"I had planned to dive Inchcape 1 and 2 a week ago with my son, with Freestyle based directly opposite Dibba Rock. Unfortunately Oliver couldn’t join me, and after a very delayed start, Kelvin of Freestyle was unable to locate the marker buoy for Inchcape 1. It became apparent that the very high tide had caused it to submerge, and without a GPS we were wasting our time. So on to Inchcape 2, just off Martini Rock. Kelvin had three novice wreck divers under training, so I left them to it, while I explored this new wreck for me with my camera. Identical to Inchcape 1, but only at 22m, reasonable visibility and no current made this a very pleasant dive including an exploration of the rear hold. Several pairs of morays, including the beautiful geometric moray, a couple of nudibranch too small to properly focus, a lively pair of reticulated filefish and a fascinating ball of juvenile lined eel catfish. Plenty of the usual suspects, Dory and Bengal snappers, hind, fusiliers, and Indian mackerel, but star of the first dive had to be the butterfly ray, spotted by Kelvin.
The second dive found me a triple spot shrimp goby peering out of a hole, and a sand lizard fish. I descended a ladder to the forward hold, for a dramatic interior shot, before finding another pair of morays well concealed around the edges of the deck. I finished the dive buddying one of the novices while Kelvin and another diver surfaced. He conveniently found my compass, dropped un-noticed onto the sand when its wristband snapped. Perfect diving conditions for photo opportunities, more than compensation for a poorly organised start.
After the fun of all this, with Freestyle have recently begun speed-boat trips up to Musandam, I circulated members with a proposal to put a few of us together last Friday. Dragging Oliver from his work, we were joined by Derek, Geoff, and 20L Alex. On the boat at Dibba Harbour, Oliver met an old friend from schooldays in Zimbabwe, radio DJ Sarah Kililea, among the eight other divers. Departure was set for 8.30am, but as usual there had to be one diver to hold up departure (ID difficulties at the border). Notwithstanding, it was a friendly lively bunch lining the sides of a new Omani dive boat under Freestyle dive-master Tom, and captain Ahmad as we sped northwards, into increasingly choppy conditions.
Al Hablayn is the largest of the inlets on Musandam’s east coast, and out two dive sites were at its northern and southern extremities, Ras Dillah and Ras Sarkan. The latter has seen some recent whale-shark sightings (unfortunately not for us).
Below the overshadowing cliffs of Ras Dillah, Oliver and I free-descended to some 13m below rough surface conditions to a peaceful sandy bottom abutting the rocks. Unfortunately my mask filled with water, stinging eyes troubling me for the start of the dive. Oliver quickly spotted a sizeable honeycomb moray, and soon I was also shooting a starry moray. He was close to a swimming ray – but I missed it! We experienced some very beautiful underwater soft coral landscapes, through a variety of thermoclines, and a small cave swim-through. I don’t think I have ever seen so many and such large bannerfish. A profusion of red-tooth triggers and a number of parrotfish species added to the dive. After 50 minutes we were on the surface, close to cliffs, and out of sight of the dive-boat – way beyond the others, where we were bounced around uncomfortably for over 15 minutes before pick-up. Then a serious soaking as we crossed turbulent waves to the southern Ras, to find a sheltered cove, to de-gas and enjoy a magnificent lunch (for those who were up to it!).
Buddy and I descended quickly at Ras Sarkan, to get ahead of the pack, but, quickly distracted by an anenomefish and her tiny offspring, we soon found ourselves back in a queue, the inevitable product of a full boat on a wall-dive in a comfortable current. Fins, bottoms and occasional explosions of bubbles always threatening to spoil that perfect shot! Another swim through a narrow cleft in a beautiful coral landscape. Large yellow bar angelfish, and then an impressive but solitary emperor angelfish below a rock overhang – the first I have seen. I watched Oliver almost nose on nose with a devil firefish, before I found a second. A series of really cold-hot thermoclines then marked the dive, with butterflies and Sohar surgeonfish, before we found ourselves in the dark shade below a cliff. A pair of batfish flitted between the groups of divers, and as we moved away from the rocks for our safety stop, watched Derek, Geoff and Alex drifting past with the current.
Back on the boat and de-kitted, suddenly a pod of maybe a dozen bottlenose dolphins, old and young, surfaced beside us. Quickly unpacking, and donning fins and snorkels a few of us were back in the water, hoping for a contact that never came! Immediately afterwards our professional dive master Tom, managed to fall overboard, losing his rash vest in the process. He climbed in over the stern to hearty applause. I assume that Freestyle will extract an appropriate fine! Homewards, the pair of 200HP engines seemed to struggle, but at least it was a comfortable slow ride back to Dibba, entering the port at 5.15pm.
All in all, an excellent day out, seamlessly organised by Freestyle. Mind you they could still learn a lot from BSAC406!!"
Ian Hussey and guest writers.