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30 Sep 2020, Joanna Charter

oman diving, oman liveaboard

This time last year, team member Joanna was lucky enough to be diving in Oman on the MY Oman Explorer liveaboard - Daymaniyat Itinerary. She reminisces on her underwater adventures in our Q&A.

What’s special about diving in Oman?  

Oman is a destination that doesn’t appear on many people’s radars, which makes it a real treat to dive. The marine life is huge - Oman has the biggest cuttlefish, rays, eels and everything else I’ve ever seen. I would recommend it on that alone! The coral is very healthy, big sprawling areas covered in soft corals is a pleasure to see. 

I would mostly recommend Oman for the more experienced diver, especially if joining a liveaboard. The waters experience thermoclines and quite drastic changes in visibility all year round so can be challenging at times. These changes do however bring different marine life in, which is sometimes like having two dives in one.  

For those who prefer staying in resort, there are plenty of underwater highlights whether it’s taking those first breaths or exploring the popular Al Munassir wreck. There’s opportunity for all.

Daymaniyat Islands in Oman

What was your most memorable dive? 

Fahal Island – this limestone island is teaming with marine life and is accessible from both liveaboard and day boat from resorts near Muscat. We jumped off the back of the liveaboard (always a treat not to have to get into a RIB) and were straight into a giant battery of juvenile barracuda. The huge numbers seemed to go on forever but, in the distance, they started to part as a juvenile whale shark popped his head through, making his way straight towards us. We mustn’t have been in the water for five minutes and I was already elated.  

We continued around one of the limestone corners and dropped to approximately 25 metres; the visibility and temperature changed drastically. We then had the pleasure of watching a shoal of a dozen adult barracuda hunting smaller fish, their silvery bodies glimmering in the slightly gloomy water. As we shallowed up on east side of the island the visibility cleared and the water warmed, and who should grace us with their presence again? The whale shark was back, and swimming much more slowly.

Our guide signalled to ascend for our safety stop so I set off my DSMB for me and my buddy, grinning at each other as we watched the time pass. Just as the dive is ending, I see a flash behind my buddy. I pause - she gives me a quizzical look. I see the flash again and physically spin her around just in time to see a mobula ray gliding past us, making its way up to the surface going for a jump! Our safety stop is up, so we make our way to the surface, and the beautiful creature does another jump as we’re getting back into the boat. This was my first ever ‘mobula flop’ so there was a lot of excited squealing!  

When I think back about that dive, all I can do is smile and think about how lucky we were.

Whale shark in Oman

Image by Joanna Charter

Which dives sites do you recommend?  

The Aquarium (Daymaniyat Islands) – the site concentrates an oval plateau lying at around 7 metres deep which continues to slope to 15 metres and then there’s a shear drop to around 30 metres. It’s teaming with marine life; shoals of fusiliers, cuttlefish, squid, honeycomb morays, crab, big carpet coral with critters hiding all around. A rewarding dive both day and night. 

Fahal Island – wonderful corals and lots of life along the steep walls. You could dive multiple times around the island and see different things, it has a lot to offer in a small space. Think shoals of colourful fish, tuna, jacks and patrolling reef sharks. 

Three Sisters (Daymaniyat Islands) – large boulders with soft tree coral and carpet corals between the rocks. Lots of swim throughs and holes to poke around in. Large marine life includes green and hawksbill turtles, eagle ray and leopard shark sightings.

Moray eel in Oman

Image by Joanna Charter

When is the best time to dive in Oman?  

You can dive year-round at Fahal Island from resort, but the summer months can be a bit hot for most. For the best liveaboard diving experience, trips to the Daymaniyat Islands operate in April, May and from September to November. The southern part of the country and the Hallaniyat islands are best explored by liveaboard from December to March. Exploratory trips are also available as the boat relocates.

Fahal Island scenery in Oman

Image by Joanna Charter

What are the species highlights? 

Leopard (zebra) sharks, honeycomb morays, big cuttle fish (everything is bigger in Omani waters), feather/mobula/eagle rays, juvenile whale sharks (seasonal), humpback whales (seasonal), spinner dolphins. Oman is home to five species of turtle, green and hawksbill being the most encountered.

Turtle in Oman

Image by Joanna Charter

Where did you stay? 

I was invited to spend a week on board the MY Oman Explorer (Daymaniyat itinerary) plus an additional night at the Sifawy Boutique Hotel, just south of Muscat. I was also lucky enough to have a look around the luxurious Shangri-La Barr Al Jissa – a great resort for the family. 

The Oman Explorer is a large comfortable steel hulled vessel, custom built for divers. It’s been exploring Omani waters since 2011 and moves according to the season (with some fantastic trips as it relocates) between the Hallaniyat islands (remote group in the south) and Daymaniyat islands (just north of Muscat). The cabins are clean and spacious, the food lovely and plentiful and the crew were outstanding; all very knowledgeable about the area.

Oman Explorer in Sifah Marina

Image by Joanna Charter

The Sifawy Hotel is a well facilitated hotel in a relatively new marina area. There is a beach bar a short walk around the marina, which is perfect for a place to meet after the days diving.  

The Shangri-La is great for those who love choice as it’s made up of three hotels, one suiting everyone. Great for families of divers and non-divers, a couple looking to get away from it all and enjoy luxury, or a group who want a large choice of food options to keep everyone happy.

Would you recommend a liveaboard or resort?  

I think both are good options. If diving is your main focus, you’re travelling alone, and you want to see some truly healthy corals and abundant marine life, a liveaboard is the better option. They can take you to sites that are mostly inaccessible by day boat, and you get to spend longer there. If you are happy with a couple of still very good dives, but you also want to explore more of Oman or have some relaxing time in the afternoons, then a resort is the best option for you.  

Why would you recommend Oman for Regaldivers? 

Oman offers a real off-the-beaten-track holiday experience without compromising luxury. You want to be the only boat in sight? Go to Oman. You want to be surprised each time you get in the water? Go to Oman. You want to push your diving limits? Go to Oman. With direct flights to Muscat from London and Manchester it makes it easy to get to, and there is a lot to offer topside as well; the mountainous desert landscape is a sight to behold.

Desert scenery in Oman

What topside activities are available? 

In Muscat itself you can visit Mutrah Souq, a bazaar full of local spices, trinkets, and everything in-between. You can also visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which is really stunning. For those staying a bit longer, I would recommend a trip into the desert. Explore forts, hike and swim in the wadis, enjoy panoramic views from the mountains and spend a night under the stars. Amazing!

Contact a member of the team to book your Oman diving holiday