Sunday, August 27, 2017

Diving Daymaniyats with Global Scuba in Seeb - Bobbi and I and our son Dusty

Logged dives #1560-1563

Diving in the Daymaniyats 
Friday August 25 and Saturday August 26

Friday morning at Global Scuba, we found that diving had been canceled the day before. Seas had calmed down by now but there was still enough of a chop on the water that the boatmen couldn’t see the telltale tips of the whale shark fins that are usually visible when seas are glassy. Next day the weather was calmer still, but enough of a ripple remained that again, we spotted no whale sharks.  

Visibility on the dive sites was not good, but at the Aquarium, our first dive sight, the creatures were there. I spent the whole dive chasing after turtles, batfish, scorpion fish, pretty schools, and flitting shoals of fish life, shooting them with my new camera.

I was using the new camera I’d bought to replace the GoPro Hero 2 whose casing had flooded recently in Musandam, causing the demise of that GoPro. The new camera was a Rollei, a model that compared well to GoPro according to the comparison articles I pulled up on the Internet while standing at the display in the store, but at half the price (we can get the Hero 5 in UAE but surprisingly, not the underwater housings). I had bought it as my backup camera, but decided to give it a go at the Aquarium. It seemed to work well. I liked it. On our second dive, I used my remaining GoPro, my Hero 3. On that one I came upon a leopard shark early in the dive.

Next day, I took the Rollei again to Hayoot Run and shot more films. At this location, Bobbi and I descended on top of a turtle. The Rollei battery was better than one in the GoPro, which can barely make two dives, so I used the Rollei again on the second dive, which ended in the guide finding us a nice leopard shark.

On Friday Aug 25, we dived the Aquarium and Titto's Run, both shown on these maps
On Titto's we were reunited with a dive guide named Arif who is distinctive in my videos from his black hood. Arif led us on one of our most memorable dives in Oman in October 2016. 
The outstanding videos from those dives are posted here:

On Saturday Aug 26, we dived Hayut Run and (I think) Three Sisters

The maps come from, here

Camera Woes

When I got home, I found ten videos in the Video folder on my Rollei SIM card, numbered FH00001 to 10. The first video was the turtle that Bobbi and I had seen on Saturday, the 8th was the leopard shark at the end of the 2nd dive, and 9 and 10 were pictures of Dusty and Bobbi and I ascending from our dive on Friday (Dusty was flying back to Doha on Saturday and couldn't dive that day though he came with us on the boat). How could that be, that the pictures were out of order, and where were the videos from the Aquarium and from the experimental footage I had shot when I’d unpacked the camera for the very first time?

The answer soon dawned on me. The camera was overwriting videos taken in previous sessions. There were no test videos I took when I unpacked the camera and tried it out because these had been overwritten by footage from the Aquarium on Friday. Then those videos were overwritten by the ones from Hayoot and Three Sisters on Saturday, but I had taken only 8 videos on the 2 dives, so only the last two, 9 and 10, remained from the day before, and appeared in sequence to have followed the videos taken Saturday.

On one of those dives, we had encountered a huge black stingray heading up a wall. I caught up with it as I thought it was about to disappear over the reef but it turned and instead came down the wall and right at me. I kept my camera trained on it as it swirled in tight circles around me, biomass rippling everywhere, it's lethal spike safely stored as its tail passed just beyond my fins. It would have made great video, but alas, it was lost.

So, in my film for the weekend, I just compiled the videos I had from my Rollei, and from my reliable GoPro (which would all be from Titto's Run) into one film sequence. All tolled, there are a turtle, a couple of leopard sharks, morays, scorpion fish, cuttlefish, nudibranchs, lionfish … but no huge stingrays.

I’ll get over it :-)

Getting there and sticking around

It’s getting that time of year to do a visa renewal here in UAE so I’ve been crossing borders at every opportunity lately. We were in Oman diving from the Millennium Hotel in Musannah a couple of weeks ago ( and this week we were planning to repeat the adventure diving again from SeaOman, but Dusty was alone in Doha and decided to fly down to Muscat's Seeb airport for the weekend. Bobbi and I picked him up from the airport and we all went diving Friday in the Daymaniyats from the Muscat direction. And next weekend we’re taking advantage of an Eid holiday week to do a liveaboard in the southern Red Sea, departing from Port Galeib in Egypt. After that I hand in my passport to the UAE visa authorities and I’ll be without it for a month.

