Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bobbi and Vance fun diving in Musandam, Oman: Fanaku, Musandam Island, Ras Sarkan, Ras Morovi, Lima Rock, Sept 9-10, 2011

My logged dives #1077-1080

We had a great weekend diving with our good friends at Nomad Ocean Adventure. We had been planning a trip to the far north of Musandam for weeks beforehand, to have three dives, starting Friday at Fanaku or Kachelu, and then doing two more dives as we worked our way back down the coast toward home port. This was set to start at around 8 a.m. Friday so we'd be driving down on Thursday. As soon as people could get home from work Thursday evening, Bobbi and I started collecting them. Nicki rode with us in our car and we met Gillian at the Club entrance for the 3-hour drive across the UAE to Dibba on the east coast, arriving over the Oman border just in time for a dinner of baked chicken served at Nomad. After a bit of conviviality with our friends we went to bed and slept very soundly till time to grab coffee and a croissant and meet at the harbor for our three-dive day.

We set off with 12 divers and 36 tanks. Divers included Bobbi, and I, Nicki, Ian Wing, Daniel and Randa, Gillian Hendrie, Jonathan Seda, Bob, April, and Lucy and Sara just there for the day. Sea conditions were a little bumpy on our bums as we endured the hour and a half up the pristine coast of Musandam till we finally shot the gap between the mainland and Musandam Island and steamed ahead to Fanaku sitting all on its own just to the west of smaller Kachelu. We pulled alongside the east side and while Ivor was giving the briefing the boat was swept the length of the island, so we decided that divng there was maybe not that good an idea. So we swung around to the calmer west side and selected a likely spot at the northwest point for an entry. Here the current was mild and we had no problem entering the water and forming into buddy teams before descending in our groups.

Diving conditions were excellent all weekend. First of all, it was a relatively warm 27 degrees in the water with cooler temperatures in thermoclines at depth. I was wearing my thin lycra under my three mm overalls, plus long-sleeve top to complete the combo, for a total of 6.5 mm on my torso, but it was warm, so for the next dive I replaced the 3 mm top for a half mm rash vest, and the following day I skipped the lycra and just wore the combo. I was warm at the surface but glad I had it at depth. Bobbi started off wearing her 5 mm wetsuit but had changed that for 3 mm the following day. And secondly, the visibility was excellent, 15, maybe 20 meters in some places, and no less than 10 meters in case silt was at all present.

Depths in these islands are as you like them. Bobbi and I were diving in a group with Nicki keeping an eye on Gillian. Bobbi and I went ahead and down and stopped short at 30 meters with no end to the wall in sight. Not much to see there so we angled up to pick up Nicki and her group, who had made it to 27 meters as Bobbi and I angled up to conserve air and no deco minutes. It was everyone's first time at this site and no one knew what to expect, so we were all probing, wary of current (in the briefing Ivor warned us about our bubbles going down, indicating a down current, and meanwhile back at the hostel, Chris told us a story about how he got caught in one with two advanced students, managed to catch them at 35 meters and shepherd them to the surface, had them both breathe from his only two oxygen cylinders, and the following day himself developed symptoms of decompression sickness and he had to go into a recompression chamber).

It was a lovely dive, lots of bright red rust coloring the reef, masses of reef fishes, and pretty easy despite a current which at its worst Bobbi and I pulled ourselves through with the help of a long rope someone had lost on the bottom. This caught us up with Sara Gough and Lucy, the only others from our group that we saw from that point on in this dive. We outpaced them, hit a still stronger facing current and rode back on it till we reached the end of the island in a colorful coral patch, and had to come up, near the end of our hour. All our dives on this trip were an hour or more with safety stop.

