Diving Oct 30, 2009, Discover Nomad
Christophe set the depart time a bit early at the last minute so we had to wake up at 5 in Abu Dhabi and be out the door with our tanks weighting down a shopping cart at 6, and we managed to get Nicki from curbside (kerbside to her) at 6:10. Plus I had to stop off at my office to get a memory stick I'd left there so that when we arrived at discover nomad about 20 after ten I had got most of my grade reports done. Chris was still kitting up his divers at the dive hostel so our late arrival wasn't hanging up the show. Still Belinda, diving with us in our group, pointed out to us that she had got up at 5 in Dubai and had been waiting for us for some time. She had kids to organize as well, but 2 hours less driving. Anyway, somehow it all seemed perfectly timed (apart from the early wakeups) and we were on the speedboat and on our way toward Lima Rock at 11, feeling great, weather not too hot, and mountains rising up from the blue sea as we motored past the familiar fijords.
There were just 7 divers on our boat plus the local driver and Christophe: Bobbi and I, Belinda, a Canadian named Ryan, and a couple of French guys, Christophe's open water students, who took a lot of photos and conversed among themselves and with Christophe in French, and who seemed like decent blokes but didn't cross over their language barrier. I spoke to them in French a couple of times but anyone whose native language is French quickly detects that mine isn't ;-)
Anyway we were there to dive. Christophe took us first past Lima Rock to to Octopus Rock, what we used to call the Stack, but the vis looked bad there so Chris recommended we move a little few hundred meters south to Ras Morovi. The ras (headland) is a dragon's back of a mountain ridge that dips under water and comes up in a dragon's head across a narrow channel so it forms a narrow peninsula with an island at its point. There are many dives possible here, starting inside the channel or depending on current, at the ocean side of the island, but today we took a third way, one I hadn't done since diving here with Godelieve and her kids, and that is starting inside the first bay back from the dragon's back and following the wall around in a big U to end up in the channel.
My logged dive #930 - Only today we made a circle at the bottom end of the U. Starting on a south heading at the left point of the U inside the bay we went increasingly deep to about 25 meters or so keeping an eye out for seahorses in the green whip coral or seagrass or whatever that stuff is. It looks like a forest of green underwater swarming with fishes as far as the eye can see which on this day was about 7 to 10 meters I guess, not bad vis, not great. We found no seahorses nor anything much of interest really apart from some hovering lion fish, fierce-looking morays, and scrappy crawfish looking delicious in their lairs.
As we rounded the underwater mountain at the bottom of the U, I carried on along the wall and unbeknownst to me at the time completed a circle without checking my compass, thinking I was heading north the whole time. No wonder that part of the dive seemed repetitive (except that to compensate for depth, everyone was diving higher now ;-) But I realized it when I was heading north again back at the bottom of the U, 50 min into the dive, and Bobbi and I with about 80 bar still to go. I recognized it because there was an alternate route to the north which I hadn't taken my last time here, but which I took now. This one progressed up the channel and led us into a area of cabbage coral interspersed with pretty blue tufts of soft coral, and this area was full of turtles. We found a half dozen of those before we had to surface, Ryan hovering just overhead, air holding out well in a 65 minute dive.
All back aboard the boat and we motored over to Ras Lima, the east-west wall extending well off the small village on the beach, and scarfed down a few of Sylvienne's (Chris's mom's) sandwich wraps, interesting combinations of chicken and wieners, eliciting even more 'sausage' jokes from Nicki. Chris was planning to have us dive that wall but I made some murmurings of preferring to dive Lima Rock, a popular choice, and Chris said sure, why not.
My logged dive #931 - Chris put us in at the eastern point on the north side of the island and the plan was to dive the north side heading west. By the time all the divers were in the water, we were getting swept at an accelerating pace to the east, caught in a current we couldn't fight. Chris saw what was happening and hand signalled me to round the rock at its eastern point and dive the south side, so I had everyone descend, and from then on it was a drift dive. We went down to what I thought was the gap leading to the other side, but it kept descending and we were at 35 meters before I decided to level off, Bobbi clinging to me less in anxiety than for safety. We were getting swept in a direction I thought was west trying to stay on the wall, and coming alongside some very large meter-long barracuda, wow. Here I realized we were heading east, we'd somehow disoriented 180 degrees. By now we were midwater, no point in diving here, so I signaled up. Everyone stayed together. We came up to 5 meters and I signaled a safety stop. Everyone hung together, but in exactly three minutes I signaled up because I wanted to get picked up and taken back to the rock. At the surface I saw we'd been swept well off the wall, halfway to Iran :-) Ryan and Bobbi and I met at the surface where the boatman eventually saw us and came out to pick us up. Nicki and Belinda remained down till we revved our engines to call them up. They’d had had some sort of miscommunication, each thinking the other needed to remain under, but as a reward they had ended up in the middle of a circling funnel of barracuda.
