The diving got wiped out by the weather again this week. A shamal brought in 7 – 11 foot waves off-shore. Dive Marshall Simon’s only duty was to send an SMS giving the bad news.
As it happened, at least one of our number managed to get a dive in. Let PJ tell the story:
“Jutta and I were invited by the Environment & Protected Areas agency to join a group of officials and volunteers to visit Sharjah's island of Sir Bu Nair for the weekend. As the island has no civilian facilities, this was an opportunity not to be missed. My diving gear went ahead by Police boat, while we all flew from Sharjah airport in an Air Force Casa military transport on Thursday afternoon. The island is approximately 4km in diameter with an area of 1,500ha. It houses a military base, police station (where we were most hospitably hosted) and a military airstrip. Next to the small fishing harbour is a small 10 year old prefabricated 2-bedroom chalet, home to EMEG - the Emirates Marine Environment Group, led by Major Ali Saqr Al Suweidi, who joined us for the weekend. The exceptionally stark moonscape interior is a salt dome, rising to 81m, very rich in igneous rocks and minerals, and extensive surface and tunnel mining has taken place over the years, in particular haematite (iron ore).
I made one shallow beach dive, accompanied by Laurence Vanneyre of EMEG, snorkeling above me, as I explored the outer side of the marine jetty rich with table corals, sponges and fish. three large black-spotted rubber-lips provided testament to the healthy state of the coral. Apparently the reefs to the north and west of the island are spectacular. The beautiful rocky and beach perimeter provide the largest turtle nesting area in the Arabian Gulf. We saw many gazelle, a colony of hooded gulls preparing their nests for the breeding season, as well as a Hawksbill turtle laying her eggs. From the beach we also saw a turtle apparently reconnoitering the beach, and a couple of black-tip sharks in the surf - one bay is famous for breeding, where up a 100 might be seen when the water is clear.
Very well worth the trip, we learnt a lot about turtle conservation and tracking by EMEG and WWF. We even brought back a 4 year old barnacle encrusted Hawksbill on the return flight for rehabilitation at EMEG's centre at Ghantoot. If BSAC members are interested to spend a weekend camping and diving, permissions can be obtained, through Major Ali, or the Police. It is 120km i.e. a two and a half hour boat trip from Al Khan. (or 70km from the nearest slip just south of Taweelah) Worth considering - last year the Club went over for the day and had very good sightings of manta rays. I am now just awaiting the return of my new tanks, courtesy of Sharjah Police, as these cannot be transported by air!”
A few of us without access to military aircraft decided to take the opportunity to give the sand dunes a bit of a bash. Leading the party was a very familiar face in his blue Wrangler with the unfeasibly wide tyres – none other than Uwe Oldenburg, back in the UAE after an absence of several months. We toured round Fossil Rock, Shadow Rock and Dhaid dunes before emerging at Maleha to blow the tyres back up. Uwe marked his return by parking his car backwards against a rock in a bowl pointing uphill in soft sand. He was pulled out eventually but not before the whole episode had been witnessed by a large party of tourists who just stopped at this exact bit of desert at exactly the same time. The audience wouldn’t have looked out of place at Madison Square Garden. Welcome back Uwe!