Saturday, January 31, 2015

Conducted PADI O/W dive course for Ray and Karen Handy, Musandam Oman, Jan 30-31, 2015

My logged dives #1338 - 1341

It was Bobbi's turn for visa renewal so she was unable to accompany me when I traveled across the UAE to emerge at the Oman border with Musandam at Dibba and travel the few blocks to stay at Nomad Ocean Adventure for a few days. As normally happens when I teach diving, my students were either referred to me or found me online, communicated with me in email while I talked them through their eLearning and filling out the forms they would need, and we met for the first time at the dive center.

We wasted little time getting in the pool Thursday evening and working  through the first two pool modules, the goal being to finish the 3rd module in the morning so as to be able to do two ocean dives on Friday that would count for the course. This is the toughest part of the course, requiring late hour pool sessions, dinner and sleep, and then early rising in the cold dawn to get 2/3 of the way through the pool training before we could do two dives as per PADI standards. But once we'd finished Module 3 and were heading down to the harbor, we knew the rest of the weekend was going to be mostly fun.

Our video shows us coming up the coast of Musandam and approaching LIma Rock. Our dive leaders had announced the first dive for  "Lima South" which I had assumed was Lima Rock south, one of my favorite dive sites in that area, but they actually meant the south side of the headland, which was also beautiful. However the current was running north to south and that side of the headland was not well protected, so my beginning divers were exposed to some stiff current their first time diving in salt water, plus a vertical drop of about 6 meters to reach the shallowest sand, which not both of them could do due to ear issues, so we had to be careful and couldn't join the bat fish schooling in the overhangs right away. We found a line leading to a fish pot and were able to follow that down by hanging on the line, working through beginner's ear and buoyancy problems aggravated by bubbly 5 mm neoprene. At the bottom we were able to shelter in the lee of a coral encrusted bommie and eventually come off that to grab a fishnet downstream and orient there. Then we worked our way along the bottom to where we could shelter in shallower water nearer the reef. By then my students were managing their buoyancy nicely, but I was careful to keep an eye on them and not vary depth much to prevent their neoprene bubbles expanding more than they might predict. It was a pretty dive and the Handy's were mightily impressed by the colorful coral and so many species of fish, but I was too busy with keeping things safe to take any photos.

Our second dive we started well into Ras Sanut, which has a south face protected from the current. Since we had calm water we started with controlled emergency swimming ascents which I conducted with just Karen in the water and then did Ray when he joined from the boat, with Karen following us down. When Ray ascended, we snorkeled to shallow water and descended in much calmer and more gently sloping conditions than on our first dive, so things went well on this one.

We began by dropping in over the coral fields in that part of the bay, did our exercises, found a pipe fish in the sand where I led to look for rays, then swam along the reef to find a honeycomb moray in the rocks. Later on, our video shows us following a turtle around. This was a nice dive, and Ray and Karen were quite confident by the end of it, buoyancy improving by the minute.

We motored back to Nomad and knocked out the last two pool modules by about the time dinner was prepared for us. We went to bed early and I got a great night's sleep.

Next day we started out in the bay at Ras Morovi, which is also well protected from current, so I decided to do some of our surface work there. Doing tired diver tows, we found a lion fish hovering in the water not far below. Then as we began our dive we came on several crayfish, including one in a lair where I often find them. In that area there were morays along the reef, where puffer fish led us over the edge to angelfish lazing back and forth amid the blue trigger fish.  We headed over the saddle and headed north over the cabbage coral, where we came onto a family of cuttlefish. Cuttlefish are always fun to watch and film. I took mamma and baby from various angles and had switched the GoPro off when momma responded to daddy's approach by going all white and spreading her tentacles invitingly (I suppose). By then I had got the GoPro back in gear but momma decided not to continue with so little privacy and as daddy backed off toward the rock he had sidled upfrom, momma settled down, and we didn't get any salacious video after all. But just around the corner was my favorite grotto, a pretty spot with soft corals where I've had some interesting ray and turtle encounters. I was just emerging from the cave at the end, disappointed, no rays today, but then banged the top of Ray's tank with my flashlight and pointed to a devil ray passing overhead. What a treat, it's easy to miss things like that by looking down most of the dive. My students were by now low on air so we went around the corner and ended the dive in the company of a turtle moving shallow over more red and orange soft coral.

Our final dive at Lulu Island was interesting not only for successfully completing the course, but for a turtle and a pair of scorpion fish. After we finished our final skills exercises we let ourselves go with the current and were carried around the outside of the wall curving off to the north. We encountered stiff current here but more interestingly, eagle rays, at least 4 of them. VIsibility was not the best and it takes a moment for me to fumble for and switch on my camera. Eagle rays are exceedingly graceful creatures if you catch them unawares, but once they see you they turn on full power and take off in a flash of muscle. You can barely make them out in the shots at the end of the video compilation, but in real life they were much more obvious and brought us quick seconds of thrill as we admired them slowly coming at us and then bolting impressively away.

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