MUSCAT: Oman’s winter season is a great time for those who visit and live in the Sultanate to experience the country’s many marine tourism activities.
Cooler weather, the country’s calm and quiet sea, and its beautiful beaches see Muscat Governorate become a destination for those who want to enjoy swimming, diving, bird and dolphin watching, or for those who like to see the sunrise amidst nature, considered good for camping and recreation.
From Marina Bandar Al Rawdha to the cruise boats, tourists can enjoy beautiful sights of Muscat along the coast, such as the Jalali and Mirani forts and Al Alam Palace. They can then move on to watch dolphins on a trip, which may include swimming, diving or other water sports before docking at Bandar Al Khairan beach to enjoy Arabic dining arrangements and other activities.
These trips vary in time, and occur more during the winter season due to the exceptional weather Muscat enjoys at this time of the year. It is accompanied by a range of services and recreational activities such as rowboats, rubber dinghies, surface swimming, volleyball, football and basketball, which are usually associated with these trips.
As far as diving is concerned, the Sultanate is one of the most famous diving destinations in the region. This is because of its awesome diversity in marine life. It has small islands and bays and caves, which offer varieties of marine life, as well as unique coral reefs. The most important diving areas around Muscat are Al Khairan, Al Fahl Island, Dimaniyat islands, Khaleej Al Maqbarah in Old Muscat and Al Jissah beach. Each of these sites contains at least 11 different diving spots, each of which is diverse in its environment.
Among other marine activities is dolphin watching, just a few kilometres from the Muscat coast. Omani whales and dolphins have about 20 species and the most common dolphin is the Dollar Sandbar, which has a large population of up to several hundreds living in the waters around Muscat. This is why many tours on small boats come to watch these dolphins and their wonderful performances. In view of the huge revenue potential, many companies organise multiple trips to these marine areas.
Said bin Habib Al Rahbi, owner of the Star of Marine Tourism company, said, “The demand for marine tourism in Muscat Governorate was huge, particularly in the winter season. The company has a lot of offers to encourage tourism during this season. The company organises all kinds of marine cruises, which include activities such as dolphin watching, swimming, day-long and overnight trips. This is due to the support given by the authorities concerned of the Sultanate, particularly the Ministry of Tourism.”
Mohammed bin Saeed Al Gardani, Chairman of Al Ainain Marine Tourism Company, added, “The company organises tours to Khiran and Dimaniyat Islands, as well as sunset cruises and dinner on the floating restaurant in Muttrah.”
“Maritime tourism is popular during the winter season among Omani citizens,” he said. “The company is particularly known for its first floating restaurant in the Sultanate, which has a huge turnout. When the season is good, there are efforts to attract all segments of Omani society. But the biggest challenges facing marine tourism are the weather and sea waves, which could sometimes cause the cancellation of a trip for the safety of tourists.”
“Government organisations have played a major role in improving the level of tourism through their support to the companies,” added Al Gardani. “We want to provide innovative offers to introduce marine sports and competitions on the islands. These would include competitions of Omani traditional games and modern marine sports. There are also discounts for students and families, as well as special tours for women.”
Five tips for a pleasant cruise
Compliance with instructions
Adhering to rules and regulations at sea is necessary. Tourists have to listen to advice while relaxing on the beach, whether on a boat or while swimming. It is important to protect your life and the lives of those around you as well.
Do not take risks
You can indulge in new adventure activities, but you have to avoid taking risks by taking along professionals when you’re diving or swimming. You can also learn some water sports at specialised training centres.
Check equipment before use
When using water bikes, boats and water skis you must ensure their safety before use to avoid any problems.
Check the daily weather
It is necessary to know the daily weather conditions, and through this knowledge you can decide if different water sports are possible.
Protection from the sun’s rays
Do not overexpose yourself to the sun. You must use appropriate medical materials to protect your skin from the harmful sunrays.
The five top diving sites in Muscat
Al Fahal Island
It is located four kilometres off the coast of Muscat. It takes about 20 minutes by boat and offers an excellent diving experience in the bays and caves around its shores. When you dive, you will see a large variety of hard and soft reef species, as well as thousands of large and small fish.
It is a diving area consisting of bays hidden by trees. It takes about half an hour to arrive by boat, where dolphins swim near the shore. There are always large swarms of tropical fish swimming in the area and there are various types of coral reefs.
These islands are also known as the “Jewels of the Crown”. They are located northwest of Muscat, about 18 kilometres off the coast of Batinah. They are spread on an area of 240km. There are several varieties of coral reefs with their dazzling colour scheme.
It is ideal for night diving. Just a few hundred metres from the beach near the yacht club, in the area between Al Bustan and Sidab. It is also an excellent spot for snorkelling without equipment. Although the water around the island is not deep, divers will be able to see a large variety of fish, especially at sunset, and will also see coral reefs and marine organisms, which come out only at night.
Ras Abu Dawood
A small group of islands located about an hour away by boat from Muscat. It is suitable for experienced divers, as well as beginners, because the reefs appear from a depth of three metres, and continue to be at a depth of 40 metres.