Friday, September 25, 2015

Fun diving with sharks, turtles, and rays off Dibba Rock

My logged dives #1386-87

Our good friend Nicki Blower has just eased back into UAE after a brief exit and so for our Eid staycation or playcation Bobbi and I decided to have her down to Al Ain for a couple of nights. When she arrived on Wednesday we took her for a jog in Jimi and Al Qattara oases and then got her up at 5 a.m. for a drive over to Dibba for diving on Thursday. We drove back Thursday evening because all the accommodation on that side as much as quadruples in price during Eid holidays, and we had an all you can eat fish dinner at the Danat Hotel in Al Ain that evening rather than pay the exorbitant accommodation costs in Dibba. Next day Friday we took her to the bus station for her ride back to Abu Dhabi and retrieved our car from Danat parking, and came home and blogged our dives.

Diving on Dibba Rock is bouncing back. Visibility was great for the 9:30 dive, where we were just four on the boat, Bobbi, Nicki, and I plus a lady named Anastasia from Moscow whom we were assigned to guide. She enjoyed her dives, claimed to see two sharks and a turtle rather than one shark the rest of us saw on that dive, but the three of us saw the sharks and turtles and rays when we went diving again on Dibba Rock at 1:30 that afternoon. We saw much more besides, as you can see as well from our video. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Diving Musandam for Dan Miles's 100th Dive

My logged dives #1382-85

Dan Miles got in touch recently to ask if we would accompany him and Molly Carter on Dan's 100th ever dive. The timing was over the weekend before eid break, not ideal for us, but we're never sure of our eid holidays until the last minute.  In the event, it turned out my school was indeed out for the whole week (so this trip comprised the most fun part of our eid vacation) but for Dan and Molly, it turned out their anticipated Tue, Wed, Thu holiday was shortened to just two days, Wed and Thu, for most schools in the UAE.  Good thing we went diving when we did.

We made arrangements to spend the weekend at Nomad Ocean Adventures, and Dan's 100th dive was our second on the Friday, which happened to be at Lima Rock. Molly and Dan had prepared a banner for the occasion which they unfurled as we descended on the dive. Fortunately I had a camera handy, or perhaps that's why they asked me along :-)

Dives on Lima Rock can be challenging. This one was not bad for current but there was enough of one to make us be careful as we explored the point, but not enough to lure the fishes in great numbers. We saw a few jacks and batfish, but no barracudas or devil rays, no eagle rays darting out suddenly as sometimes happens. Molly did quite well with current and buoyancy (I certified her recently and blogged it here:

Our first dive of the day was actually our best. It was off Ras Morovi, north side. Brad proposed to drop in to the east of the bay and lead the divers west into the bay and then north at the far side. Bobbi and I did the same except that we started our dive heading east to deeper water as far as what I call the quarry, an alcove that looks like it was quarried from the surrounding rock. It's on the video. We found a honeycomb moray on that side and a marble ray under a rock. Back into the bay we passed over table coral and found a feather-tail ray in the sand. On the way to the surface we found many crayfish in the rocks, including one wandering about outside his lair. Nice dive.

The next day our first dive was at Lulu Island, which is sometimes home to eagle rays, but on this day there was not much home apart from a scorpion fish and some morays. The current was strong as we rounded the ridge and the dive was not all that pleasant although the last of it where we escaped the current in the coral gardens to the south of the island was pretty for diving.  I'm not sure if I'll put the video up at YouTube; thinking about it, but not right now.