We retreated to Musandam Island for our lunch break, to a place that Chris and Ivor have christened Sphinx Bay due to the profile of a guano-covered rock in the vicinity. After sandwiches and pasta salad consumed in the 1 hour surface interval, we dropped in for our second dive over a bottom pockmarked from thousands of hollow footprints left by coral since disappeared, and strewn with nudibranchs. We saw a few dozen of the thousands that must have been there. Again Bobbi and I pushed to 30 meters depth, found it just kept going, and turned around to angle back up the reef and meet up with April who had joined the other two girls Lucy and Sara. A remarkable feature of this dive was a fault seam at 8 meters that we followed for some distance, where we found caves, not just alcoves, but actual tunnels you could swim into. One of them had a huge batfish inside sharing space with an oversized puffer. Another ledge had two very large crayfish inside, unreachable, yet fully visible in their lair.

It was 3:30 by the time we came up and joined everyone back on board and motored south. It took us an hour almost to reach Ras Sarkhan on our way home. Ivor suggested we dive the point and work our way back toward the mountains. Meanwhile the boat drifted back from the point and people started entering the water. We were no longer at the point but they were stuck with it but Bobbi and I and the three ladies were still on board, so we had ourselves taken back to the point as planned. The point is where the action is most likely to be, but it is risky because there can be currents here (that's what brings the fish) and you never know if the current will be coming in or going out, though Ivor thought it would be a return current. So I briefed our divers to be prepared for anything and we all went over and down.

We were lucky. The current was slack, and we had no trouble finding our way to the point, with its constant swirl of fish in the blue soft coral. We found a huge turtle sitting on the bottom at 30 meters, his back covered with white barnacles. We angled up and out the point and found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of treveli swirling past. At the point itself a stiff resistant current told us it was time to go back. We stayed high on the reef and came across another turtle. Toward the end of the dive we found a large cow-tail or feather-tail ray in the sand. He let us settle in next to and in front of him before he started to ripple, taking his time to eventually rise out of the sand, turn, and head out to sea. We followed close behind and he turned and headed back to the reef, then headed up it, silhouetted nicely against the bright surface, putting us on a nice show in graceful motion for 30 memorable seconds.

That was it for diving for the day. Unfortunately the gear box on our boat malfunctioned and we limped back to Lima over the next hour, but Ivor got on the satellite phone and the boat owners sent another boat out to get us, intercepting us just off the town of Lima. We transferred our gear to the new boat and it was 45 minutes before we finally made it home in the darkness. Back at NOA there was still time to chill out in the pool before dinner, which occupied us until time for bed.

Next morning we had arranged an earlier than usual boat departure so we might get back to port earlier that evening for driving back to Abu Dhabi, but we were still able to sleep in past 8 in the morning. Bobbi and I rolled up in the dining area to check email and have our coffee and meager breakfast. We were joined this morning by Nicki, Ian, Daniel and Randa, Jonathan, Bob, and April and Gavin, her chef boyfriend. Lucy and Sara had returned to Dubai the night before, and Gillian had developed sinus problems and couldn't join us diving. The boat was supposed to leave the harbor at 10 and it was only a quarter hour late when it finally did pull away, not bad. An hour later we were passing Lima Rock on our way to Octopus Rock, but we found the current there a little strong, so we retreated to Ras Morovi to start our first dive in the bay where I often take my beginning divers. There was almost no current there, and the visibility was again excellent. Had there been rays in the sand we would have seen them. We went south along the reef without seeing much of anything, but at the point where you can opt for the saddle to the left to take you into the channel or keep going south to round the submerged island, we came onto a large school of barracuda.

We rounded the submerged hilltop keeping at about 25 meters, a bit high off the sand at 30 meters. It was beautiful, but again nothing striking until Bobbi found a crayfish in a rock, and then spotted a turtle ahead. Later she found another big crayfish under a rock, I spotted the second turtle, and we found several morays and lion fish. We came all the way up the channel to the north but as we rounded the corner we hit a stiff current. Although 40 minutes into our dive we both had plenty of air left so we dropped to almost 18 meters in the sand and just powered through it. Eventually it slackened and we ended our dive in a bay full of coral and fish life, especially swarms of blue triggers. When the boat finally came for us over there we got some oblique compliments from the younger divers regarding our stamina in finning through that current, as they had all turned back at that point.

