Friday, April 24, 2009

April 18, 2009 - Dibba Rock, from Freestyle Divers

I haven't been to Dibba Rock all year. Until the red tide hit, this was a really hopping place with lots of sharks on every dive. I would likely have dived this site both days using Freestyle divers but they managed to get themselves challenged by the UAE coast guard midweek and their boats were banned from south of the border until they upgraded their boat licenses to commercial ones.

We had seen them the day before at Dibba Oman harbor, heading up for overnight camping at Hablain in Musandam. They were operational up there, but when I visited their shop on Saturday, there was no one around.

Vance's logged Dive #870

I kitted up on their veranda and waddled down their boat ramp to shore dive Dibba Rock. It's a tedious 20 min swim out. There was a bit of algae in the water but not that bad; Dibba was often cloudy even before the tide hit. There were lots of cuttlefish and goatfish around - it seemed that anything that was already brown survived the brown water ok ;-) The raspberry coral was no longer pink in color but the terrain was unmistakable and there were animals living on it, esp the kind that clicks into its tiny shell when big things approach so the reef still winks at you. I spotted a few baraccuda overhead, a healthy sign, and YESSSS! a couple of devil rays traveled past near where the anchor is embedded in the coral a little southeast of the rock. That's where I saw the few colorful fish I spotted that morning, blue and yellow striped fusiliers, and some sergeant majors. There were also some jacks in this area, a school of nice sized ones. Here the clicking on the reef picked up noticeably as well.

But on the rest of the reef, there seemed to be an absence of the kind of fishes that school atop the coral, no parrots or snappers. The site seemed overall brown and drab. I saw no sharks or turtles (though there were some turtles nearer shore at Royal Beach). On the way back south heading along the bottom toward Freestyle I startled a big bull ray. It was much easier to swim back down there than it was swimming outbound on the surface.

All in all, a hopeful report. If the red tide stays a way for a while, this reef should bounce back!

April 17, 2009 - Musandam Lima Rock and Ras Lima

This was our first time to use Nomad Divers in Dibba, Oman, Bobbi and I got up at 5 a.m. to collect Nicky and get away from Abu Dhabi at 6, so we could reach Dibba for the scheduled dhow departure time at 10:00. We ended up sitting at the Nomad guest house for some time after that wishing we'd had the sleep back, but eventally Alphonso and Jamal pulled up with the people they had collected at the dive shop (waiting for the princess we were told). Apologies were made, we were assured the dhow was going to Ras Lima as planned, and if it did that we didn't care since we were staying over at Nomad anyway.

Diving is not so straightforward in UAE now, since the red tide impacted all the dive sites the length of the east coast and into Oman. In fact, this was the first time we had dived in UAE all year, since diving has been so abysmal for the months the algae has hung in there.

Once we got under way, the people on the boat, from Egypt and Bulgaria, were fun to be with and the Nomad folks tried to accommodate our desires for dive sites as best they could. It took three hours to reach Lima. Because of the discover scuba students in group, Alphonso wanted to take them to Ras Lima, the shallow shoreline opposite the rock. I was asked where I wanted to dive. I said, the rock of course. They said, ok, they could do that. They motored over there and dropped us in the water on the north side, and left us the speedboat with a boatman to follow our bubbles.

Vance's logged Dive #868

For some reason our dive time there was not so long. Perhaps it was the small 10 liter bottles, perhaps it was the depth, or the cold. It wasn’t the best Lima Rock dive, the wrong side of the rock from where I usually go, a little shallow compared to the south side, but we headed down to 25 meters in any event. We didn’t see much the first part of the dive except two pairs of large, finger-sized nudibranchs crawling on top of each other and up the base of the rock. At one point we saw a bull ray in the sand, but he vanished quickly in the gloom. There were crayfish in the rocks, and the usual fish mucking about.

Vance's logged Dive #869

After our 40 minutes down, the speedboat returned us to the dhow on Ras Lima where the other divers were, and for the second dive we went around to the south side of the headland. Here the diving was more shallow, around 15 meters or so, and full of life among the scattered boulders. There were a lot of rays, and vis was decent for viewing them. There were some exposed crayfish as well, and I enjoyed shining a light into alcoves to find them and the rays. The rays were sometimes rippling about on the walls, or on the go, and one who had lost his tail, most likely as a baby, and most likely to a shark, settled in the sand and tried to hide from us. It was a great dive, the rays kept us well entertained, we saw about a dozen. Nicky took pictures which I’m sure will remind me of more things we saw on this dive.

Back at our accommodation at Nomad Guest House (thanks, Nicky, for the pic, above), Christophe's parents who take care of the hostel end of the business were so kind and wonderful, they made up that night for our temporary inconvenience in the morning by placing a bottle of wine at our table and surrounding that with tasty dishes a la Mauritus -- shrimp, aubergines and mushrooms, feta salad, and grape leaf dolmas. The 500 dirham charge per person included the diving with boat, tanks and weights, Nescafe and bread continually available at the hostal, bbq dinner apres plonge, and a good night sleep in very tasteful, clean accommodation. Such a deal! Our final impression was -- we'll go again!!

If you were on the dives, please leave a comment if you think of anything else that should be mentioned here.