We all had over 100 bar, but we’d had enough excitement for one dive, so we got the boatman to take us to the middle of the north wall, the sheltered side, where some live-aboard dhows were anchored. Here we finished off our air in the shallows, basically trying to avoid any further trouble. It was nice diving. Bobbi and I separated from the group and found half a dozen blue spotted rays under as many different rocks. We saw at least that many morays, including one large honeycomb, and some nice tableaux of lion fish. It was a relaxing end to an unusual dive.
We spent the night at Discover Nomad chez Christophe, but because beverage supply there cannot be counted on we slipped over the border to the hole in the wall at Royal Beach and dropped in on Terry and the other Freestyle divers to enjoy a cool one before driving back to Oman. Terry was overseeing the barbeque of a huge yellowfin tuna and he offered us a taste. We only tasted because we were heading back to Christophe’s for un repas a la Mauritius coutesy of Sylvienne’s kitchen, which deserved more than one etoille Michelin. There we were soon tucking into exquisite quiche, tender steak, succulent kabobs, and deliciously grilled shrimp, plus a fresh green salad, great complements to our two bottles of red wine, which we shared of course.
Somehow we got sleepy and found ourselves waking up a few hours later to another great day on the UAE seacoast. We moved off to return to Freestyle at 9 where we found we could get on a dive to the Inchcape.
My logged dive #932 - Nicki wasn’t in the mood but Bobbi and I joined a boatload and we were soon heading down the mooring line in a stiff current to the wreck at 30 meters. We had wisely worn lycra underneath our 3 mm wetsuits because it was cold down there, perhaps 24 degrees. Due to the depth it’s only a 20 min dive anyway, but the temperature was a shock after the warm summer. The wreck was beautiful as usual, swarming with schools of snappers and bigger fish. There were no rays there at the time but the two honeycombs to replace the ones who succumbed to the red tide were in their predictable places, easily spotted by all the divers. For Bobbi and I who have been here many times, it’s a treat to be diving it just the two of us, without having to monitor students, so we let ourselves slip into a minute of deco and we were last up the rope. We made an unhurried descent, our deco cleared at 9 meters, and we spent 3 full minutes at 5 meters even though we had been just below the other divers waiting for them to complete their safety stops. The current had disappeared at the bottom, but now we were being pulled to the side like pennants. We could see the other divers at the ladder climbing up onto the boat and when the last bum disappeared from the water we let go the mooring line and caught the ladder as we were swept beneath it.
My logged dive #933 - We did one more dive, at noon on Dibba Rock. Nicki had finally got her hair just right so she joined us. The sea and sky were bright and the water looked clear and promising, but it was a promise not kept. The viz was silty. We were dropped on the mooring at the north corner of the rock. We made our way back through the aquarium and onto the reef. I hadn't brought a compass because mine was on a console whose pressure guage had malfunctioned, but I could tell we had hit it right when I heard the clacking and saw a school of young barracuda overhead. Then a large black tipped shark appeared swimming nonchalantly across our bow. Bobbi and I watched it go by, but Nicki was lagging a bit and missed it. Too bad as it was our only shark sighting that dive. Due to the milky conditions I missed a turn in the reef and had trouble getting out to the end of it. I had to retrace my steps on the reef and didn’t know where I was exactly until we came on an anchor that’s been in the reef for some time. Orienting on that I managed to find the right way, and brought us onto a number of turtles in the process. There were frequent sightings of barracuda overhead, shoals of snapper, puffer fish meandering across our paths, and some cuttlefish occasionally, but all in all it was a slightly disappointing dive (what am I saying?! I must be getting jaded ;-)