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.

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