, where we surfaced amid jacks. It was a tricky dive because I didn't know everyone in our group, and my ladies in general don't like strong currents, but this one turned out to be relatively mild in the end.

I was diving with Nicki Blower, Kelly Harris, Ihab and Karim from Egypt, and my favorite dive buddy Bobbi Stevens

In these videos, GoPro videography is by me, Vance Stevens
PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor #64181

For best results, view these videos using highest HD setting on YouTube

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Certifying Harleen Kaur and Patricia Azevedo Bagas as PADI O/W Divers, Musandam, Oman

My logged dives #1528-1531

These videos were taken Apr 7-8, 2017 in the course of certifying diving Harleen Kaur and Patricia Azevedo Bagas as PADI Open Water SCUBA Divers - Nomad Ocean Adventure, Musandam, Oman

The videos show schooling jacks and a turtle at Ras Morovi and a scorpion fish on Lima Headland on April 7. Patricia joined us on Saturday, April 8 and we saw a grey moray eel at Lu'lu Island and a sting ray on Lima Rock (North).

The Lima Rock dive ended in considerable current that swept us past the rock and into deep green water, where we encountered the school of huge barracudas that hangs out there, visible only to passers-by too busy battling down currents to engage their GoPros.

Congratulations to the newly certified divers Harleen Kaur and Patricia Azevedo Bagas

GoPro videography by Vance Stevens
PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor #64181

For more scuba diving videos
like this one, see

For best results, view these videos using highest HD setting on YouTube