Mussanah is about 3 hours from Al Ain whereas Seeb takes at least another hour to reach, so Seeb is not our destination of choice from where we live, though diving from Seeb is the closest way to get to the Aquarium, one of our favorite dive sites in east of the Daymaniyats archipelago

We set out on Thursday from Al Ain at about 4:30, a bit late because I was held back at work until 1:30 (we can usually leave earlier than that since the students leave are gone by 12:45). Dusty’s plane was due to land at 10:00 pm and we figured we’d have time on our hands before we needed to go get him. 

We felt so relaxed about time that we decided to go check out one of our favorite haunts on that coast, the Suwaiq Motel. We used to stay there often. It's an Omani night club on the road to Rustaq that has rooms of adequate quality for only 20 riyals (200 dirhams) and serves beer for a riyal a tall can (price varies depending on choice and may have gone up). Lately we haven't been able to book because no one answers the phone, and we assumed they had closed down. But now we had a chance to drive over and see, and we were happy to find it open and functioning pretty much as usual. They told us their phone had been cut off, but we can email Rakesh for room reservations. You can read about this locally colorful place from the previous times we stayed here:
We continued another hour and a half to Seeb (another half hour short of Muscat proper) where we'd booked in at the Novotel. We used to go a lot when we lived at SQU just up the road in Al Khod, except now the hotel was called the Golden Tulip (the Novotel had an infamous Break the Can night once a week, we'd drive there and weave home; don't drive like that any more ;-). We didn’t get there until about 8:45 at night, and as it turned out, roads have been reconfigured all over Oman to the point where our GPS can’t guide us accurately. We were in sight of the hotel just opposite from the airport in Seeb but our GPS tried to take us there on a no-longer-existent road, which turned out to have been sealed off to make room for a new overpass (interchange). We had to continue on the freeway (dual carriageway) for at least ten km past the hotel exit and when we doubled back, now on the opposite side of the road from where we wanted to be, we took a turn that we hoped would loop us back to the correct side, but it veered off and took us the opposite way where they are building the new airport. We managed to exit for Al Athaiba, take the beach road again the opposite way we wanted to go, pass right in front of the Civil Aviation Club where we’d be diving and sleeping the next day and night, and come up through the town of Al Athaiba where we could get back on the dual carriageway and track back again toward the Golden Tulip. We managed to avoid repeating our error and ended up at the interchange on the bridge where we had been sidetracked before, but coming from a different direction this time. This put us on the Muscat expressway which would have taken us waaayyy inland except there was an obscure exit that brought us out in a big loop and landed us at our hotel.

It was almost 9:30 pm by the time we managed to check in. They gave us a lovely room with a big double bed right near the elevator, but we had booked, as it said on our booking form, two twin beds, since unbeknownst to them, we were bringing Dusty back with us. So we got the room changed to one way down the hall. It smelled of smoke but it had the right number of beds. By now it was time to get Dusty at the airport. Seeb airport is chaos now that flights to Doha cannot use UAE airports or airspace - all that traffic is not funneled though such places as Muscat, Kuwait, and of all places Addis Ababa! I took advantage of the traffic gridlock outside arrivals to hold my place near the curb (kerb) while Bobbi ran in to collect Dusty. Half an hour later they emerged, just as I was starting to be hassled by traffic police.

Half an our after that we emerged from the late night traffic jam outside the airport and crept to the Golden Tulip side of that same interchange (normally a 3 minute drive from the airport). We found the obscure exit ok and stopped for pizza so we could have leftovers for breakfast. Back at the hotel we found our room was next to a room of revelers who stayed up all night talking loudly and slamming doors. I managed to sleep thanks to white noise from my Kindle.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Whale sharks are back, and leopard sharks and rays in the Daymaniyat Islands,

Logged dives #1556-1559

Friday and Saturday, August 4-5, 2017

Summer time in the Arabian peninsula and you could say the livin' is easy, except it's so darned hot out. But in such conditions one obvious solution is to take advantage of two facts. One is that a peninsula is surrounded by water 25 degrees cooler than its adjacent land  mass, and the other is that hotels in the region offer bargain prices to attract customers during what here is their off season. So it was that on Thursday after work Bobbi and I packed our dive gear into our car and drove over the border to Sohar and then took the road east as far as Mussanah, about halfway to Muscat, where we checked into the Millennium Resort Hotel there, and where there is an excellent dive center, SeaOman, which has boats with engines powerful enough to get us to the westernmost Daymaniyat Islands in a little over an hour.

