Times of Oman
Aug 30, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 12:30 AM GMT
Oman diving: Underwater frills and thrills
August 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photo - Hi

My nervous mind repeatedly reminded me about the perils of going down under the water while getting ready for a Scuba Diving trip last week. "Remember, it's not child's play.

Pressure variations may harm your nose and ear and it's difficult to hold your breath for a long time under the sea…" a warning was sounded, and my heart sank further! But the other half of my mind encouraged me to go for it in the sapphire green water at the picturesque Bandar Al Khairan diving site.

"Don't waste an opportunity to explore the ocean's treasure trove," I heard whispers all around me. And suddenly, I began getting transformed into an adventure freak, ready to take on challenges, ready to explore my own potential. The only solace was the fact that I would be among professionals who'd guide and watch over me as I took a dip.

To dive or not to dive? Caught between two contrasting views, I couldn't make up my mind for a while. But Hheike Trohorsch  pumped in the much-needed air of courage into my nerves.

"Don't be afraid. You will definitely enjoy the dive," the experienced diving instructor advised me, before urging me to put on my gear.

A few minutes later, I found myself metamorphosing into an aquatic being. Slipping into a shoulder-to-toe wetsuit was indeed an onerous task; strapping eight kilograms of weight around the waist was like preparing for a weightlifting competition; putting on the inflatable/deflatable jacket over the suit was very easy; carrying the 16 kilograms of Scuba Tank didn't give me back pain; pulling my legs into the fins was quite funny…Hey, I did take the plunge!

When the moment finally arrived, I was an all new being. It had been a long cherished dream of swimming along shoals of fancy fish, marveling at glistening corals at arm's length and observing numerous marine species up, close and front. And the very thought of realising my dreams was itself the adrenaline that got me ready for this underwater adventure.

The boat that took me and other divers from Extra Divers Worldwide Sifah (the location of the new dive centre in Jebel Sifah Marina Town) was docked near the Bandar Al Khairan shore.

As I began to climb down the ladder into the sea, I heard Heike's reminder.

"Don't forget to take your mask." The mask, made of tempered glass plate, covers the eyes and nose, and is an important equipment which helps the diver see the under water clearly, I realised later.

Heike put me through my paces soon. The first task was to put my head down and breath in and out 10 times. "It is to acclimatise yourself with this condition," she said. The next task was a little difficult. "You have to float on the water surface with your head down," she instructed, and I made it after a couple of attempts.

"Deflate the jacket now," Heike instructed. I slowly began to go down. Quite naturally, I flicked the fin, and I began to move horizontally. A new world, which I saw only on adventure television shows, opened up before me. There were magnificent corals, colourful fish of various species and rocks of different sizes and textures…I couldn't believe my eyes.

Forty minutes elapsed quickly and Heike asked me to climb up the boat. Though I was initiated into the World of Scuba Diving hardly an hour ago, I felt as if I had been doing it for a long time.

"I told you in the very beginning that you would enjoy diving once you take a dip," Heike reminded me about her first comment.

I am sure that everyone in our team (a group of seven journalists from Muscat) will be yearning for another Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) Diving opportunity to explore the rich, yet hidden underwater treasure trove.

Heike, a seasoned diver, thinks that there area lot of reasons why people get addicted to diving.

"Scuba Diving is an out-of-the-world experience. It helps people explore the ocean's best-kept secrets. I had done it in many locations in Europe and the Middle East. I came to Oman just a year ago. But the Gulf of Oman gave me a huge surprise on my first day in the sea as I got a chance to swim with a huge whale shark. This is a great place for divers," she said.

How to begin?

Being a country with plenty of diving spots and rich marine wealth, Oman is known as a divers' paradise. It is easy for the residents to indulge in the activities on weekends with friends and family members.  Bandar Al Khairan is the much sought after location as it boasts of having excellent sites like Mermaid Cove, Quriyat Wreck, Ras Abu Daoud, S.N.V. Al Munnassir and Shaik Saif. Daymaniyat Islands, Fahl Island, too, are the other famous diving destinations.

The launch of Extra Divers Worldwide, which operates reputed dive centres around the globe, at Jebel Sifah Marina Town is indeed a piece of good news for diving enthusiasts. Tourists have begun to flock the centre just weeks after its soft opening.

"Extra Divers Worldwide is happy to open a dive centre at Muriya Tourism's Jebel Sifah Marina Town. We are here to show you the underwater wonders. Even those who do not know how to swim can master diving by enrolling in our programmes. All you need is the passion for diving," says Yaqoob Al Wahaibi, General Manager, Extra Divers Worldwide, Oman.

Yaqoob Al Wahaibi

General Manager, Extra Divers Worldwide, Oman
We offer the best facilities for international and domestic tourists who wish to explore the natural beauty of Oman. The presence of many beautiful diving spots make the Sultanate a perfect diving destination. We offer special rates for residents to enjoy Scuba Diving and Snorkeling.

The centre offers beginner courses for wannabe divers who are eight years and above. The Bubblemaker course (between 8 and 10 years) will be conducted either in the beach or pool for half-an-hour. Other courses include Discover Scuba, Scuba Diver (for two days) and Open Water Diver (for 4 days). "The scientifically structured courses will help you become a good diver. "We offer special rates for the residents in Oman, and I feel they should avail the opportunity. Diving is a fun activity where every one can spend the weekends and evenings in a fruitful way," says Yaqoob.

According to Bahaa Hefzallah, Marketing Director at Muriya, the new dive centre offers residents, guests and visitors a host of exciting underwater adventures for both the novice and experienced, promoting Jebel Sifah as the up and coming water sports destination.

Bahaa Hefzallah
Marketing Director, Muriya
Bringing experienced dive centres such as Extra Divers to Jebel Sifah provides a new dimension to the destination, which will contribute to the growing dive tourism sector and enhance Oman's reputation as one of the most popular diving destinations in the region. In addition, this step places great emphasis on responsible tourism and environmental conservation.

"Through introducing new facilities that combine the natural beauty of the coastline with an ever-expanding variety of attractions, Jebel Sifah will become a fully integrated town where visitors and guests can live and breathe Muriya's 'life as it should be' philosophy," he says.

Oman's top diving sites

Bandar Al Khyran
Located 40 minutes by boat from Jebel Sifah Marina Town, Bandar Al Khyran has plenty of bays and coves. Divers are spoilt for choice as they can watch plenty of coral reefs in the area. It also offers one of the best wreck dives in Oman. 'Al Munasseir is a 90-metre warship, artificially sunk some years ago. Prepared for diving, all doors are out and it is safe to penetrate. There are always loads of tropical fish in and around the wreck, as well as giant moray eels.

Fahal Island

It is just 30 minutes away from Jebel Sifah Marina Town by boat. Nicknamed as Shark Island, it offers excellent diving in the bays and caves. It has a large variety of hard and soft coral species as well as thousands of fish, both big and small, including whale sharks and giant rays. There is a stunning cave that you can swim through, a wreck about 30 m under the sea and a 40 m-deep reefs.

Daymaniyat Islands

It is a marine nature reserve, thanks to the nine uninhabited islands. One has to take permit to dive here. The reefs start at a depth of 5 metres and go down to 30 metres, and feature unbelievable coral species. There are always a myriad of colorful tropical fish swimming through the coral reefs, and you also see turtles and rays.

To get in touch with the reporter — ameerudheen@hioman.com

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