The Dimaniyat Islands are one of the key dive locations in Oman, so to spend two days diving there, plus a night camping, was something not to be missed. Euro Divers had organised the trip to coincide with Eid al Adha – the Islamic holiday celebrating the sacrifice. The Omanis celebrated with most of the week on public holiday, but our two days off made just enough time for the diving trip!
The boat headed out with 8 divers on board (well, 6 of us we diving, the rest snorkelling). Turned out the three girls that joined us were marine biologists and dive masters, so made for good corroboration on what we'd seen during the dives. The first dive site was at The Aquarium, about an hour and a half by boat from the dive centre – I quickly figured out why it was called the Aquarium. The reefs were teeming with bright blue triggerfish hiding in cavities on the reef, and every so often darting out in front of us. From the moment we entered the waters, to when we did our 3-minute safety stop at the end of the dive, there was such a variety of fish surrounding us that I couldn't remember a single one after the trigger fish. Such a beautiful spot to dive, with so many species of fish – too many to count!
Our second dive introduced flounders hiding in the sand below the reef, whilst a shoal of yellow fin tuna shot across the reef above us, casting shadows below. It was also my first time watching a Harlequin Snake Eel wind it's way through the pebbles and sand on the sea bottom – I stayed clear of him, but close enough to see he was wary of me!
I took a little snorkel by one of the islands instead of getting involved in the third dive – figured I may have too much nitrogen in my system if I were to make the night dive at the Garden of Eden that evening, which was to be a deep dive, rather than at 5m. Glad I skipped the 3rd dive, as on the night dive we saw huge white-spotted puffer fish hiding under reef ledges (probably not appreciating our torches shining across them briefly). Also clocked a large stingray sleeping under a reef, a couple of bright white nudibraches (sea slugs; prettier than you'd think!), some cow fish and what I think was a Coral Banded Shrimp, striped in orange, purple and white – really delicate. Still had a slight fear of diving in the dark though, given that anything could be 5m away beyond the power of my torch!
The camping that evening was amazing; drifted up to the beach of a small rocky island, found a spot to roll out my rug and throw down my sleeping bag (using the sand to form my pillow under the rug), and cracked open a few beers from the cool bag with everyone gathered around some music. Watched the stars creep by, whilst the guides cooked fresh fish and kebabs on the BBQ. Surprisingly, slept pretty well that night until sunrise at 6am!
The two dives the next day rounded up the trip nicely. The first covered the same dive site we did on the previous night (Garden of Eden), so got a feeling for it in daylight! It kind of felt like the best was saved for last though – on the final dive, back at The Aquarium, all the marine life came out! At first we saw a leopard shark bathing on the sea bed, until our instructor tried getting closer and it shifted off into the distance. They're bloody big, you know! We were close enough that you could see the sucker fish feeding off the sharks skin. Just around the corner was a large green turtle flying off into the distance, but we were distracted by a second leopard shark circling our area, before heading off in the direction of the first shark. Something tells me they were planning something. Then, just to top things off, we saw two or three cow tail stingrays, which were about 2m long taking off from the sea bed and drifting elegantly into the abyss. Almost a manta ray, almost, but these were impressive enough and rounded off a well and truly superb diving trip!
(You can probably tell I didn't have a flashy camera with me for the diving; I don't think my SLR would stand getting a drop of water on it (big wuss), so these photos are courtesy of WikiCommons)