Discover the extensive reefs of southern Oman and the Hallaniyat Islands! Departing from Mirbat’s small harbour, the itinerary will be exploratory in nature, for divers comfortable in a relatively remote location. The experienced Egyptian crew, in tandem with Oman based dive guides already familiar with many of Mirbat and Salalah’s exciting dive sites, join you in discovering the enormous wealth of sites on offer.
Sitting in the waters straddling the north Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, the Hallaniyat Islands comprise five islands lying in an east to west string in the south-eastern waters of Oman’s Dhofar district; Al Hasikiyah, As Sawdah, Al Hallaniyah, Shinays & Al Qibiliyah. (The islands may also be referred to as the Khuriya Muriya Islands.)
The largest island is Al Hallaniyah at 56 km², the others being relatively small, but this remote string of islands offers a wealth of dive sites to be discovered.
Al Hallaniyah has a village community of around 150 people, but there are currently moves to develop the island for its strategic shipping location, with plans for a substantial harbour port by 2013. The geography is typical of the rugged desert like peaks typical to Oman, with its highest point at approximately 465 meters.
Rumours also abound of other wrecks from the famous fleets of Vasco da Gama. Are you ready to make your first discovery?
Please note: During the 2015 season, the City of Winchester wreck may be subject to temporary closure.
Humpbacks, if you are lucky!
Reliable, relatively frequent reports of humpback sightings are known, along with some of their smaller cetacean friends; the dolphin. A good chance of manta rays, large grouper and superb coral on relatively shallow reefs will enthral divers.
Please note that water visibility can be changeable in this area of the ocean, averaging around 20 metres. Divers should each travel with their own surface signalling devices and observe conservative dive profiles due to the location of the itinerary.
The Daymaniyat Islands
The Daymaniyat Islands helped place Oman on the world dive map. This string of offshore islands north of Muscat has been placed under the protection of UNESCO and provides divers with pristine coral gardens, walls, leopard sharks and abundant fish life. The best diving conditions are found in the area from April to October due to the wind direction and better clarity in the water, plus, June to September are the best months to have the chance to encounter whale sharks. Water temperature varies due to the thermoclines by drops and rises of +/- 8 centigrade from surface to depth.
The Fahal Islands towards the north boasts an incredible variety of coral species. There are two small wrecks, which draw a large amount of marine life, including the occasional black tip reef shark, various rays and turtles.
Bandar Khairan is an area of outstanding beauty, boasting rocky outcrops, deserted beaches and small islands such as Ras Abu Dawud that are only accessible by boat. The underwater scenery is similarly dramatic with picturesque walls and reefs festooned with healthy finger and fan corals in purples and green, teeming with marine life. The shallow, sheltered dives of Bandar Jussa, which are great to dive in all conditions, afford lovely, simple night diving experiences. Bhandar Khairan is an area where turtles breed so turtles can be seen on nearly every dive.
Al Munassir Wreck
In 2003 the Al Munassir, a 3000 tonne vessel, was sunk at Bandar Khairan and is beginning to develop into a beautiful artificial reef dive. Although relatively new, this wreck is already smothered in corals and home to plenty of marine life. Easily accessible, the Al Munassir lies at 26m with her top at just 8m.
The Musandam peninsula is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Geographically, the area is characterised by large sawtooth mountains, which fall dramatically into the sea.
The coastline itself is carved into countless fjords, bays and islands. The stunning scenery above the surface is reflected underwater by impressive drop offs and an incredible diversity of healthy corals and strong currents.
Reefs and Diving
The waters surrounding Musandam and the Straights of Hormuz provide very fine coral reef diving. Plankton rich waters attract over 900 species of fish, ranging from cleaner wrasse through to whale sharks. There are over 25 established dive sites within 60 minutes boat ride, subject to local conditions. As the region is remote and commercial fishing is not permitted, the volume of marine life is very noticeable and leaves a lasting impression on divers.
The dive sites themselves range in character from walls to extensive coral gardens. The diving here is almost exclusively drift diving. The combination of plankton and strong local currents attract a great range of pelagic species, which includes both manta and eagle rays, along with whale sharks. Boats are often accompanied by dolphins, which like the calm waters of Musandam’s fjords. Numerous shark species can also be encountered, as well as most species of turtle.
The trade off for the high concentrations of larger marine life is underwater visibility, which typically lies in a range from 12 and 20 metres.
The dive sites of Musandam deliver world class adventurous drift diving to experienced divers. Although the area is remote, access is via a non-stop seven hour flight into Dubai from a variety of British airports.
Into Muscat & Salalah: Flights with Oman Air direct into Muscat from London Heathrow. Connecting flights to Salalah from Muscat.
Into Dubai: Flights with Emirates into Dubai non-stop from London Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle (conditions may apply on certain regional departures).
Flights with Emirates via Dubai from London Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle (conditions may apply on certain regional departures) - Supplement will apply.
Flight Duration: Approx. 7 - 8.5 hours
Departure tax: N/A
Passports & Visas
Please always check your own entry requirements regardless of your nationality. Your passport should always have at least 6 months validity on date of return travel.
Always check for last minute changes in entry requirements. Nationalities other than British citizens should check with their own consular office.
