Oman

Introduction

Situated on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, the Sultanate of Oman boasts an array of world-class dive sites. With shorelines along both the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, the marine life on offer below the waterline is varied and extensive. Only a little further from the UK than the ever-popular Red Sea, Oman is also a hugely accessible destination for British divers looking for that exotic trip abroad free from the annoyances of jetlag.

The most famous dive spot along the Oman coast is the Musandam Peninsula, separated from the Oman mainland by the United Arab Emirates. The area, an imposing collection of mountains dropping into fjords, is surrounded by Gulf of Oman waters owing to its northerly position. Situated in amongst the impressive fjords, bays and islands is an assortment of awesome underwater topography and reefs inhabited by a colourful variety of marine life. The waters surrounding Musandam and the Straights of Hormuz boast more than 900 species of fish – a marine population that remains well preserved on account of the fishing ban in the area. So whether you’re into reefs or rocks, macro or massive, there is something within these waters to suit you.

Arguably the jewel in the crown of Omani diving is the Daymaniyat islands. This group of uninhabited islands are located approximately 18 kilometres off of the Batinah coast, from Seeb to Barka, spread out across 20 kilometres. This is around 40-60 minutes drive from Al Sawadi. These nine tiny islands, named from D1 to D9, are located within Oman’s only Marine National Nature Reserve. Access is controlled and trips are organised weekly. The highlights are stingrays, the occasional whale shark and pods of dolphins, which often follow the dive boats there and back.

Those interested in diving the Dhofar region should be aware of its microclimate. From the end of May until the end of September this area is subject to a monsoon, known locally as the Khareef. This brings mist and rain to the mountains, grey weather and drizzle in Salalah. The temperature hovers at about 25 degrees Celsius with humidity at a sticky 100%. The waves in the sea get very high and there are dangerous undercurrents. As a result all watersports, including diving, are strictly prohibited during this period. Many dive centres are therefore closed from May through to October.

In the months preceding this monsoon period however (from February) divers stand a decent chance of seeing a variety of whales, including sperm and humpback. Numbers have been impressive in recent years.

Whether or not a whale does put in an appearance, divers to this region will not leave disappointed. Marine life spotted regularly in the blue includes schools of fusiliers, snappers, sardines, jackfish, tuna and barracuda, while in amongst the beautiful blue and yellow soft corals, creatures such as nudibranchs, gobies, blennies and seahorses can all be spied. And let’s not forget the moray eels, all sorts of rays, turtles and sharks that also call this part of the world home. Truly, Oman is a destination that will spoil even the most experienced of divers.

 

Dive Sites

 

Ras Musandam East

Located within 50 nautical miles of Dibba Port within the Musandam Peninsula, this is a great wall dive that offers divers a bountiful amount of soft corals. Ranging from depths of 10 – 35m, you can expect to see red snappers, king fish, eagle rays, turtles, shoals of jack fish, barracuda and fusiliers. Leopard sharks have also been spotted in the area. This is a drift dive with erratic currents, therefore recommended for advanced divers only.

 

Mushroom

Located inside Sheesha Bay, Musandam Peninsula less than 40 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this site offers a sloping reef covered in vegetation and soft corals. Ranging from depths of 10-25m, you can expect to see Fusiliers, barracuda, jacks, parrot fish, king fish, stingrays, scorpion fish, bat fish, damsel fish and honeycomb eel. There is a mild current at this site – however, it’s suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Red Island (N-W)

Red island is located in the middle of Sheesha Bay, approximately 40 nautical miles from Dibba Port. Soft corals cover this sloping reef. Ranging from depths of 10-25m, you can expect to see fish abound, including barracuda, jacks, angelfish, cattle fish, stingrays, lobsters and large shoals of fusiliers.  There is a mild current at this site, however it’s suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Ras Alull

Located inside Sheesha Bay, less than 40 nautical miles of Dibba Port, this site is made up of an array of slopes loaded with soft corals. Ranging from depths of 5-25m, you can expect to see shoals of fusiliers and jacks, stingrays, and turtles. Leopard and white tip sharks also put in appearances. This site is suitable for all divers, especially given the abundance of soft corals in the shallows.

