Explore Oman - a DIVE Quick Guide
The rugged and unspoilt 3,000km coastline of Oman has some great diving to offer. There is a lot to explore from the steep cliffed 'fjords' of the Musandam Peninsula in the north to the bizarre kelp and coral dives in the rarely visited south. Healthy reefs adapted to the, at times, very warm waters and plenty of big pelagics, cruising up from the Indian Ocean through the Sea of Oman on to the Persian Gulf, make for lots of interesting marine life encounters.
The Musandam Peninsula
This peninsula in Oman’s northernmost region is known for great scuba diving, thanks to the nutrient-rich waters that attract abundant marine life to the area. The main attraction is the visiting whale sharks, that feed in the shallow, plankton-rich, shallow waters. Other dive highlights include the colourful coral reefs, sea turtles, and rays. The Caves and Lima Rock are two popular dive sites with underwater chambers, tunnels and coral-encrusted walls to explore. The sandy bottom of The Caves site is a good place to look for resting sharks and rays, whilst Lima Rock has schools of jack and tuna.
The Daymaniyat Islands
This tiny archipelago of rocky islands, north of Muscat, was the first marine reserve created in Oman. These nine islands are surrounded by coral reefs and are an important sea turtle nesting area. Deep ocean upwellings at the islands attract large schools of fish, zebra sharks, whale sharks, and reef sharks. Divers should be aware the Daymaniyat Islands’ coral reefs are closed by the Omani government each year from May to October to protect them.
The Hallaniyat Islands
These barren and isolated islands are relatively undiscovered and lie south of Muscat. They are home to small fishing communities and can only be accessed by Oman liveaboard diving. The waters off the islands host diverse marine life including manta rays, pods of dolphins, humpback and sperm whales.
There are also several wrecks to explore. The diving here is more suited to experienced divers and is a remote destination.
Salalah, in southern Oman, is harder to reach than other dive areas in Oman and the dive sites are mostly accessed by four-wheel drive vehicles. There are, however, some boat trips available to the area. Divers visiting in summer can enjoy a unique phenomenon at Mirbat, Salalah – diving within seasonal kelp forests. Kelp forests appear at the coral reef in summer only, due to cool upwellings during the monsoon, and die back by October each year.
Wreck fans can consider visiting one of Oman’s best wrecks, the Al Munnassir. This 3,000-tonne vessel is 84m-long and was sunk by the Omani government as an artificial reef. A former troop carrier and tank transporter, she now lies upright at 30m and is home to goatfish, turtles and rays.
When To Visit Oman
Diving is possible all year in Oman and the best time to dive depends on personal preference. The water temperature in winter is around 24 degrees Celsius, whereas in summer it reaches 28 to 30 degrees Celsius. The air temperature in the summer months hovers around 32 degrees Celsius and the winter months are cooler, with air temperatures of 20 to 23 degrees Celsius.
The water visibility in Oman can drop during the winter months but all that plankton attracts the whale sharks at that time. May and June are when green and hawksbill sea turtles nest on island beaches.
Need to know
There are some dive shops in the major cities to obtain diving or snorkelling gear, but divers should be aware the islands do not generally have dive facilities to purchase spare gear.
Most diving liveaboards in Oman are all-inclusive, and are considered relatively luxurious. The Aggressor Fleet added Oman as a destination in 2017. One of the best ways to minimise the cost of a liveaboard safari is to visit earlier in the year, which is out of the high season.
The local language is Arabic, though English is widely spoken. The currency is the Omani Rial and not all ATM machines will accept cards from foreign countries.
How To Get There
The majority of flights arrive and depart from Muscat International Airport and visas are issued to most nationalities upon arrival. Liveaboard safaris depart from different marinas as follows:
- Daymaniyat Island safaris depart from Muscat marina
- Hallaniyat Island safaris depart from Salalah Beach marina
- Musandam Peninsula liveaboard safari departs from Khasab Port
The easiest way to access Salalah or Khasab Port is by an internal flight from Muscat.
This article was written by divers and writers at Liveaboard.com