An advert pops up for a diving instructor job in the UAE. I’m not sure if I’m just being naive but my first thought was ‘must be in Dubai’ and my second response was ‘really?’ If either of these was your reaction too, think again.
What’s in the UAE?
Firstly, to my surprise, the UAE does in fact extend past Dubai. A big proportion of the UAE is covered by desert yes, but I have seen that even this varies from rocky plains to huge seas of surf-able sand dunes (still on my to do list). The best thing about the desert is the wildlife, driving around the UAE and spotting random camels, donkeys and goats never gets old. To my surprise I found out that Abu Dhabi is home to voluminous ranges of mangrove systems, which are sanctuaries for a huge range of marine juveniles. A little birdy also told me it’s a great place to see Bamboo Sharks and dugongs. On the borders of Musandam and the east coast of UAE (where I live), here you have stunning mountain ranges that tower over the landscape for miles creating breathtaking coastlines.
The secret gems of the UAE
The east coast of UAE is still relatively sparsely built up, so the coastline has miles of amazing and mostly untouched reefs. This is where I get to work every day. On my first day working at Freestyle Divers, as soon as my eyes touched the water, I was greeted by multiple resident Hawksbill Turtles that now grace me with their presence every morning. The local house Reef “Dibba Rock” (a marine protected area) is booming with life, providing homes and shelters to a range of marine life: Blacktip Reef Sharks, cuttlefish, Hawksbill and Green sea turtles, rays and shoals of damselfish, fusiliers and snappers. The shallow side of Dibba provides a playground for underwater photographers who can capture perfect shots of shrimps and nudibranchs. With this much diversity and quality of corals, the reefs here are doing pretty well.
Close by there is an artificial reef, set up over 10 years ago, by strategically placing massive concrete triangle building blocks. The site is now flourishing with shoals of snappers, fusiliers, trigger fish, families of porcupine-fish and forming a hideout for rays.
A short 20-minute boat ride and further down the coastline you will find many similar dives such as Sharm Rocks, Martini Rock and Shark Island. For wreck divers there is Inchcape 1, 2 and 10 ranging from 18 to 35 metres. These oil rig tenders are coated in soft coral and a huge diversity of little critters taking shelter, just keep an eye out for the lionfish when you enter the wreck!
Tech Diver? UAE has you covered
One of the biggest draws to the region is the tech diving. I started here as a recreational diver but have finally given in to the ‘Tec side’ and just completed my PADI Tec 40. One of the main reasons for doing so is to dive UAE’s deep reefs like Cauliflowers (as the name suggests, the soft coral takes the form of cauliflower heads) at 40m. Going slightly deeper there are stunning wrecks such as the Ines which bottoms out at 72 metres, or a German U-Boat at a serious 115 meters. Obviously, my Tech 40 won’t get me there yet but watch this space!
Just North of UAE there is Musandam, a region of Oman that has some of the bests diving spots I have come across. Caverns, walls, and drop offs from 10 to 100 metres plus, covered in endless masses of soft coral. On your dive the sun rays will suddenly disappear, you look up and realise the mass shoals of triggers, banners, barracuda and mackerel overhead have engulfed the sun with their spectacular parade. Giant Leopard Moray Eels guard the reefs while Eagle Rays gracefully swim by. You may even get to see whale sharks or a pod of dolphins whilst they migrate through. I could write pages and pages of reasons why you should dive in the UAE but why spoil the surprise. So, the next time you are booking a trip and want somewhere new and exciting, give UAE a try!
Visibility can vary, like most places around the world, but on the average, there is a good 5-10m. Temperature fluctuates through the seasons, with summer rising to 31 or 32°C and the winter months dropping to 20-22°C. This wide range of temperatures can bring plankton which is why there is such a variation of life in these waters and it attracts migrating species such as whale sharks, rays and turtles.
Find out more about Kayleigh at www.followthewhitefin.com.