Our last dive was at Ras Hamra. It was a lovely dive as you can see from the video below and included an encounter with a circling turtle.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Fun diving Daymaniyat Islands, the usual buddies and a leopard shark

My logged dives #1378-81

Another September rolls around and was time again to go diving with our usual group of friends from around the UAE for this time of year. Jay Fortin kicks us off by announcing he'll be flying in from Bahrain, and David Muirhead and Bruce Ora agree to meet him wherever he wants to dive. Same as for this time last year, we chose Daymaniyats in Oman

Rhea Lynn had just moved from UAE to Muscat but was pleased to drive the two hours west to meet us coming down three hours heading southeast. Kelly Harris drove down to Al Ain from Abu Dhabi and rode the rest of the way with Bobbi and I. Walter Crammerstetter turned up with his lady Roberta, and a few others I hadn't met before joined us as well. 

The weather showed a moderate breeze from the north which could be a problem when diving from a sandy beach facing that direction, according to Windyty for Daymaniyat Islands,23.785,58.586,10
except we would be diving from a proper marina, and there was no swell, both good signs, and in the end, we had no problem:

Euro-Divers had just abandoned their base at Al Sawadi Beach Resort, which was gouging them on commission for using the premises to the point where they had decided to shift operations to the Millennium Hotel in Mussanah, Oman, 30 minutes by boat or car from the resort. At this writing Al Sawadi is now without a dive center for the first time in recent memory. Mussanah is that much closer to us in UAE but that much farther out of Muscat, and a twice as long a boat ride from the western Daymaniyats as well, see map 

Because of this it was not possible to persuade Euro-Divers to take us even further away to the Aquarium or Police Rock. Even when diving from Al Sawadi the preponderance of our diving has been in the western Daymaniyats, Sira, Jun, Waleed Jun. Those are great sites but we've dived them dozens of times. It's less likely diving from Mussanah that we'll be able to break that routine. The alternative is to add two hours to our drive time, 4 hours round trip, to use the operators in the Seeb / Muscat area, whose focus will be on the eastern Daymaniyats.

We caught Euro-Divers at a transition time, one of their boats had just been sent to port to fix a faulty fuel pump, the boat they were able to send for us was a little rickety (e.g. top canopy jury rigged and unstable, a supporting bar worked itself loose, fell unexpectedly, and hit Bobbi square on the head, not good to let that happen to the wife of a blogger :-). Stan, the graying but ramrod fit French dive pro, was fun to dive with in the end but annoyed us at first with trying to keep everyone strictly together at the surface (became a problem in current) before descending en mass, though he lightened up as we all learned to get along during the course of the weekend. 

One thing we all love about diving locally is the operators mostly know us, we know the sites, and as long as we all get back on the surface in an hour everyone is happy. This is what I have come to realize is my greatest disappointment in diving internationally, the control they place on you, which I accept and understand to be necessary, since they don't know you and deal with a lot of characters ranging from inept to cowboy. But diving on our turf, it's usually a different atmosphere, we are trusted, the guides take a laisez-faire approach, we are all responsible and usually follow the same current anyway. 

In retrospect, overall, Stan did his best with what he had and I hope to dive with him again. For the record, Oman Sail also runs dive trips from the Millennium marina and has good reviews on Trip Advisor:

As we continued our dives, I found I stuck pretty close to Stan. He knew the sites well, enjoyed diving as much as I do, and was good at finding the micro critters. Hopefully as Euro-Divers settles into the Millennium they'll get their boats in order, not tell people they don't have gas to to get to the farther dive sites (the remedy for that is carry more gas, assess a per-diver surcharge if you have to, if it's competitive).

As for the diving, it was excellent. We started on Jun Island, north side, heading west with the reef on our left, and winding up in the bay with the white sand beach we aren't suppose to go onto, except some people do. The next dive was on the small island to the east, Waleed Jun.

Next morning Stan chose Sira for us, which started out with a leopard shark and ended shallow over lovely table coral. Our next dive was in the part of Waleed Jun where the artificial reef has become overgrown with table coral. 

The video above speaks for itself, - it's a compilation of best clips from the four dives over the two days.

Bobbi and Rhea were glad to be diving together again

Euro-Divers website shows a lovely manta on its blurb for Oman We see devil or mobular rays there sometimes, but never mantas.