Saturday, March 3, 2018

Diving from Khasab with Musandam Discovery, March 3, 2108

Logged dives #1584-1585

Bobbi and I have had excellent dives in northern Musandam, either going from Dibba on long boat trips to Fanaku, what Chris at Nomad Ocean Adventures used to call the far north. We had also had good luck with Extra Divers, whose shop and guest house occupied the promontory overlooking the camping beach just around the corner from the port, near town center, at Khasab. In the old days when we used to go there before all this was built we used to camp on that promontory to avoid the crowds on the beach. We could have it pretty much to ourselves, the only noise being the 'putt putt' of boats passing by in the morning, which we could watch overlooking the vast expanse of water while sipping coffee heated from embers revived from our dinner campfire. The promontory is visible, and just a short walk, from the luxurious Adana Khasab Hotel which has since been built on the spot where Extra Divers once stood. 

Greg and Joyce Raglow were walking near our camping spot and waved to us from there when we pulled up to the hotel after the 4-hour drive from Al Ain, plus the double-border crossing less than an hour from Ras Al Khaima. Greg is one of my ex-dive students, open water and advanced. He's also an accomplished guitar player, and he and I have passed the guitar back and forth at many an open air evening outside at Nomad Ocean Adventure while sipping icy beverages churned out by Chris's infamous slurpie machine.

We can still enter Oman for 5 riyals visa fees paid at the border, special price for GCC residents who fit certain job categories, teacher being one of them. The inexpensive transit visa has been canceled though and now tourists are charged 20 riyals for the month long visa even though they might want to stay only a day or two. This creates a considerable hardship for parents traveling with children, so the hotels offer special Groupon rates to attract customers. The Adana Khasab Hotel had one for 35 riyals (about $100 a night) for a delux room for two with full buffet breakfast and all the expresso we could drink, so we took advantage of a three day weekend to book Friday and Sat nights at the hotel and we booked diving for Sat and Sunday.

I can’t say we were impressed that much with the dive shops. There were three I could find online. One of them,, gives a Dubai phone number but their website didn’t have enough information for us to actually make a booking in Khasab. We reached someone at Ras Musandam by phone,, who said he would pick us up at the Adana Khasab Hotel on Friday, but he didn’t take our name nor ask what kind of divers we were, and when I emailed with that information there was no reply. My last email was to say that the days of our three day weekend had changed and we would not be there Friday after all, but would dive starting Saturday. Again, no reply.

Meanwhile, Rommel at Musandam Discovery,, emailed us back straight away with answers to whatever query we had, and even whatsapped us weather updates to help us go forward with our trip. There was a storm system hanging out over the area especially impacting the Dubai, RAK, Abu Dhabi coastline with rough shamal whipped seas, but impacting less the Khasab side of the peninsula. When Rommel assured us they would be diving Fri/Sat/Sun we confirmed our hotel bookings and made plans to dive with Musandam Discovery.

In the end sea conditions were rough and the boat trips were awash with cold wind-driven waves strafing the boat, soaking everything and everyone. The boat had to hide in coves out of the wind for dives, and the dive profiles were not that ambitious. On the first dive the divemaster started us in the very protected and shallow end of the cove and told us we would work our way to the not so distant point and then turn around and come back. Mishaps happened with some divers in the cold water, one had to surface due to ear problems, but Bobbi and Greg and I went on as instructed, reef on our left, and INTO the current, which took a bit of our air at the beginning of the dive. We were down to a hundred bar when we got toward the point where the diving was starting to get interesting with deeper rocks down to 25 meters or more, better vis, more scope for play, and no current. At that point the guide signaled we should go back, so most of the dive was in effect in the uninteresting shallows. I have not been expected to dive from a boat at anchor and return to the boat since diving with BSAC last century; most boats follow divers on one-way trips in Musandam. So this dive was unexpectedly disappointing.

This was followed by snack of paratha bread spread with cheese and jelly and washed down with water. There were also bananas on board. It’s good to have something to eat between dives, but this was again beneath expectations when in a competitive business people want to attract you back for a return trip.

The next dive was a little better. We had schools of batfish and juvenile barracudas, and a sting ray that played for the GoPro. But one diver signaled out of air at 35 minutes leaving Bobbi and I to go off on our own another 15 but not very ambitiously, so we didn’t see much. Then it was back up the narrow steep ladder onto Suleiman’s boat with the seats too low for divers laden with kit to effectively stand up, and the worst part was the trip back in the cold wind and waves, wetsuits being our only protection, clothing not really an option unless it were a sou’wester.

All in all the experience plus the fact that a repeat the next day would cost us over $100 each caused us to cancel our diving plans and get an early start from the hotel after breakfast to arrive home in time to go for a  jog before sundown in the oasis back home in Al Ain. We enjoyed the trip but were not thrilled with the diving, and we’re not sure where to book next time we go, having found no one there yet to replace the quality of a really well-run dive center the likes of Extra Divers.

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