Sunday, October 4, 2009

Nicki's photos up at Facebook from Dibba and Musandam September 2009

Nicki has put up her photos from two weekends diving in Musandam and Dibba during September 2009: the 2-night dhow trip up the Musandam 3-5 September and Dibba weekend 11-12 September.

I think this link will work, but you'll need to log on to Facebook to see them ...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 2-3, 2009 - Bobbi and Vance at Dibba Rock and Lima and Ras Morovi, Musandam, my logged dives #926-929

Last time Bobbi had joined us on a dive trip she’d ended up baby-sitting and didn’t dive at all in two days, and the following weekend the weather was rough and diving was canceled. Then the following weekend she decided to baby-sit again and flew to Qatar where grand-daughter Gwen had moved. So she really wanted to dive this weekend. However none of the people we invited to join us could make it, even Nicki had a prior commitment at the Party Hall in Dhaid and couldn’t accompany us. When we woke up at 6:00 and checked email, we found our only 'taker' for Friday had to cancel (car rental fell through and he needed to get back for Saturday), so it was just Bobbi and I for that day.

Had we not agreed to meet that other diver at noon, we might have slept in and gone up for just the 3 pm dive, but noon this day on Dibba Rock was a rare occasion indeed. The water was clear for a change, we could easily see the sharks prowling in the periphery. With the sun directly overhead, the light was not refracted by what suspended matter there was. It was just Bobbi and I and it took us an hour to breathe our tanks down to 100 bar. We surfaced after 63 minutes, having reached about 14 meters on the back side of the rock, but we could easily have dived an extra half hour (Garith had missed out of the briefing the part about 50 bar, 50 minutes, whichever comes first, we didn’t remind him).

The dive was among our best on Dibba Rock. We planned the full circuit. We were dropped in to the west of the V shaped reef and finned to the east in 31 degree water, a temperature ideal for diving. The current was a little to the east but not significant and it helped us over the reef to where it peters out near the rock and where we fin over the sand to the boulders with rust-colored coral.

On a clear day this is an especially pretty spot, with schools of snappers and bigger diamond-shaped fish, not sure what they are, but plentiful. There happened to be a pair of sharks here playing around a couple of the boulders, looking like they did in pictures which I’ll link to here, darting about behind and around the boulders, coming quite near us. We sometimes double back from here but today we continued along the boulders to the back side of the island. Bobbi saw a big shark there down in the sand and we watched it cruise up the rock wall.

We headed out over the sand looking for rays. Bobbi might have seen one but by the time she got my attention it had vanished. But scouring that vicinity I found a jaw fish. These little animals live in holes and peer like frogs over the top. They have miniscule glass shrimp living on them cleaning their faces. They had disappeared in the red tide disaster and it was nice to see that this one made it back ok. Hope he tells his friends it’s safe to return.

We finned up through the gap to take us back to the near side of the rock and held a westerly course at just 2-3 meters, into the current, a little work, but we reached the reef about 45 minutes into the dive. Here we found a lot of turtles but no more sharks. 63 minutes into the dive we figured we’d better surface, but we were really enjoying it and would like to have continued.

The 3 pm dive was delayed due to dive training (other instructors in the pool etc) so it was 3:40 when we finally descended, same mooring as at noon. But by now the sun was slanting on the suspended particles in the water and visibility was more hazy. We didn’t see any sharks this time though most other groups did. We did hang out in a school of barracuda for a while looking for them, they are usually there, and we came upon turtle after turtle, but we surfaced at 52 minutes without seeing any sharks, and again with 100 bar in our tanks.

We cleaned our kit and hung it to dry, had a malt beverage, and enjoyed the sunset from the Freestyle veranda. Then packed and paid and cruised through Dibba to the UAE border and were waved through easily. Five minutes into Oman we were at the Discover Nomad hostel and settling in for a shower, a few more drinks before dinner, and a bottle of vinicultured fruit juice as Chris’s mom set out a lavish spread of her Mauritian cuisine. Somehow we made it to bed and slept till dawn. But unsure of when to get up, we went back to sleep and slept again till 8, and then again until 9, and then we found that someone who had planned to drive down from Abu Dhabi wasn’t coming so we could go then to the Dibba Oman harbor and head up to Musandam.

We were on our way by boat by 10:30 and at 11:47 I was calling out the time for our descent for our first dive. It was Bobbi and I and Leslie Gardner who was the only one in Froglegs to have actually made it down to Dibba, so we welcomed her on our dive so she wouldn’t have to dive with the others in an advanced course. All the other divers with us were competent, but they were from Mozambique, spoke Portuguese together, and one was doing her divemaster course, so there were multiple factors associated with their diving. In any event, Leslie was fine to surface on her own when she ran low on air before Bobbi and I, and Chris, the jovial dive shop owner, was fine with it as well.

There wasn’t that much to see on our dives. On the first one we found a couple of honeycomb morays and a few torpedo rays at depth, 32 meters in my case. Apart from that it was simply a relaxing dive in the company of so many different kinds of fish, wearing our lycra wetsuits, comfortable, perfectly buoyant, responsible for no one but ourselves. At the end of the dive, after Leslie had surfaced, Bobbi and I got caught in a downcurrent at the western edge of the island, nearest the mountains. This happened when I saw a batfish undergoing near-orgasmic paroxysms at the administrations of a tiny blue-striped wrasse who was giving it a good over-all cleaning, apparently long overdue. This was going on at 20 meters, and right behind the batfish there was a honeycomb moray poking his head out voyeuristically, possibly trying to decide whether to eat the wrasse or get in line. Because of the sudden down-current we couldn’t retreat the way we had just come and it was difficult to fin up against it. I chased my computer against a last minute of no-deco time but slipped into deco trying to maintain my depth level. Eventually we found a bit of rope and hung on at 5 meters, did a safety stop, and the deco burned off. Interesting dive, and these kind of antics don’t faze Bobbi in the least.

On the second dive we went over to Ras Morovi, across the bay from Lima Rock, between there and Octopus Rock just visible to the north (what the BSAC divers used to call “The Stack”). There are at least three dives you can do there, and Chris proposed the "island". On one of my last two times here I’d started first in the bay, where you exit onto purple teddybear corals and round a point with ‘salad’ corals (or cabbage). The next to last time we’d jumped in the channel between the headland and the island and had a cracking dive rounding the south point. This time we’d dive the “island” as Chris called it and by that he meant diving the wall on the outside of the island extension of Ras Morovi. It’s supposed to be 37 meters at the jump-in point at the north tip.

But as we were anchoring off that north tip some other divers surfaced appearing to be swept by a surface current to the north, so we decided to move around to the south end and start the dive there. Then as we entered the water, we noticed divers being carried to the south. Chris decided it was a surface current, they are possible here, and we went down where we were. There was negligible current at first but at the deepest point about a half hour into the dive we encountered a strong head current and couldn’t get through it without breathing hard at 25 meters, so we had to turn back.

On this dive we saw a few interesting things. There was another big honeycomb somewhere along there and in one long vertical crack in the rock I counted at least ten crayfish ranging up and down the rock seam. But the most interesting thing on this dive I found in a cave I saw from below and swam up to so as I came over its edge I saw in the sand a large eagle ray parked with its head against the rock wall. Eagle rays are skittish, beautiful in flight, but usually you see them only a few seconds as they power to get away as fast as they can. This one was going nowhere. A beautiful animal, he let us come close as we tried to judge the minimal distance that would not disturb him. We didn’t and what a rare treat to be allowed almost right on top of him for as long as we liked.