All UK nationals require a visa, which can be obtained on arrival.
Stays of 1 to 10 days: OMR 5 (est. $$13)
Stays of 10 days to 1 month: OMR 20 (est. $52)
Travelling into Dubai, for Musandam: On arrival in Dubai, UAE, British passport holders will be issued with a tourist visa free of charge.
Clients departing from Al Dibba may not need an Omani visa. However, regulations change so this may be a requirement.
There is also a exit fee of 25 Emirati Dirham.
Travelling into Muscat or Salalah: British passport holders may purchase an Oman tourist visa on arrival.
Twin centres between Musandam, Muscat and Salalah: Route dependant if you are travelling by land, sea or air.
Vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure. For the most up to date advice please consult your travel clinic or GP. Further information regarding vaccinations for travel to this country can be found at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk and from your local healthcare provider. There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Oman, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and polio.
"Just back from an excellent trip on the Saman Explorer around the Hallaniyat islands.
This is a well appointed liveaboard (NB Complimentary 15L cylinders if desired). The staff and food were excellent. Andy Travis, the enthusiastic dive guide, established a safe and relaxed approach to the diving. This is a remote area with limited support if anything goes wrong but the diving is not very deep. Many of the sites hadn't been dived before and thus was a real adventure - sometimes real gems, others unlikely to be repeated. As the brochure notes, the vis is not comparable to many diving destinations but there is an incredible abundance of life to look at. We missed out on the whales but saw many mantas and a leopard shark. It was great to land on and explore some of the islands.
If you have the time, consider taking the Mountain, Desert and Beaches extension. Oman is a fascinating country and this is a quick way to get a flavour of this amazing country.
- UK | 09 November 2012
Guest rating: 10/10(1 vote)
MV Saman Explorer
Great time on Saman Explorer
"A really easy week of liveaboard.
Apart from the City of Winchester wreck at 28m, a shallow week of laid back diving suitable for both relative beginners, and for those looking for a change from the Red Sea. No humpback whales on my trip unfortunately, but an awesome dive with a pod of dolphins! Plenty of Rays, and even Leopard Sharks. Lots of interesting life about.
A refreshing change of scenery to Egypt. Great stuff!
- UK | 16 May 2013
Guest rating: 10/10(1 vote)
MV Saman Explorer
Musandam - full of surprises
"We took a trip on Saman Explorer during the first week in September. Having dived in many of the world's hotspots, we were not expecting much, given the lack of publicity of this area, but were very pleasantly surprised indeed! Firstly, the journey is relatively painless, a direct flight to Dubai and a road transfer thereafter saving both time and money on multiple flights, the transfers were efficient and comfortable.
Secondly, we have no complaints about the boat at all. The catering is fairly basic but perfectly edible. If you are a coffee and English tea connoisseur, take some supplies with you!
The topside scenery in this area is nothing short of spectacular. Raw, barren and awe-inspiring. The underwater scenery is magnificent, incredibly beautiful and colourful soft coral covering acres of walls and mounts, with hard coral gardens in the shallows.
There are plenty of fish and a fair amount of macro. Highlights for us were whalesharks on two dives, torpedo and other rays, mobula and eagle rays, huge Spanish dancers at large during the day, other nudi's both very large and very small, 40cm pipefish and an abundance of trunkfish, McCosker's wrasse males displaying. Every dive seemed to produce something of interest to even the most experienced of divers.
A few of the dives were a little lively current-wise, some divers aborted a couple after ten mins. because they couldn't cope, so perhaps don't go here with under 100 dives or some good experience in current. But most dives were fairly calm and relaxed.
All in all a great trip, will do the same next year if the boat goes up there again."
- Cyprus | 18 September 2014
Guest rating: 10/10(1 vote)
MV Saman Explorer
Diving from Saman Explorer
"Had some good diving, the boat was good, there were only nine divers on a boat built for 22. The crew were excellent and the was food. I will keep Regal in mind for other trips.
The first dive was a test in Mirbat (1&1/2 hour drive from Salalah) where we picked up the boat. The visibility was only 10-15m and not a great deal of life so we were a little apprehensive, but after we travelled to the islands overnight (200km steam) the diving there was far better with vis of 30m+ and lots of fish.
The bottom tends to be rocky with sand interspersed between these outcrops, the coral was good in the shallow gardens and the fish were plentiful, loads of smaller fish shoals sweet lips etc. Other sightings included: big Morays (some free swimming in the day), bigger Parrot Fish and Trigger Fish, large Stingrays, Green Turtle, Lemon Shark, big Groupers (a number of varieties) plus Squid and Cuttlefish at night. Plus, two wrecks pretty flattened but teeming with fish!
Compared to say the Maldives the coral is not quite as good but very presentable because of the slightly reduced visibility, in comparison smaller fish the same but has other medium sized comparable fish that are larger (Parrot Fish, Trigger Fish, Lion Fish) than the Maldives showing there are more mature fish (maybe fishing hasn't had as much impact on them) but it doesn't have the big fish such as Manta, Shark, Whale Shark. The turtles here were larger and usually in cave. Would suggest a torch is useful to appreciate the full colour and investigate the crevices in the rocks..."