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Extra Divers: "Vis is the problem", May, 2017,

by Michael Joest, Kehl, DE (Top Contributor Top Contributor 49 reports with 29 Helpful votes). Report 9613 has 2 Helpful votes.

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Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Oman Saman Explorer

My third trip to the Oman, I already dove around Muscat in both directions, the beach to the left, the Daymaniat Islands, the Norway Fjord like scenery to the right. We always had tub water and mediocre vis. This time I booked the Saman Explorer for her transfer 10 day cruise from Mirbat to Muscat to experience a bit more of the Oman. Online I tried to get the E-visa which turned into a nightmarish Odyssee. The application form went quite well. Then nearly every day I got some request for more information. They wanted to see my ID, then some private picture, photos then were not clear enough, had to send new, and on and on it went. Often they asked for more info however not giving details what exactly they wanted. I got seriously worried and pissed off, asked if I communicate with a computer instead of a human being, to tell me if they don´t want me as a tourist in Oman, would try to get my visa on arrival, will turn to their embassy – which I did in the end. The e-mail exchange e g their info requests reached 28 mails. The link to contact them showed failure, faq´s were still in progress. A disgrace to Oman Tourism! At last after my @ to the embassy, I all of sudden got the so longed for “approved”. To get the visa in advance before entering the country proved to be a good idea, I got much faster through immigration and transfer desk, other folks were sent down again to buy their visa in the arrival hall. Went on Oman Air via Muscat to Salalah, they provide good service, a great selection of movies, prior online check in. Spent 1 night at the Mirbat Marriott Hotel. There is no superlative to rightly praise their service, rooms, pool, restaurants, meals, the whole setting, their attitude. It starts with an airport transfer pick up right on time, room service took only few minutes, friendly and very helpful advice from the staff. The capital M stands for Marriott and for Magic as well which it really is. I would very much love to stay more often at Marriott to get pampered however my budget is not quite up to it.
Saman Explorer is an older lady which toured the Red Sea once, shows signs of wear and tear, rusty patches, water from AC (?) dripping down from the ceiling into the lounge. They said she was overhauled and refurbished in 2015. Dive deck platform is good and spacious with a proper wooden floor – better than some paint job with sand strewn upon. Each diver gets his/her space for the tank and gear box underneath. Rinse tanks and shower are on the lower platform, they asked us not to use too much fresh water, cause they might run out of it when everybody washes the gear and showers after each dive which just isn´t necessary. There are cabins in lower deck and upstairs with two bunks one on each side, private head and shower, plenty of storage space even for hard suitcases, AC good with 3 settings. 20 guests from Germany Switzerland Austria and Britain met on the S E. They offer 3 dives a day, once in a while plus night dive, vis most times around 10 m , few places were better, temperature between 26 up to 33 which was not refreshing any more, thermoclines once reached 22 which shocked. Most dives went from 2 Zodiacs, a bit run down these, no cover on the tubes so a bit slippery, beware! Local staff wouh helpful and friendly make sure you safely get into the dinghy. Few times we jumped straight from the mother boat. We could dive our own profile with buddy, even staying down longer than 1 hour. Nitrox okay on extra charge, they do ask you to analyze but you don´t have to sign for it on a list. Fish life was good, some places a bit low, plenty of honeycomb moray eels, mostly boulders or fingers, corral garden. We had whales blowing far away, dolphins on the surface, one manta on safety stop, two whale sharks, plenty of cuttlefish and passing eagle rays, specials like huge groups of puffer and boxer together, guitar and leopard ray, nudibranchs all around, huge schools of jacks and barracuda. Karim and Timo gave us thorough briefings and were good pointing out exciting things in the water.

