Oman will soon be training up nationals to become divers and learn about the world underneath the waves. Here Gautam Pahwa, a dive instructor with Euro Divers Oman, introduces you to the Sultanate’s aquatic life
We have a natural tendency to explore what is around us. It could be something as simple as finding out what is actually in the storage room of our house or just going out for a walk and seeing how far the path leads. Our craving for knowledge of our surroundings has taken us to the depths of the sea, where it’s easy to become mesmerised by the unlimited beauty nature has to offer.
Oman is a country of diverse and vast beauty. At first, it’s not something one might understand coming from a big city or verdant landscape, so different to Oman’s burnt land and rugged terrain. Oman consists of some unique eye-catching spots, such as its seemingly endless mountain ranges, wadis that cut deep into these very same ranges like snakes, and the crystal water that flows among these snake-like natural phenomena. The great dunes of the mighty deserts have undulaing ripple patterns, in sharp contast to the surprising and lush greenery of Salalah. Oman has beautiful deserted beaches populated only by migratory birds and turtle hatchlings, while out in the vast blue sea, one can catch a glimpse of great water acrobatics from spinner dolphins or watch in wonder as the gentle giants of the ocean, the whale sharks, glide serenely by. But believe it or not, Oman has got more even more on offer to those with the right skills and the right tools. And that’s where being a diver plays a handy role.
Diving conditions and aquatic life
Less than 1 per cent of the vast water body of water on our doorstep – the Gulf of Oman – has been explored by divers in the past decade, due to the limited depth for recreational diving purpose and also since diving happens in very few spots in the Gulf. In spite of this limitation, a diverse number of living and non-living natural phenomena of the sea can be seen and felt.
Mild currents, thermoclines, five to 30 metre visibility, swells and drastic change in the water temperature are all very common here, but vary greatly from one region to another. For example, the eastern side of Daymaniyat Islands could have really strong currents, whereas in the western part, only mild drift would be felt. Or in terms of temperature, Bandar Al Khiran could be having a temperature 24 degrees Celsius whereas the whole Daymaniyat region would be having an average temperature between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius.
But don’t let this scare you or put you off. The diving is priceless when you have the perfect conditions. It could be as simple as having 30 metres visibility or a mild current on your side, or getting a surprise from a juvenile whale shark, the shadow cast by a school of mobula rays, or the graceful movements of the lazy leopard sharks or all of this combined.
As already mentioned, the variety is diverse. One may see a variety of eels such as the honeycomb moray, white eyed moray, ribbon eel or zebra moray. Fish life is vast, with the small aggressive anemonefish, frogfish, poisonous bearded scorpionfish, Pacific lionfish, big schools of sardines, snappers, batfish, moorish idols, butterflyfish, oriental sweetlips, groupers, trevally and tunas all inhabiting waters around Oman. From the shark family, you’ll find Jenkins’ whiprays, torpedo rays, bluespotted stingrays, eagle rays and mobula rays, leopard sharks and bull sharks to name a few.
The coral life is equally diverse, from the gentle magnificent anemone to hard table corals and varieties of colourful sea whips.
There is a great level of beauty in the seas, but there are also disturbing factors such as the abundant amount of discarded nets on the coral reefs and the growing population of crown-of-thorns sea stars (starfish), which eat corals and do not have natural predators. This leads to large scale coral bleaching, reducing the reef vastly and also reducing the overall aquatic culture. And in spite of these two visible destructive factors, efforts are made by very few to look after Oman’s wondrous water world.
Dive sites in the region of Muscat:
There are a number of dive sites around Muscat and the neighbouring regions. Starting from Muscat, the nearest locations are:
Bandar Al Khiran:
- Number of dive sites: 10
- Most favoured dive site: Al Munassir Wreck
- Approximate time to reach: 30-40 min
- Maximum depth: 30 metres
- Average Visibility: 10-15 metres
- Common attractions in terms of aquatic life: Turtles, honeycomb morays, lobsters, giant puffers, corals
- Ideal for night diving
- Number of dive sites: 6
- Most favoured dive site: Magic Mountain and
- Shark Point/Ray point
- Approximate time to reach: 40-50 min
- Maximum depth: 40 metres
- Average Visibility: 10-20 metres
- Common attractions in term of aquatic life: Jenkins’ whiprays, eagle rays, blacktip reef sharks
Ras Abu Da’ud:
- Number of dive sites: 4
- Most favoured dive site: All
- Approximate time to reach: 1 hr 30 min
- Maximum depth: 40 metres
- Average visibility: 10-20 metres.
- Common attractions in terms of aquatic life: Green turtles, mobula rays, marble rays, nudibranchs, seahorses
- Ideal for drift diving or deep diving
- Number of dive sites: 25
- Most favoured dives sites: Police Run, Hayut Run, Aquarium, Sira Island, Docs Wall
- Approximate time to reach: 1 hr 30 min-2 hrs
- Maximum depth: 30 metres
- Average visibility: 15-25 metres.
- Common attractions in terms of aquatic life: Leopard sharks, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, marble rays, seahorses, giant nudibranchs, variety of corals
- Ideal for snorkelling and drift diving
So what can non-divers do? The answer is learn. Courses are easily available from beginner level to professional and also some special courses.
- Bubble Maker (for kids between 8-10 years)
- Discover Scuba Diving
- Scuba Diver
- Open Water Diver
- Advanced Open Water Diver
- Emergency First Response Primary and Secondary Care
- Rescue Diver
- Open Water Scuba Instructor
Scuba diving certification, scuba diving instruction, instructor development course, scuba dive trips and gear rental activities at Euro Diver’s Marina Bandar Al Rowdha Dive Centre.
PADI, the leading certification body in the diving industry, launched a pilot programme “PADI Dive Guide of Oman” to train Omanis to become scuba diving guides, due to start in January 2016. Booking is now open and
passionate candidates will receive a scholarship to do the courses directly from PADI. This programme is in Arabic and restricted to Omani nationals only.