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  • Writer's pictureAlly Landes

WHO SAID AUGUST WAS TOO HOT?



EID MUBARAK

In celebration of 5 days off for August’s Eid this year, an Al Marsa livaboard weekend trip away was placed on order for 4 dive buddies in search of some outdoor time and relaxation with a destination not too far away from home. Al Marsa put out some great deals for the hot summer months that we just couldn’t ignore them. Knowing full well that the Al Marsa dhows are equipped with interior air conditioning, we did not shy away from the thought of August being the hottest month of the year. In actual fact, we couldn’t believe it was August as we spent the entire part of our two days out on deck enjoying the fresh air when we weren’t in the water diving the lovely cool waters of the Musandam!


AL MARSA MUSANDAM BLUE DHOW

We boarded the blue dhow from Dibba Port on the evening of the 8th of August and met our other 3 dive companions and the 5 Al Marsa crew members amidst a very overcast sky, but with a very pleasant air temperature. Robert our dive guide informed us that we would be eating dinner anchored at the port as the seas were a little rough and it would otherwise be too long a time to wait to eat. Happily obliged to follow the team’s advice, we settled our things into our cabins and set up our camera equipment, sorted out the dive gear and then went up on the top deck to tuck into the chef’s choices of our first meal onboard.


Seeing the Yellow Dhow from our Blue Dhow

The chefs of Al Marsa’s dhows always make sure you never go hungry and there is always enough selection of different dishes to choose from. If you don’t like fish, there will also be a chicken or beef dish and there is always a vegetarian option for those following a vegetarian diet. Don’t overeat though, as you will always get brought snacks and cake inbetween meals. Tea and coffee is always available in the saloon, along with a bowl of fresh fruit and biscuits. And if there are any special food requirements, let them know and Al Marsa will arrange it for you.


The seas were in fact a little rough on our way to Sheesa, but not at all unpleasant. The sun loungers up on the top deck are of great comfort and with the cool air blowing over us, we were rocked to sleep under the star lit sky and awoken a little later due to being cold, to make our way down to our cabins to finish the night. The temperatures were so pleasant that Anneleen and myself had no need to use the AC in our room at all.



Our first dive on our trip’s itinerary was to Ras Khaysah at 7am. The viz was around 15m and the best had of all 6 dives, but by no means did the other 5 dive's visibility decline our diving pleasures. Our second dive was to Ras Ahrous, our third to Ras Dillah and our fourth (night) dive was at Khawr Qabal. By the way, little warning for night divers: watch out for sea urchins! Always a throbbing experience if you get urched! Water temperatures started from 28˚C and dropped to 26˚C on our last dive of the day. Needless to say, I could have dived in a 5mm wetsuit and been more comfortable than my 3mm. Two of our other dive companions were happier in shorts and T-shirts, so it really does depend on what you are used to and whether or not you are a little mad!


The following morning, we had a lovely lie in and planned our dive for 8am at the wonderful dive site that is, “Octopus Rock”. This has been and always will be my favourite dive site in the Musandam. Whether the visibility is clear or not, you have to be very unlucky to have a bad dive at this particular site. The amount of marine life and the colour here is unbelievable and always buzzing. The minute you descend below the surface’s layer, you are confronted with a highway of dashing fusiliers and the red tooth triggerfish are absolutely everywhere you look. The topography of this area is so beautiful, it is a must dive. Further along to the other side, we went over to visit with the 3 resident sea horses to get some photos of their progress and then continued on with visiting and photographing the vast and varied marine population that can be found here. A magical dive every time.



For our final dive of the trip, we headed over to Lima Rock. This dive turned out to be a fantastic drift dive and chillier than the rest, as there were a few thermoclines. As Simone and I drifted along the wall a little behind the rest of the group, we were suddenly curtained by hundreds of batfish. It was a beautiful sight and one I had never seen in such large numbers before. They had been up against the sunlight so Simone didn’t get the shot he had hoped for and I was so mesmerised by it all, I was too late to film it. It was a great moment in time and one I will remember from that part of the dive. To finish it all off, after having passed a garden of incredibly healthy yellow teddy bear coral, Robert points out to a shadow coming in towards us during our safety stop. A beautiful juvenile male whale shark (Rhincodon typus) comes sweeping in past us ever so gracefully and at a leisurely pace, allowing David to get some ID shots for Sharkwatch Arabia. If that’s not the perfect ending to a perfect diving weekend, then I don’t know what is. By the way, another little warning for drift divers: watch out for sea urchins!


After a thoroughly enjoyable weekend of dives, it was time to hose down the dive gear and leave it out to dry for the remainder of the journey back to port. The last lunch was all ready and waiting to accompany each story reminisced and then Chef comes up with a silver platter of Danette’s for dessert! Nice touch!


Once everything was packed away, the anchor was reeled in and the blue dhow began it’s voyage toward Dibba Port and it was snooze time during the 3 hour trip back – each on their sun lounger, with the sun shining down and the wind in our faces. Who said August was too hot?



SHARKWATCH ARABIA

If you get any whale shark photos or film footage, then report your sightings to www.sharkwatcharabia.com. Sharkwatch Arabia is a database that aims to collect sightings on whale sharks throughout the region. The initiative was started as a tool to collect information on shark abundance and their movements in the region. The information collected will be used in David Robinson’s personal Ph.D. project that is investigating the ecology of whale sharks in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.


BORDER & VISA

Make sure to go straight to the coastal border in Dibba as the first border at the roundabout now turns you away and sends you there, this saves you time rather than queuing up to have to make a u-turn. Don’t forget to print out the visa that Al Marsa emails you after you have sent them your passport and residency visa copies. It’s all smooth sailing from there.


TIP IF YOU GET URCHED

As we discovered through one of the Al Marsa crew (due to his personal experience – having been urched under both feet simultaneously), the best thing to do if you ever find yourself with a new pin collection of sea urchin spines amongst your person, then get yourself some warm water full of salt and bathe your targeted area for a while. The throbbing soon subsides and you can carry on as if nothing had happened. Tried and tested by a buddy… twice!

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