We had our sandwiches and a tasty potato salad listening to Ivor's jokes (and Gavin's, and a few of mine), bobbing gently in the water, in the bright sunlight surrounded by mountains rising out of clear blue seas. Then we headed over to Lulu Island just across the bay toward the fishing village of Lima but there was a boat there already picking up divers way north of the rock, suggesting they were having trouble with currents, so we decided to go to Lima Rock.

Here on the sheltered north side we had the best dive of the weekend, thanks to Bobbi's sharp-eyed fish spotting. The first thing we saw was a turtle and we were following that when Bobbi pointed into the void. That's how she and I were the only ones to see at least two devil rays passing. As on all our dives we saw coronet fish, and batfish and puffer fish being cleaned by cleaner wrasse. The most fun part of the dive was when we encountered a school of squids. They entertained us in midwater and later we found them gathering around a rock. They seemed to want to get under the rock, Nicki thinks to lay eggs there. Due to their focus on whatever they were doing there, they didn't seem to mind us coming close and hovering. They were captivating. We spent 5 or ten minutes watching their antics, motionless, breathing little air. At the end of the dive we found a large honeycomb moray and did our safety stop above its lair. He was being cleaned inside his gaping mouth by a tiny blue wrasse, which escaped unharmed.

Our Roster

  1. Vance Stevens (PADI instructor)
  2. Nicki Blower (PADI divemaster)
  3. Sarah Gough - (PADI divemaster)
  4. Bobbi Stevens (PADI rescue)
  5. Ian Wing (SSI Master Diver, including SSI Deep Diver, with PADI Nitrox)
  6. Bob McGraw (PADI advanced o/w)
  7. Gillian Hendrie (PADI advanced o/w)
  8. April McMahan (PADI advanced o/w)
  9. Jonathan Seda (PADI advanced o/w) - driving up Friday morning
  10. Daniel Jewers (PADI advanced o/w)
  11. Lucy Hives (BSAC sports)
  12. Randa (o/w)

Well, ten days of the month our gone, and we have to be out of our apartment by the end of it, so apart from helping Kathleen with an EDA beach cleanup next weekend, Bobbi and I won't be doing much more diving until we emerge into October.


  1. Entertaining bLog as always Vance, love reading it! Those squid were awesome hey?? I've seen squid do that kind of thing before, and cuttlefish too. Not too long ago, I was watching a pair of them, one of them was dropping eggs into a crevice. Then along comes a big fish, who snaffled one of the eggs for his lunch. Then a few dive trips ago, also on Lima I think, there were about 4 squid flitting around a rocky ledge, they kept darting in and out of it, obviously extremely agitated. When I got closer, they started darting over to me after darting under the ledge... to the ledge and under it a bit, then over to me, looking right into my eyes, continuously. I had a feeling though that it wasn't me that they were frightened of, somehow. They kept coming up to me, right up to my mask, looking into my eyes, and they kept on doing this dozens of times. It was almost like they were trying to tell me something and to warn me of something. I was agog! Eventually, I went a little closer to the ledge to see what was up. I assumed that they had some eggs under the ledge. I had a closer look, wafted a bit of sand away, and right there was a torpedo ray, right under the ledge where the poor squids' eggs were... Fascinating! I still wonder about that. Were the squids coming to me to warn me about the torpedo ray? Or were they coming to me to see if I would try scare it away? Their body language to me made me think they were not scared or intimidated by me at all, rather they were trying to communicate something to me. Whatever it WAS they were trying to communicate, it was just fascinating. Isn't the underwater world a delight?!

  2. Your blog would be more entertaining if the readers can see a lot of pictures showing your diving adventure! :) Nonetheless, I still enjoyed reading your post. Musandam Island is one of the beautiful places I haven't visited yet. Im looking forward to check it out this summer and dive in there! Here I come Musandam Island! :)

  3. nice written blog. such an entertaining one. i really liked going through it. such places are really attractive and very amazing. i love to go on such places. keep sharing more and best of luck.
    Musandam Dibba

  4. Musandam is really an amazing place to visit. You guys must have enjoyed a lot out there.I have been to Musandam many times and i really have enjoyed my trip. Keep sharing such more entertaining stories of yours. Thanks
    Musandam Dibba