 

Ras Arous

Located inside Sheesha Bay, less than 40 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this site is a beautiful sloping coral reef adorned in softies. Ranging from depths of 5-25m, you can expect to see plenty of fusiliers, jacks, stingrays, turtles and, on occasion, eagle rays. There is a mild current at this site – however, it’s suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Ras Kaisha

Located in the mouth of Sheesha Bay, approximately 40 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this site offers a selection of slopes and a stunning soft coral-clad wall. Ranging from depths of 10-35m, you can expect to see king fish, bat fish, lionfish, stingrays, parrot fish turtles. The currents here include up and down currents which can be erratic, therefore this site is recommended for advanced divers only.

 

Hard Rock Café

A small rock separated from the Musandam mainland approximately 35 nautical miles from Dibba Port. A stunning coral garden full of beautiful soft corals. Ranging from depths of 5-15m, you can expect to see shoals of jacks, fusiliers, rainbow fish, angelfish, bat fish, stingrays and lobsters. Marble rays, leopard sharks and eagle rays can also be spotted on occasion. Mild currents can be experienced, but suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Umm Al Fayyarin

Located 35 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this wall dive is also boasts a series of slopes. Plenty of soft corals are on offer, though the main attraction is the stunning collection of table corals in the top 10m. Ranging from depths of 5-40m, you can expect to see fusiliers, giant trivally, barracuda, angelfish, bat fishes, turtles and stingrays at this site. Currents are common here, though divers of all levels can visit this site.

 

Ras Dillah

Situated opposite Ras Sharkan just over 30 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this site offers a wonderful combination of wall and reef slopes covered in stunning soft corals. Ranging from depths of 10-40m, you can expect to see Snappers, parrot fish, barracuda, turtles and stingrays, while leopard sharks can also be spotted on occasion. Currents are common, and on account of boats and fishermen in the area this dive in recommended for advanced divers only.

 

Ras Sharkan

Located in the mouth of Haballyn Bay less than 30 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this soft coral-clad wall dive is interspersed with a selection of sloping gardens. Ranging from depths of 10-40m, you can expect to see shoals of barracuda as the main event, while jack fish, bat fish, fusiliers, parrot fish, turtles, stingrays and marble rays also patrol the area. White tip sharks can also be spotted, though are a less frequent sight. There is a mild current here, but suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Ras Samid

Located in the mouth of Khwar Qabal Bay just short of 25 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this shallow dive serves up a stunning collection of soft corals. Ranging from depths of 5-16m, you can expect to see shoals of barracuda and fusiliers, bat fish, cattle fish, lobsters and turtles. This is a shallow reef dive suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Octopus Rock

Located outside a little more than 20 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this sloping reef extends down to a sandy bottom. Plenty of soft corals litter the area. Ranging from depths of 5-16m, you can expect to see shoals of jacks, fusiliers, snappers, bat fish, giant trivally, scorpion fish, slipper lobster, and cattle fish – and let’s not forget the population of seahorses as well. Mild currents can be experienced at this site, but divers of all levels can enjoy this dive without issue

 

Ras Marovi

Located approximately 20 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this site offers both a wall (to the north east of the island) and a beautiful sloping coral garden (to the west).  Ranging from depths of 10-35m, you can expect to see Shoals of barracuda, jack fish, fusiliers, parrot fish, stingrays and turtles. Seahorses can also be found, so don’t forget your magnifying glass! Current can be experienced here, particularly in the channel, but divers of all levels can enjoy this dive.

