Report by Polly Buckingham:
For those of us who did not head for beirut or Kathmandu, the road trip over the mountains to Dibba Fujaireh was relatively hassle free. Finding the way over from Ajman, it has to be mentioned that we offer no thanks to a TomTom which didn’t work correctly, a satellite tracker on an IPAD of which, all satellites in the area must have gone on vacation, and a co-pilot confused between her left and right directions. However, we were saved and resorted to the trusty hand written map given to us by Mike.
Arriving in Dibba we found the Sandy Beach Hotel. The beach and area around Snoopy Island is a Marine Reserve and fishing is prohibited, so a pleasure to see a holiday resort making a contribution to preserving our marine environment. The beach rooms rooms have a veranda overlooking the beach with sounds of the ocean. You can get suited and booted on your veranda, walk down five steps and you are on the beach and into the water. Entry and exit is very easy. The first dive around Snoopy Island offered great marine life in a max of 5.8 mtrs. We spotted a Turtle, Nemo and a fork. The coral is very colourful and thriving and is also good for a snorkel venture. An SMB is rather a must here as the Ski-Doo’s come in quite close to the swimming and diving area. On the way out of the shore dive, the showers on the beach offer a welcome fresh water wash down and you don’t even have to de-kit, just exit water, walk through the shower and you are home. We were feeling quite spoilt. One caveat, walking the beach when it is dark be prepared to be attacked by crabs with attitude and moving a million miles an hour. Hence, certainly not good for those with a nervous disposition nor for those whom have a dislike of fast moving creatures with no sense of direction, ocean going or otherwise.
The Sandy Beach Hotel Dive Centre is fully kitted for all your diving needs if you can’t bring your own gear. However, coming here armed with tanks and full kit will save quite a hike to the in house dive centre. The dive staff are a friendly bunch, and very helpful to the ladies with carrying gear up the beach. Trolleys are available from Housekeeping to move gear from rooms to the dive centre, so diving is made very easy in terms.
The second day of diving we joined the dive boat. Chris arrived promptly from ‘the other side’ in the morning bright and breezy. The boat has two 150 Yamaha outboards, full shade and tank holders for easy kitting up. The boat has a two litre bottle of vinegar - always a good sign. We dived on Inchcape 1 with a maximum depth of 32 metres at high tide. This has to be, in my humble opinion, one of the weirdest, twilight style dives I have ever had the pleasure to dive. The wreck which was sunk to form an artificial reef sits upright, surrounded by a flat sandy bottom. Exit from the boat is a back roll or jump and descend on a buoy line. As we started the descent, we were quickly swarmed in a jelly fish soup. It made it difficult to see your buddy as there were so many of them. As for the stings, they were relatively good to us on all accounts and only a few divers had some minor stings. It really was quite overwhelming as it was the anticipation of waiting for the stings to take your breath away than the minor stings themselves. After making it through the jelly fish, we were greeted with a very cold thermoclime. On the wreck we were greeted with an abundance of marine life. Some divers saw a Ray, large shoals of fish that you could get lost in, Lion Fish, Eels, Turtle and a small in-house swarm of flower cardinals. Soft corals were in abundance and very colourful indeed. On the ascent the jelly fish were waiting for us in abundance. Diving in a three for this dive proved quite useful as taking pictures during the safety stop enabled us to concentrate on posing rather than the incoming jelly fish..
Our surface break was spent on the veranda with homemade sandwiches with fillings from Lulu Supermarket, tea and banter as we watched the ocean. Bring a dive knife for your butter!
Our second dive was again from the dive boat to Sharm Rock (Pinnacles). These rocks are visible from the shore of the resort. The dive started with an easy entry with no currents and a buoy line descent. Again, we were greeted by a whole host of marine life. Visibility was rather murky, but maybe that was due to the fact it is visited by divers many times a day. Our first greeting was from a turtle that was sleeping and soon moved on when his peace was disturbed. We are not sure he got any peace until we left the site, as he moved from one side of the rock site to the other. He did however look very healthy. Further into the dive we observed eels, stone fish, cone fish, fighting clownfish, miniature shrimp, and a passing shark. It was easy and a pleasure to fin away for an hour on this site, not knowing what you were going to view next. It was a superb dive and the terrain seemed to be relatively unharmed and undamaged considering the number of divers on the site. Soft and hard corals looked healthy with no serious bleaching evident.
Our last day of diving was to Dibba rock. The boat journey out took around 15 minutes with a half full boat. The depth here was to around 20m with a buoy line entry. The shallows of the rock offer some lovely colourful coral formations with an abundance of marine life. We saw a turtle on this dive too. Soft corals were thriving and looked vey healthy, not that I’m an expert.