With several people away on leave and the three xxxx’s (make your own up) gallivanting in the Musandam (of which more later) numbers were reduced to the point where me and PJ decided to abandon the Mullah and head for the east coast to see how the other half dives. This was Al Boom’s Al Aqah dive centre in Fujairah where we had booked to dive the Inchcapes.
There was an annoying hour's delay at the beginning while we waited for a solitary latecomer but it’s undeniably pleasant to have someone else sorting the boat out and humping tanks around. We launched from Dadna harbour and made the short boat ride out to Inchcape 1. This wreck was a deliberate sinking in 2001 to create a dive site and it lies in about 30m of water. It was sent down by the Inchcape Shipping company hence the name. Kitting up on the boat, our blue overalls aroused strange comment but nothing we haven’t heard before! The wreck is small but is covered in soft corals which you don’t often see on the west coast. There was also a shoal of snappers which seemed quite comfortable with divers and let you get close. Apparently there are often moray eels but they seemed to have gone (“for Ramadan” according to another dive operator on the site). There is an easy swim through down the centre of the vessel emerging near the bow.
Inchcape 2 is very similar but shallower allowing a longer dive time (or would have done had it been the first dive of the day). There is a good swim through from section to section down the centre of the vessel and again like the Inchcape 1, there was a shoal of tame snappers. There were also a couple of morays that presumably weren’t fasting. From there it was back to port and home. A very good day was had by all. The only problem was that the large number of divers on a small wreck made it seem like Piccadilly Circus at times.
Peter took some video of the Inchcapes which can be seen above. A few photos of the Khasab dives are attached including one of Soren who was coincidentally there at the same time. About time he joined us on a club dive!
Geoff now takes up the Khasab story:
How to classify the three 406-ers (Derek, Rob and Geoff) that went to Khasab last weekend; ‘The 3 Amigos’, ‘The 3 Wise Monkeys’, ‘The 3 Musketeers’, ‘The 3 Wise Men’, ‘The 3 Degrees’, ‘The 3 Stooges’, ‘Wrecky, Techy and Fish-head’ .…. ‘The Good, the Bad & the Ugly’ .…. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide at the end of this report.
After a painless border crossing and ‘James Bond-esque’ night-drive along the spectacular Khasab road, we checked into the Golden Tulip and enjoyed a couple of brews on the balcony before turning in for an early night.
We were diving with Extra Divers who are conveniently located at the Golden Tulip and after struggling to decide on what job title to enter on the disclaimer form (suggestions such as ‘kitten juggler’ and ‘tosser’ being recognised as vocations rather than careers) we took the short drive to Khasab Harbour and loaded our kit onto Extra Divers catamaran dive boat. Powered by 2x 250 Suzuki 4 strokes and blessed with a flat sea, we made good time across the water to the first dive site, delayed only slightly by a brief encounter with a friendly police boat.
‘No Palm Beach’ is in a sheltered bay on the east of Musandam Island, one of the many islands at the tip of the Musandam peninsula and provided a good first dive with a variety of marine life on show. The sloping reef ran down to beyond 30m, and BSAC 406’s old friend Soren, who was also on the boat, advised that he and his dive buddy had descended to 51m on air! Being a full moon and spring tides, we anticipated running into current at some stage and sure enough, about 20 minutes into the dive and 20m down we rounded a rocky outcrop and ran straight into a stiff current. It was at this point that one member of our 3-ship indicated he was down to 50 bar and required a controlled ascent to the surface, which was executed in text book fashion.
Our Omani captain obviously knew the area well, and we were treated to excellent views of sea eagles on the sea cliffs and eagle rays basking at the surface whilst burning the minutes to our next dive. The second dive was at Bu Rashid island on a site called ‘The Wall’, so named with good reason. We dropped in and with visibility around 8-10m had a very enjoyable dive with even more marine life than the first dive. One of the highlights was a monstrous crayfish on one of the many ledges, which if Rob had remembered to take a pool cue on the dive would have ended up on a dinner plate. On approaching the surface we found ourselves entering what seemed to be a cave but turned out to be a massive undercut running for some distance under the sea cliffs.
Our final dive, a night dive, was on a small wreck just a few kilometers from Khasab Harbour known as ‘the Landing Craft’. This was one of three craft used to ferry water and supplies to the remote villages scattered around the peninsula. Sitting upright in about 8m of water this provided a reasonable dive with many small critters such as crabs, baby octopus and a dead juvenile manta ray on the deck (we knew it was dead after Soren had prodded it several times with his dive knife to no effect).
After washing our kit in a superb rinse tank arrangement (something we should consider at 406) back at the hotel, the 3* (choose from opening paragraph) convened the equivalent of a geriatric frat party in room 411, including room service, a variety of exotic bottled decompression fluids and the obligatory stained bed linen – was it the mutton curry or something more sinister? We’ll never know.
After a hearty breakfast the next day we headed into the mountains for a bit of off-roading, sea level to >1700m and back, with some stunning views along the way. All in all a very enjoyable weekend – interesting diving with a professional dive operator, stunning scenery and the customary level of high quality 406 verbal abuse.
Top tips and learning from the weekend:
· Hand signals for effective underwater communication are essential, but do ensure you and your buddies are signing in the same language.
· Dive briefings reminding you to take your dive computer are generally for a reason.
· Although head torches free up hands, don’t wear one on a night dive as it tends to blind your dive buddies and p*** them off when looking at them.
· Take a pool cue on every dive …. just in case.
· Walking 100km in under 30hours is not a valid excuse for making your buddies walk up a hill while you drive up in air conditioned luxury
· Read the ‘how to engage 4wd’ section of the manual before attempting a rough and rutted track.
· Deck shoes are not ideal footwear for hiking in the mountains.
Ian Hussey and Dive Club writers.