Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Damaniyites Diving with Global Divers, Al Ansaab, Oman, Oct 26 and 27, 2012

My logged dives #1168-1171

My good friend and dive student (and world-class lawyer) Jay Fortin was flying into Muscat with his wife Robin for the weekend and wanted to dive the Damaniyites, so he made a booking with Global Divers, in Al Ansaab, in the Muscat, capital area , Oman, for Oct 26 and 27, 2012. They asked if Bobbi and I would join them and help with a refresher for Robin.  Of course we agreed.

Global Divers <> operates from the Aviation Beach Club in Muscat, where I was a member and kept a sailboat from about 1990 to 1995.  It was a great little beach club, pleasantly rustic, and accessible via a straight road from one side of the main highway between the Airport and the Ghala / Alansaab roundabouts.  We used to drive from Sultan Qaboos University where we lived for ten years and make a u-turn at the Ghala roundabout and then drive back to the turn where the straight sandy road traversed a vast tract of scrub lands where we used to sometimes hold running events.  What a great playground.

It's much different now.  First off, there is no airport roundabout.  There's a flyover now, and past the airport where we started looking out for that straight dirt road, there are massive roadworks where a superhighway soon to connect Muscat to Seeb has churned up our playground and thrown up buttresses for flyovers, and we couldn't even see the coast from there. Even the town of Al-Ansaab had been overhauled with shops and banks, but we found the coast road and drove it past a new Spinney's Al Fair to work our way back up the coast behind the airport.  We passed an elaborate gate and hit the brakes.  We backed up and sure enough, there it was written Aviation Beach Club.  What a makeover.  Just inside the gate we could see signs pointing the way to Global Divers, though there was no signposting from the road.

For those of us coming from UAE, it's an hour further to reach the Seeb area, so I don't know how often we'll use Global Divers in future as opposed to Al Sawadi, especially as we can find comfortable accommodation for 15 riyals a night and intriguing local nightlife in Suweiq, but if you're living in Muscat or landing there, then you save that hour driving outside Muscat to Al Sawadi.

Damaniyites is an island chain that stretches offshore between Suweiq / Barka and Seeb in such a way that there is some point in the chain that it is about equidistant between the two, so that the boat ride to that point is about the same for either area.

Global Divers favors the island with the ranger post, which it can access in no less time than it takes to get there from Al Sawadi, though to dive the Jun island part of the chain, this would be a long trip from Global Divers in Seeb. However, Global has decent access to the Aquarium, which is closer to Seeb than Al Sawadi, and very popular with divers.

We had great vis there and warm temperatures. The thermocline didn't kick in till around 18 meters, three millimeter wetsuits were quite comfortable,  and some divers wore shorties.  On Friday October 26th  we went to the bay just north of the ranger station and dived Three Sisters to the west and a site they called Noodle to the east.  On that first dive we found large honeycomb rays, at least one turtle, smaller morays, and a sting ray under a rock at the 18 meter point where we decided to stop punching current and turn around, ascend gradually, and fin comfortably with it.  Bobbi and I had been joined at that point by a third diver who ran low on air and ascended just as a mackeral or some large fish cruised by just off the sand. Further on we found a pair of crayfish brazenly exposed on a ledge outside their lair.  If I'd have had a net or a pair of thick gloves I could have easily snagged one of them.  They were both waving their feelers at us, and relying on that moreso than eyesight.  It was only when I stuck a finger in the way of one waving feeler that the animal backed in high alarm back into his hole, and the other followed suit.

On our second dive on Noodle across the bay, we met with a current on descent but once to the seaward side of the island, we had a good long dive.  All our dives were an hour on this trip (because they asked us to come up by then). On this dive I recall more of the same, especially a turtle or two and the large honeycomb morays.  We ended up being swept over an area that was not reef, and came up midway between the island with the ranger post and the next one over to the east.

Next day, the 27th  we continued our exploration of that area by diving the back of the island to the east of 3 sisters, so we'd dived the whole face comprising two islands by the time we were through.  We again had nice vis. We found an easy ledge for Robin to descend on, but Jay and Robin got ahead of us and kept going when we clacked to call attention to a large honeycomb moray and we saw no more of them till back on the boat. So we joined where Global instructor Ali was leading some other divers at 18 meters in the sand and we positioned ourselves midway between them and the boulders on the wall. We figured if they saw anything  in the sand they'd call us over.  From our vantage on the wall I saw a turtle fin vertically up the wall and called Ali's attention to it. At one point a ray swam past Ali and we tried to give chase. I noticed another hiding in a crevice and again I called attn to it. Later we came on a number of honeycomb morays including one just lying on the bottom.  Again we had a nice long dive and we thought an interesting one, until we got back on the boat and found everyone including Jay raving about the leopard sharks.  Since Jay had gone ahead of us and saw it after that, I don't know how we missed it, but we've seen so many of them, we were not all that crushed.

Our second dive was planned for the Aquarium, arguably the best site in that area.  At times there we have seen sea horses, free swimming morays, scorpion fish, and rays.  Our anticipation was excited by reports from the boat that had done its first dive there that they had seen leopard sharks too.  However, for our afternoon dive, the wind was picking up as was the current, and conditions were less favorable than they had been in the morning.  Still we moved through clouds of snappers and saw a sting ray at 20 meters in the sand.  Bobbi found a scorpion fish and we came on a number of honeycomb morays, including one whose head was poked outside some sponge coral, being cleaned by blue wrasse, looking satisfied indeed.  At the end of the dive we came on a school of darting squid, all in all not bad for a day out.

Due to the changing sea conditions, the boat ride back was fairly miserable, spine-jarring bouncy and wet.  Everything got soaked, and it reminded me of the best sailing days off Aviation Beach back in the '90's.

Meanwhile, we bid adieu to Jay and Robin, until next time ...

1 comment:

  1. What a pleasure it was to meet you and Bobby. Jay's said such nice things about you both, since his first dive with you as his instructor. Your comforting gestures on and in the water helped to make my maiden dive(s) enjoyable!

    Looking forward to the advanced (and refresher :)) class with you.