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In Oman, there is a set of islands not far off Barka called the Damanyites. They were hard to get to when we lived there because the islands were protected as a nature preserve by the Omani coast guard. Only people who owned boats could go there, and they were forbidden to beach, but one time, Bobbi and I and Dusty got a fisherman to take us out from Barka (c.1994). We took scuba tanks of course and did some excellent diving. While looking for a place for our second dive, a whale shark came up right underneath our boat. Dusty and I jumped in the water with snorkels and watched him swim away. At the same time moment, we saw a couple of reef sharks below, so we decided that that spot would do for our second dive. Bobbi and I got back in the water with our gear on at about the time the whale shark decided to cruise back for another pass, so we got to see him from a diving perspective as well, but the reef sharks had buggered off, as they tend to do in Oman when divers enter the water.
You can sit on the rocks in some places in Oman and watch the sharks move just out of sight of the divers in the water. We used to see a lot of sharks snorkeling, but rarely ever diving, though Bobbi and I saw one cruise by off the wall that extends into the sea out from Tiwi's sandy beach. The shark was taken aback by our presence and moved quickly to exit the area. That "sea wall" was a good place to observe underwater wildlife in Oman. I saw a manta ray there once in deeper water off the point, along with the usual rays and moray eels.
Now, in 1998, there is a beach resort on Sawadi Beach just north of Barka and only half an hour by boat from the Damanyites. The diving from this resort is superb. Here is an excerpt from my e-logbook, April 10, 1998
Damanyites, Oman, Dives 23/24 for the year
dive entity: Blu Zone
buddies: Afrikaans dive pro joined me first, and I dived with Jim 2nd dive
depth/time: 22 meters first dive, 45 min; down to 4/5 meters the second, 50 min
vis: quite good, Edmund said 15 meters yesterday, about same and less in planktony spots today.
place: Fab Rock/Island (exposed rock), for the first dive, second at the southernmost Damanyite, from n. tip to next island over, the one off which Bobbi and I saw a few sharks (snorkeling) and a whale shark, on the other side of the same island a couple years back
Our first dive was absolutely superb, best in years, and best available this side of Borneo and south of Hormuz. Here's the synopsis: we angle down to 20 m. over a picturesque reef leading to a wall at the base of which is a sandy patch. We swim along this with maximum vis for the day, spotting a barracuda or 3 oceanside, some other big commercial fish, and a honeycomb moray where the wall meets the sand, which we go over to investigate.
Then along comes a leopard shark swimming happily just off the wall in open water. He comes quite near and I swim up towards him, but my buddy makes biting motions, so I back off and the leopard shark swims zigzaggedly on his way. Meanwhile, the now all but ignored honeycomb moray is swimming full undulant length along the wall, thinking we won't notice with all the distraction.
Continuing a little further we encounter a school of maybe 100 barracuda. I see them behind my buddy and point, but I notice she's pointing behind me. She looks back and sees the barracuda swimming right behind her; I look back at where she was pointing and see that the other side of the circle is behind me and we're in the center, in the middle of a swirl of them, some really big ones. When we swim toward them, the circle parts, and we skim over the top of the reef, ascending slightly from 20 m., and there are a few of the big barracuda there hanging out, cleaning each other, but otherwise motionless in the slight current. They eye us as we eye them. One of them points straight at me. This is odd; usually you see them broadside. Also it's odd to see them sit in one place where you can get right up to them.
Eventually we turn to clear the reef and come into sand the other side and spot another leopard shark resting. This time my buddy seems not so concerned about biting, and we head over. She wants me to lead, either because she's not used to them, or more likely she wants to see what I'll do first. So I position myself parallel to the docile shark and skooch in close till I'm lying right next to him. He doesn't budge so I take a breath and float over him and exhale so I come down on the other side. The shark stays put, eyes impassively glazed over, and I notice that my dive buddy is reaching behind me and stroking it. As she runs her fingers down the side of the animal, he decides he's had enough intrusion and he languidly moves off in such a way that allows my own hand to follow on down its tail. He moves off into the gloam but circles and returns to settle in the sand not far from where we're still watching.
The lady and I look at each other through our masks, and with eyes and gestures signal, yeah, let's go play some more. So we fin over to where Mr. Shark is lying puppy-like and we each settle on either side of him. He tolerates us a little more before he decides this is beyond the pale, and shoves off for good.
We're running low on air (at least I am, my partner ended the dive with 100 bar) and we move on up the reef. A turtle fins by, a few more cuttlefish, some grey morays in the shallow rocks, and we surface through a spiraling school of a couple hundred fish who glitter in the sunlight like silver foil and who, all in sync, extend their jaws wide to feed, and at some signal, all close them at once. Back on the boat, as my partner is describing the wonders of the dive we've just had, I complain to Edmund that he promised us rays but we didn't see any.
On our surface interval anchored off Sandy beach, one of the divers calls our attention to scads of black nudibranchs on the bottom, with blue irridescent circles. Dusty can't get down to them so I bring one up on a swim fin. Someone else has found a turtle to swim around with.
The Second dive would almost be a throwaway, set out over masses of coral at snorkel depth (Dusty is even finning overhead; he says he saw 3 sharks on his snorkel-dive). The coral is extensive. Not much within it of great interest, but barracuda cruise over the top. At one point, a turtle darts through a coral alley like he's being chased by something, so we head toward the sand at the edge of the reef and run right onto another leopard shark resting there. We are three in our group, and another pair are approaching. As they all draw up, I position myself parallel and just behind the shark and start inching near. But one of the divers kicks up some sand and the shark darts off, making a threatening turning motion toward the diver who broke etiquette before heading off into the edge of our vis. I watch him circling out there. If it were just me, I'd wait a while, but my group are finning off, so I have to follow.
And there's not much more on this dive except maybe another turtle, lots of cuttlefish, scads of reef fish, the pick of Oman's extensive fisheries whose isolation is no longer protected in these once protected islands. See it while you can! By Abu Dhabi standards, this dive is a 10, by Damanyite standards, about a 5. The first dive was easily an 11 or 12 though, on the Damanyite scale of ten.
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A little cleanup September 28, 2001 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0