 

Lima Rock (north)

Located just over 20 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this dive is made up of a series of sloping coral gardens. Ranging from depths of 10-25m, you can expect to see turtles, stingrays, scorpion fish, devil fish, stonefish, and electric rays. Shoals of jack fish, fusiliers and parrot fish are also common in the shallower areas of this dive. Currents can be very strong here and it is essential a current check is conducted before entry. Recommended to advanced divers only.

 

Lima Rock (south)

Located 20 nautical miles from Dibba Port, boasts both a stunning wall and some lovely coral reef slopes. Ranging from depths of 10-25m, you can expect to see turtles, stingrays, scorpion fish, devil fish, stonefish, and electric rays here. Shoals of jack fish, fusiliers and parrot fish are also common in the shallower areas of this dive. Notorious for its very strong currents, a current check should always be conducted before entry. This site is suitable for advanced divers only.

 

Ras Lima

Located 20 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this site is made up of a series of soft coral-clad slopes. Fusiliers, turtles, stingrays and jacks are the predominant species that abound this particular reef. With depths of only 5-8m, this shallow, calm dive is suitable for divers of all levels and ideal for recently qualified Open Water divers.

 

Ras Samut

Less than 20 nautical miles from Dibba Port, this wall-and-slopes combination boasts a stunningly beautiful coral garden. Shoals of fusiliers, barracuda, jack fish, turtles, lionfish, stingrays and electric rays are all commonly spotted, while luckier divers could find themselves eyeballing white tip or leopard sharks! With depths between 10-35m, this is a tidal dive, but suitable for divers of all levels.

 

Chinese wreck

The wreck of a 100-year-old steamer covered in coral and marine life, 5km north of the village of Mirbat. You will see the boiler, the anchor, and the propeller, as well as very big puffer fish, schools of juvenile barracudas, and moray eels. At a depth of between just 6-9m, this is a shallow dive with no currents, so is suitable for all levels of diver and can be dived from either shore or a boat.

 

Steamer wreck

Another 100-year-old steamer wreck, packed with schooling fish, 500 metres from the beach of the Marriott hotel in Mirbat. At the site you will find two anchors, three boilers, and the propeller. Marine life includes giant honeycomb moray eels, big schools of jack fish, goatfish and fusiliers. Sometimes a sleeping nurse shark can be found under the wreck. At depths between 10-13m, there can sometimes be a current here – however, the site is suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Shab Ashara

A ridge surrounded by sand, with hard and soft corals, 3 km North of the Marriott hotel in Mirbat, 500 metres away from the coast. At depths of between 7-14m, the reef is at its nicest around 10m, with plenty of soft and hard corals. Eagle rays, cuttlefish, all kind of schooling fish, damsels, sweepers, fusiliers, lobsters and sometimes a sleeping nurse shark can all be found. This site is suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Aquarium

A plateau with brown hard coral boulders, leather corals, this site is teeming with fish, and can be found 7km north of the Marriott in Mirbat. This is one of the few sites named ‘Aquarium’ that really lives up to the name – cuttlefish, lobsters, shoals of fusiliers, jacks and goatfish, sweepers, stingrays and different kinds of moray eels can all be found here. Turtles also put in appearances. Be careful not to lose your buddy, such is the density of fish! At depths of only 6-9m, this dive is suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Coral Garden at Abu Sarr Island

Located north of the Musandam Peninsula, approx. 15 nautical miles from Khasab Port. This site offers one of the best hard coral gardens off Oman. With depths of 10-25m, you can expect to see turtles, bat fish, stingrays, scorpion fish, different kind of eels, squid, nudibranchs and on occasion leopard sharks and eagle rays. This is a drift dive, but is suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Beechams Bay at Al Khayl Island

Located north of the Musandam Peninsula, approx.  18 nautical miles from Khasab Port. This site is a huge bay with plenty of hard coral and massive boulders. With depths of 7-40m, you can expect to see Turtles, bat fish, stingrays, scorpion fish, different kind of eels, lobsters, lionfish and on occasion leopard sharks and eagle rays. This is a drift dive, but is suitable for all levels of diver.

