Muscat: Oman has been ranked as one of the top six destinations for diving enthusiasts during the winter months, by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
The Sultanate has been placed alongside Spain’s Canary Islands, Malta, Mozambique, Jordan and Cape Verde, all figuring in a list of locations holidaymakers can head to in search of sun, sand and – most importantly – surf.
“With its vast deserts and a rich history, the Sultanate of Oman is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination,” wrote Dave Protheroe of the PADI.
“Oman’s coastline is relatively untouched and one can have a great diving experience near the capital city of Muscat.
“You can also head to Oman’s northernmost region of Musandam, which juts into the Strait of Hormuz,” he added.
“This rugged, remote land has nutrient rich waters that support a massive amount of diversity and an abundance of marine life.
“The best diving here is from October through May when the seas calm down and the water warms up. Perhaps it’s time to take a scuba diving holiday in Oman before the secret gets out.”
The view was unequivocally shared by diving centres across the nation.
“The Gulf of Oman has become an increasingly important diving destination,” said NurhayatiMohamad, Marketing and Communications Manager at Six Senses Zighy Bay.
“The Musandam Peninsula is blessed with an incredible underwater world, marked by beautiful hard and soft coral reefs that attract a wide variety of marine life eager to feed on the plankton-rich waters.
“You can expect to see a myriad number of underwater species, ranging from angelfish to rays, turtles and even whale sharks, if you are lucky!” she added.
“Diving in Oman has been developing for the last 10 years. Earlier, there were not many facilities here for divers,” said Barbara Alessi of Extra Divers Worldwide. “It is good for those who are visiting Oman for diving because there are not so many boats and fellow divers out there.
“There’s a lot of fish under the water and there are also hard and soft corals in the seas which surround Oman,” added Karin Straub, Managing Director of Euro Divers. “You can find sharks around Fahal Island, while around the Dimaniyat Islands, you can find schools of fish. Besides, there’s plenty of marine life in the south as well.”
However, diving operators in Oman are concerned that the high cost of diving facilities in Oman might prove detrimental to tourists in future. “Oman is improving a lot, but the problem at the moment is that there are not too many flight choices and it’s pretty expensive for tourists,” said Alessi. “If the airlines increase the number of flights or drop their prices, it would be great for Oman.”
“In the last one and a half years, there has been a drop in the number of tourists coming for diving, because everything is becoming expensive and as an independent operator, we are forced to raise prices. At the moment, Oman is as expensive as a super luxury resort as the Maldives,” explained Straub. “If they don’t change something soon here, I am afraid Oman will not have any divers coming here in the future.”