Diving in Mussandam

I crossed an activity off my “must-do-in-the-UAE” list on the weekend. I finally scuba dived in Mussandam. Technically, Mussandam is in Oman, but you don’t need a visa if you are a UAE resident.

I had first heard of Mussandam just before the hubster and I arrived in Abu Dhabi. As I inquired further about scuba diving in the area, I learnt more about what was on offer. Apparently Mussandam offers the best scuba diving in the area and various tour companies offer weekend packages from Dibba Port on a traditional dhow. These sailing vessels were, and still are, used as trading vessels transporting items such as fruits, dates, fish and water. Many have now been converted to cater for tourism requirements and more suited for dinner cruises or scuba diving boats.

I had already been on a dhow previously, but was super excited. This trip had taken about a year to do and I hadn’t been scuba diving since November. I was also hoping to make some local friends who shared the same passion as me.

I was bitterly disappointed however. From the moment we entered Dibba Port and saw the dhows, I felt as if we had entered some dingey dump where everything was done on the cheap. The hubster and I were the first to arrive and were escorted on the dhow which smelt like an Indian restaurant mixed with the perspiration of a dozen work-men.

We were told that room one was the best room and took delight in claiming this room as ours due to the fact we were the first ones on the boat. About an hour later the third diver appeared, an older Dutchman who has been diving for about 25 years. He was quick to get well acquainted with the bar stocks and from his first drop, didn’t stop drinking unless he was diving.

Three younger divers were next on board, one of which was our guide. There is no polite way to put it other than wanker. He loved to talk and talk big. He was a sniper, a sky-diving instructor, had lived in nearly every part of the world and had way too much of an ego that there was barely any space for his head on board the boat. Not only that, he constantly made moves onto another young girl on the boat who had brought a male friend with her – which the rest of us thought was her boyfriend. It was all very confusing as to who was “into” who and I was grateful to have onboard a Scottish guy Dave who was looking at getting back into scuba diving after a 25 year break!

The first night was all a battle of ego’s. Who had done what, how much you could drink, where you had been in the world etc etc. By 9:30pm I had had enough and went to my cabin. Sea water had leached into our room and had formed a puddle on the floor, but it wasn’t major, so I let it be.

It wasn’t long before the hubster joined me in the cabin and stated that it looked like that the majority of the gang were headed for a long night. He too noticed the puddle and said it would be okay.

That morning we woke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our morning dive. The same can not be said for many of the others who had finished off most of the bar stocks. In fact, one of the girls – a very chatty American – finally had nothing to say as she was too busy vomiting over the side of the boat.

Water temperature was 24 degrees – not too bad – but I thought I would go for the 5mm wetsuit just to be safe. My God!! I have forgotten how damn hard it is to get into my wetty. I broke nails and ended up with blisters on both of my hands trying to squeeze the neoprene over my body (and I have lost weight since I last wore it!!!) After cussing, pulling and pushing my body was finally snug into the suit and I was ready.

We were taken by speed boat to the first dive site. Unlike the waters I have dived in for my previous 101 dives, this water was not blue, but black. Not only that, there was brown clumps of oil all over the surface water. I couldn’t wait to descend and get out of the muck. Unfortunately the water didn’t clear much. Visibility was about 3 meters and there was little to see.

Yes, I saw Lionfish, sting rays, angel fish, nudibranchs, dolphins, batfish, grouper, moray eels, a seahorse (the best part of the dives), purple and yellow soft coral – but after every dive, I was coated in a brown film of oil. In parts of the dive, the visibility was so bad due to the oil that I couldn’t help but think that the dead turtle I found on the ocean floor was due to the amount of crap that was in the water.

After getting back on the dhow all I wanted was a hot shower. I actually declined the night dive so that I could use the hot showers first. The Scot had mentioned that the water was scolding hot – so I couldn’t wait to scrub myself clean. Alas…. our cabin did not have hot water. The puddle on the floor of our cabin had also left a damp smell in the room. Best cabin on the boat? Hmmmm!! I think we were duped on that one 🙂

I must say though that the food onboard the boat was amazing! The chef outdid himself.

The second night was much the same as the first one. I was looking forward to moving on though and had heard many good things about Octopus Rock – a popular dive site in Mussandam, known for Mula mula or Sunfish and whale sharks. In fact, these two species had been spotted recently around the area.

So with trepidation, I squeezed my body back into the 5mm wetty and headed out to see something I had never heard of , yet alone seen – a Mula mula. The cold black waters filled with brown oil did not beckon me into the Strait of Hormuz. For the first time, I was not excited and thought about keeping warm in the hoody and tracksuit pants. However, the thought that I might miss the opportunity to see a sunfish urged me on. The dives capped off the weekend. Two meter visibility, oil patches, little marine life and no mula mula….

Mussandam …. dived there, done that.

Can’t wait to dive in blue ocean waters again. Bring on Perth, Western Australia in five days! Yippee!!

There is now two marine life species on the list of things I want to see: Hammerhead sharks and Mula mula.

mula mula

Mula mula