Our trip on Friday Aug 4 took us a bit longer than an hour because whale sharks  were spotted en route, so Richard, the manager of SeaOman, stopped the boat and let us scramble overboard to swim with them.

Coral Garden off Jun Island and Doc's Wall off Little Jun

Once we'd enjoyed the whale sharks, we motored along past Sira and Jun islands to a site off Little Jun called Doc's wall. This can be a productive site for leopard sharks, who like to rest in the shadow of the schooling yellow snapper fish, so when you see those, you swim through them and look in the sand. This has been my experience before, but not today. Visibility was not particularly good, and we saw little to impress us apart from schools of fusiliers and grey and honeycombed morays.

However, on the second dive, visibility still poor, our dive guide Saeed started banging his tank. When we found  him just out of view in the murky water, he showed us a large leopard shark resting at an unusual angle on the reef. Saeed was leading an open water diver named Marco, but because of the poor vis all the buddy teams as they entered the water had moved off separately, out of sight of one another, so only Saeed, Marco, and Bobbi and I saw this particular leopard shark.

Bobbi and I continued left around Sira Island but where we came to some boulders just off the reef we were supposed to keep on our left, I led us over to explore the boulders to the right, and I found more of them in a northeast direction, pretty, but not much of note, until we had rounded the end of them and were tracking back to the southwest, where we came upon a black marble ray. We went around him without disturbing him.

I didn't get pictures of any of our second dive because one of my GoPros had flooded our last dive with Nomad Ocean Adventures, and so I was using just my Hero 3, so I had brought a charger on the boat to charge it between dives. Everyone was kitting up quickly and going in off the back of the boat as I unplugged the charger and put the GoPro back in its case and attached it to my BCD. But the charge light refused to go off, and in that state the camera would not function, would not switch on. I needed to get in the water, no delays allowed as the boat held its position in the surge near the rocky outcrop, so I hoped the charge light would go off, maybe when the camera cooled down in the water. But it didn't, the charging light remained on the entire dive, though it was not charging (the power source had been removed) and I couldn't take videos on that dive. Once we were back on the boat, I pried the battery loose from the camera, it powered down and switched off, and when I replaced the battery it switched on normally. That night I charged it normally, and the next day it functioned fine.

So the video above has clips from the dive on Doc's wall, where we saw the interesting black and white nudibranchs on the top at 5 meters, and then clips from out first dive Saturday on Coral Garden, along the northeast corner of Jun Island. Once you arrive at the eastern point you have the option of continuing on around Jun Island, or heading east across the sand to come onto Little Jun after about 5 minutes of finning and 20 bar less in your tank than you started the trek with, so it's possibly not worth it, but it was on the other side that I saw and filmed the feathertail ray as I surprised him in the sand.

Creatures in the video above: 
The two whale sharks we snorkeled with before our dives, and then a scorpion fish, several gray and honeycomb morays, a spiny rock lobster, the feathertail ray on the approach to Little Jun, schools of fusiliers on Doc's wall, and a black and white nudibranch on the top of the wall.

The Mousetrap between Sira and Jun islands

Our last dive on Saturday was on the Mousetrap reef between Sira and Jun Islands. We encountered a huge black ray early in the dive and then came on a smaller marble ray, both of whom entertained us with ripple effects. While some of our group were looking for small stuff, and finding it in the anenomes and on the rocks, Bobbi and I followed the guide Saeed, who was leading a couple of young shebaab on a mission which I presumed was to find a resting leopard shark. He succeeded and this time my camera was working, so we maneuvered about the shark, but left it undisturbed until the other divers arrived with their array of floodlights and then the shark took off and headed up  and over the reef at the top of the wall. We found numerous nudibranchs and anemone shrimp, and we finished the dive with a turtle that almost kissed Nicki. This was our most lovely dive of the weekend despite poor vis, a great end to our  2-day, 4-dive weekend.

This map of our dive locations is from

You can find  this map at this URL:

We were diving this weekend with SeaOman from Millennium Resort Mussanah, Oman

The divers in our group were myself, Nicki Blower, Peter Mainka, Philippe Lecompte, Eric Courtonne, and my favorite dive buddy Bobbi Stevens

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

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