Angry Grouper
Second dive of the morning, briefing promised good fish life and rays, we planned to jump from the S E, swim around 50 m to some buoy, then drop down. Dive master jumped in, told us, ups current running, better do negative entry straight down to 15 m, which we did. A big sting ray was sleeping in a sandy valley between plateau boulders on each side. We found our first purple soft coral on this trip but not really open to the current. Around us cruised medium sized groupers, plenty of fusiliers above, spade goat file, bat butterfly fish, sweetlips of every color, some honey comb moray eel looking out of their hiding place not at all shy, sometimes the whole creature swam around. Around the corner some more sting rays in sandy patches even one leopard ray of about 1 m. Then we spotted one huge grouper and as planned during briefing surround him with the whole group and slowly tighten the ring of divers around, which stressed it. He went from one diver to the next giving the chance of great shots, turned around looking for escape which he found in some bigger space between two of us and in a second was gone. Vis was extremely good this day, approximately 15 – 20 m, we stayed with the group of 6 divers, each buddy team cruising around, we spotted a leopard shark in some tunnel, looked around to point it out to others, no more shark when we turned round again. Afterwards we all were happy this definitely was one of the better dives in good vis, which I would give 5 stars to.
Fish Highway
After lunch and a short nap dive 3 followed. The briefing promised fantastic plentiful fish life all around us with the chance to more of these rather tame groupers, sting rays and maybe even some eagle rays. We back rolled from the dinghy, lots of plankton in the water, bad vis and a medium current running against us. The guide took us along some sandy highway in between rock fingers, no fun swimming against the current. All three groups met somehow, got mixed up. My buddy pulled on my fins, only 70 bar left, wanted to turn around and swim with the current, which we did and slowly climbed up on one of the fingers, there wasn´t much to see, so I gave x to abort this dive slowly ascend and do our safety stop. It was a very disappointing adventure this time. Dolphins on the surface improved the overall impression and banana crepes on board topped things a bit later.
Al Quibliyah Rock
Wake up call at 5:30 puuh. Our last day around the Halaniyat Islands started. 3 early dives were planned, then a long haul eastwards closer to shore again. We dropped down and I could not believe my computer showing 33 degrees but you could feel it, hmmmm. This was one of the really good dives in bluish water with great vis where you could actually see the dive boat from the bottom. We cruised around two small island spots with boulders, canyons, in around 20 – 25 meter. Fish life was awesome here huge groups of mixed species, sweetlips snapper fusiliers etcetera were standing above and around the rocks. You couldn´t decide where to take pictures from first. A huge old turtle sleeping under a pinnacle solved the problem she woke up cruised around our group and tried to feed on a Hero on stick held by one of the divers into her face. She was totally covered by algae and other brown stuff on her back plate, amazing such encounter. All together we did 3 dives in this area, currents sometimes mean and tricky, SE was securely tied and anchored in all directions. We had problems fighting our way back to her, some drifted away to be picked up by dinghy. Under SE 2 ropes with weights attached and lines to shore helped a bit on our way back. In one spot we hit thermoclines, computer showed 24 then the water around us shimmered and reached 30 where you would have loved to reach your zipper in the back to allow some water pouring inside your suite for refreshment.
Often it was like this, one beautiful dive where you would get euphoric, followed by some crap dives which weren´t really worth jumping in for. I´d say we had about 75 % “soup dives”, typical for the Oman which really is a pity when there is so much to find.
Two days they offered exploratory dives , some showed nothing but cold water (22 C) dive number 5 however again Oman at it´s best, huge schools of barracuda and jacks in 5 m vis only  no photos possible, 2 electric rays, 1 leopard shark, fusiliers so many sometimes you could not see your buddies. This place we should have done a second time in hopefully better vis but this did not work as we still had a lot of miles to cover on our way to Muscat.
3 dives on an old Cement Wreck showed plenty of fish life, huge groups of puffer and boxer, rays, jacks, fusiliers, 2 guitar rays, cuttlefish, crocodile and scorpion fish, a bit of everything with good vis in the morning, the afternoon got worse. One group went away from the wreck and a whale shark turned up. Pieces of fishing net hang in several places on the wreck, hiding place for fish but deadly trap at the same time.
We got closer to the mainland, anchored in one of the “Norway Fjord” dove along the walls, beautiful yellow and purple soft coral, vis again so so the more you swam inside the bay, seems to be Omans fate. 3 eagle rays sailed past, too fast to take a picture from. Water here 33 outside with dessert wind blowing reached 48 on board.
Munassir Wreck was one of the most interesting dives. She was sunk on purpose for divers on 21. April 2001 was built in the UK delivered to Royal Oman Navy. The wreck stands upright on sandy bottom, propeller in sand at 28 m. We could go from one cargo hold all inside the ship deep down into the engine room with two big diesel, catwalks and gauges still in nice shape. Good fish life all around, plenty of soft coral and nudibranch, again eagle rays.
The crew on the S E is awesome like on most live aboard, friendly, helpful, always right there when you need a hand donning your gear and wetsuit, very often anticipating where help might be looked for whether climbing into the dinghy, taking off your BC, assembling gear, zip you up, you never had to ask. Mealtimes were enjoyable when the waiter already learned of your favorites and special requests. Lunch and dinner good nourishing treats like at home, in between all kinds of snacks or sweets like one of my favorites milk rice. Mustafa in charge of the lounge and meals proved to be the S E factotum, fast friendly and always with a joke on his lips did a great job not only as our waiter but in every place he worked.
Next 10 day trip on the S E back to Mirbat will be in late November this year.
I spent my last 5 nights at Sifawy Boutique Hotel a beautiful place at Jebel Sifah Marina. The dive center was closed due to Ramadan, which my travel agent forgot to tell me. Had to book a car to get to Qantab Divers at Shangrila Hotel, an awesome setting and landscape there. Driving through mountain scenery with goats on the street, mosques, small villages, wadis was impressive. Diving same old story, this time strong winds and choppy seas made it impossible to go to Fahal Island which I would have liked to see. We dove along the coast, mostly into the bays where vis got worse. Qantab Diver run an excellent operation with briefings including everything necessary to mention from diving to boat procedure and reminds me of similar once in US where coast guard issues have to be considered because of liability claims. Wouh you seldom hear such thorough lessons in safety and handling.

Websites Extra Divers   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving worldwide
Closest Airport Salalah Getting There via Muscat

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas calm
Water Temp 22-33°C / 72-91°F Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 5-25 M / 16-82 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks 1 or 2
Turtles > 2 Whales 1 or 2
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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