Situated in the southern area of Oman's Dhofar region, the unspoilt coastline, stretching as far as the eye can see, offers unspoilt sheltered bays to explore in an area steeped in history and heritage including an important role in the Frankincense route. Set against the stunning backdrop of deserted beaches and the high Jebel Al Qara rising steeply out of the Dhofar mountain chain, this area offers a level of excitement and adventure hard to find in other destinations so close to home. Around Salalah itself, a surprising level of greenery can be found, with date palms, papaya and banana trees providing a healthy local income.
Shallow dive sites accessed by 4 wheel drive and fast boat extend from Salalah to Mirbat along a 40 km stretch of the coast. Marine life is typically Indo-Pacific offering a variety of macro life, brain and table corals and schooling fish, having more in common with its far southern neighbours than the Arabian Sea. The water's colour is more blue and visibility generally higher than the dive sites located around the Muscat and Musandam regions, offering a great contrast in marine conditions if twinned with a stay in Muscat or Musandam.
Due to local prevailing conditions, these dive sites are only open to divers seasonally from October to May. It remains a beautiful area to visit outside of this time, but you are not guaranteed to be able to dive every day though the dive centres remain operational. From May, the seasonal monsoon creates a phenomenon called the 'khareef', bringing in moisture rich winds turning the beautifully barren desert plateaux and gullies verdant green.
Mirbat & Salalah Dive sites
Extra Divers run an excellent dive operation from two bases; one based at the Mirbat Marriot set on a remote stretch of coastline, and the other at the Salalah Crowne Plaza, close to Salalah town itself. The location of the majority of the dive sites means clients are best based at the Mirbat Marriot resort, where sites are accessed from the shore by jeep, or by Extra Divers’ fast dive boats. Many of the potential sites accessed by boat are yet to be discovered, offering something for the more adventurous experienced diver, as most diving has been conducted from the shore until this point.
Mirbat Easy House Reef
At just 9 metres depth, the small house reef off the shore of the hotel provides a fantastic acclimatisation dive, great third dive option, the perfect training fun dive and an easy place to practise those important photography skills with a long bottom time.
Unspoilt White Beach Coves - Flamingo Bay, Hoon’s Bay, Eagle Bay and Chinese Wreck
Providing easy shore entrance for experienced and newly qualified divers alike, the unending coastline boasts many small bays. More than 15 shore dive sites have so far been found to provide a worthy exploration underwater, with more to come. With beautiful white sand at the entrance points leading to rocky outcrops covered in hard corals, the dives offers something for everybody. Photographers can enjoy a variety of macro life and colourful hard corals.
Nudibranchs, variety of Moray eels, rays, hard corals, cuttlefish, dolphins, 2 small wrecks, tuna, sharks, octopus, snapper, trevally, turtles and the odd Humpback whale!
If you choose to travel to southern Oman at the end of the Khareef period, chances are you will dive among small Kelp forests. Up to 10 metres in height, the giant algae flourish in the cool water thermoclines, providing safe harbour for thousands of juvenile fish. They can be seen during the summer months, gradually dying out in the latter weeks of September and early October.
Twin Centre & tours
Salala makes an ideal twin centre destination and can be twinned with Muscat.
To see a little more of this fascinating country, why not combine diving with a number of Tours that are availablle. Full details and prices can be provided for any of the Tours listed below:-
A Glance of Oman – 3 nights / 4 days
Discover Oman – 5 nights / 6 days
Encounter Oman – 3 nights / 4 days
Glimpse of Oman – 4 nights / 5 days
Hidden Treasures of Oman – 7 nights 8 days
Imperial Tours 5 nights / 6 days
Mountain, Desert & Beach – 3 nights / 4 days
Oman’s Highlights – 6 nights / 7 days
A Glance of Oman – 3 nights / 4 days
Please see below details of the Mountain, Desert & Beach Tour which is available.
Extra Divers run an excellent dive operation from two bases; one based at the Mirbat Marriot set on a remote stretch of coastline, and the other at the Salalah Crowne Plaza, close to Salalah town itself.
The location of the majority of the dive sites means clients are best based at the Mirbat Salalah Marriot Beach resort, where sites are accessed from the shore by jeep, or by Extra Divers’ fast dive boats. However, those wishing to have a slightly more independent stay can opt to stay in the Arabian Villas or Crowne Plaza in Salalah and can be transferred each day to shore sites between the 2 areas, or the dive boats based at the Marriot.
Many of the potential sites accessed by boat are yet to be discovered, offering something for the more adventurous experienced diver, as most diving has been conducted from the shore until this point.
Extra Divers Mirbat
Extra Divers have a growing reputation in Oman, and now add its newly opened dive centre in Mirbat to its more long-standing dive bases in Salalah, Muscat and Musandam. An SSI accredited centre, offering courses, recreational diving and snorkelling from the shore and by boat, this centre offers access to plenty of new and established dive sites in an area still awaiting plenty of discovery!
Dive boats, shore diving and house reef
The centre offers diving from a fast, rigid hulled ‘wet’ boat that has some sun cover. Shore diving is from the house reef, or by 4 wheel drive with a pick-up vehicle for kit and tanks, all ably managed by Caren Van Lente and Thorsten Sandmann.
Diving is offered as 2 morning dives, with snacks and water in between, returning lunchtime or early afternoon depending on the location of the site. Longer day trips and third dives may be offered locally if diver numbers allow on the day.