 

Abu Rashid Island

Located north of the Musandam Peninsula, approx. 20 nautical miles from Khasab Port. This site offers huge terraces and walls overgrown with hard and soft coral down to a depth of 40m. With depths of 7-40m, you can expect to see shoals of barracuda, jack fish, bat fish, turtles, different species of nudibranchs, mobula, eagle rays, and on rare occasions sharks and whalesharks. This is a drift dive and is recommended for advanced divers because of the strong current.

 

Deep Purple at Musandam Island

Located north of the Musandam Peninsula, approx. 22 nautical miles from Khasab Port. The dive site is unique because of the amount of purple soft coral. The site also has a huge plateau where you can spot silver tip sharks. Shoals of barracuda, jack fish, and bat fish can also be seen. With depths of between 10-40m, this is a drift dive and is recommended for advanced divers only.

 

Salamah Island

Located north of the Musandam Peninsula, approx. 24 nautical miles from Khasab Port. This site offers a sloping reef covered in hard corals which are perfectly unspoiled. Here you will find shoals of barracuda, turtles, lobsters, jack fish, bat fish and different type of reef sharks. With depths ranging from 5-40, this is a drift dive, and is recommended for advanced divers only because of the strong currents.

 

Three Sisters

A beautiful site at Police Island and must-do dive. Teeming with morays and angelfish, the site also boasts a small cave full of fish at the 12m-mark. You can also expect to see kingfish, stingrays, turtles, snappers, batfish, groupers, trigger fish, leopard sharks and nudibranchs, among others. Although there is a potential for mild current, at depths of just 8-18m this site is suitable for all levels of divers.

 

Garden of Eden

This site is a coral-lover’s dream, with cauliflower, table, bush, & boulder corals all featuring heavily. Here you will also find kingfish, stingrays, turtles, snappers, batfish, groupers, morays, angelfish, trigger fish, Leopard sharks and nudibranchs, among others. Although there is a potential for mild current, at depths of just 12-20m this site is suitable for all levels of divers.

 

Sira

Named after the first island of the Dimaniyat which can be reached from the Al Sawadi Beach Resort, Sira offers a small reef with a plethora of corals along with a tremendous patch of starburst coral. This is one of the nine Islands that form a nature reserve. At this site you will find Morays, sting rays, eagle rays, turtles, leopard sharks, nudibranchs, angelfish, manta rays and snappers, among others. Although there is a potential for mild current, at depths of just 8-20m this site is suitable for all levels of divers.

 

Black Tip Reef

Located off Kasmah island, this site is named for the chance to see black tip reef sharks, as well as morays, kingfish, stingrays, turtles, snappers, batfish, groupers, morays, angelfish, trigger fish and leopard sharks.  Mola Mola have also been spotted here. A mild current can be found here, with depths of between 8-27m.

 

Fahal Island (near Muscat Al Qurm)

This area has ten dive sites. The depth varies from 10-42m and the main attraction is a swim-through cave. Stingrays, angel fish, honeycomb eels, sea turtles and friendly black-tip sharks are common.

 

Bandar Khayran (25km south-east of Muscat)

The coast here is divided by fjords and inlets, and the dive sites and secluded beaches are only accessible by sea. The area is also home to the first artificial wreck in Oman – the Al Munassir, an 84m-long naval vessel scuttled 2003, that sits in 30m. Underwater fauna here includes a variety of corals (brain, hedgehog and cauliflower), sea fans, lionfish, moray eels, turtles and black-tip sharks.

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Facts

 

Language: Arabic, English widely spoken.

 

Currency: Omani Rial

 

Dive Season:  All year round

 

Climate: Desert

 

Air Temperature: 25°-50°C (77°-122°F)

 

Water Temperature: 22°-30°C (72°-86°F)

 

Visibility: 20 – 30 Metres