A small house reef at 9 metres depth offers a great little dive option for easy acclimatisation dives, third dives, learner fun dives and photographers.
NB: No credit cards accepted at present, only Euros or Omani Riyal cash direct to the dive centre. If you are staying in the Marriot, you can sign extras to your hotel bill and pay the hotel by credit card on check-out.
Options available include 3 and 5 days dive packages (2 unguided dives per day). Divers with less than 25 logged dives in their log books require a guide, or those requesting a guide, will need to pay a supplement locally. Please discuss your requirements with the Regaldive team, who will prepare a quotation suited to your needs.
A range of diving courses is available for those looking to learn to dive. Please enquire for details.
Extras in Resort
Prices listed below are an indication only, and subject to change.
Local marine tax: OMR 3/day
Snorkel excursions: OMR 20 (min. 3 persons to run)
Equipment rental per day:
Full kit incl. computer: OMR 15
Regulator: OMR 3
BCD: OMR 3
Wetsuit: OMR 3
Mask, snorkel & fins: OMR 3
Dive torch: OMR 3
Computer: OMR 3
Private Guide: OMR 15/dive
12l Aluminium tanks with DIN & Int. fittings
Nitrox fills and 15l tanks - Not available at present
The Sultanate of Oman is the gateway to the Arabian Gulf and was for thousands of years the focus of the frankincense trade route. An ancient nation of maritime traders Oman’s empire at one point extended down the East African mainland as far as Zanzibar. Strategically situated between India and Europe, the influence of Oman’s historical trading partners has left its mark on the population, which is both tolerant and cosmopolitan. Arabic is the official language, although English is widely spoken in some areas.
Salalah is the capital of Oman's southern Zufar and Dhofar region. It is often considered to be the ‘second city’ of the Sultanate but is quite small in tourist terms. Salalah is celebrated as the birthplace of the current ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos and his palace (now a summer residence), as well as a number of historical sites, are worth a visit.
The whole Dhofar region is famous for both its historical part in the frankincense trade and its khareef (monsoon) which transforms the region into an oasis of verdant pastures.
Guests visiting Salalah might like to extend their stay with a day or two in Muscat.
A small number of taxis are available in Salalah and local 4 wheel drive hire is available. You may organise excursions locally including mountain trips, cycling and hiking.
Air temperatures at sea level remain fairly high throughout the year, from high 20's to high 30's°C.
The coastal areas have a hot and humid season from May to September (average 32-38°C).
The southern coast of Salalah & Mirbat experiences the 'Khareef' from around June to early October, catching the northern edge of the monsoon winds which turns a large area in the locality completely green.
From October to April air temperatures are very pleasant during the day and cool at night.
The annual rainfall in most parts of Oman rarely exceeds 125mm and generally the weather is good.
From November to April average water temperatures vary between 22-26°C, with some thermoclines.
Regaldive recommend divers use a 3mm full wetsuit and a 5mm full wetsuit in the winter months. The full suit is recommended due to the small stinging hydroids prevalent in the Indian and Arabian ocean. Although unlikely to cause any damage, it just makes the dives more comfortable should there be anything in the water and provides protection for the legs and knees during shore dive entries and exits.
A unique feature of Oman’s diving are the number of endemic corals that have learnt to survive in temperatures above their normal temperature range.
Currents and Visibility
Salalah and Mirbat offers something for every level of diver and is an excellent place to learn to dive, with most sites close to shore not experiencing any strong currents.
Visibility is in a range between 10 to 20 metres, with more blue water in comparison to Oman's more northerly destinations. Lower visibility is caused by plankton blooms, which attract greater numbers of fish and marine mammals.
Oman is +4 hours ahead of GMT.
The Omani Rial £1 = 0.5 Rials
Euros and US Dollars are also widely acepted. We recommend taking some money in cash. ATMs are available in Muscat Airport, Salalah Town and there is an exchange facility in most hotels (though exchange rates are not generally competitive).
Travellers cheques can be cashed in Oman, but please check local banking hours as they tend to be open when you are diving.
Although entirely voluntary, tipping is a recognised part of life in this region of the world. Some local staff will look to travellers for personal recognition of the services offered.
If you do not have local notes in small denominations, use foreign USD notes.
Excursions can be arranged locally for mountains trips, hiking and cycling, or why not hire a 4 wheel drive to discover the coastal area of Muqsahl to the west?
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).
Departure tax: N/A
Muscat to Khasab on Sundays and Wednesdays - ETD 15.00 hrs – ETA 20.00 Hrs Khasab to Muscat on Tuesdays and Fridays - ETD 15.00 hrs – ETA 20.00 Hrs
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 tourist visa. This must be obtained before departure.You must arrive in the country within a month of purchase of the visa, or it is invalid.
From the 'Services' section, select 'Apply for Unsponsored Visa'
Follow the application process
The cost for a 30 day visa is OMR 20
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 must have a visa before arrival. Please see above, for the application process.
Twin centres between Musandam, Muscat & 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.
"Outstanding! Best ever accommodation for me on a liveaboard. The crew were outstanding, Dive Guides were attentive, dive briefs were good. There was a great feeling of exploration around the Islands. The guides are working very hard to find good dive sites around the islands. My favourite memory was the sense of complete isolation and exploration."
- UK | 16 January 2018
No votes yet
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..."
- UK | 14 April 2015
No votes yet
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
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
"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.