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Having only been opened to tourists in recent years, the waters around Oman are virtually untouched and offer spectacular scenery and pristine dive sites. With a variety of dive types on offer and abundant marine life, it is a great destination for both beginner and advanced divers.
What are the best Oman dive sites?
The best diving can be found at the remote islands and peninsulas of Musandam, the Daymaniyat Islands and Hallaniyat Islands.
The Daymaniyat Islands, a tiny archipelago of rocky islands north of Muscat, was the first marine reserve in Oman and is high on many divers wish lists. The islands are surrounded by coral reefs and are an important sea turtle nesting site. Deep ocean upwellings at the islands attract large shoals of fish, leopard and whale sharks, and divers can spot various types of reef shark as well. The Daymaniyat Islands coral reefs are so spectacular the Omani government even closes this marine park from May to October each year to protect them.
The Musandam Peninsula, Oman’s northernmost region, has nutrient rich waters and abundant marine life. There are coral reefs to explore, home to sea turtles and rays, and whale sharks passing by in shallower waters. The Caves and Lima Rock are two popular dive sites with underwater chambers, tunnels and coral-encrusted walls.
The Hallaniyat Islands are relatively undiscovered, with untouched dive sites, and lie south of Muscat. These remote and barren islands are home to small fishing communities and can only be accessed by Oman liveaboard diving. The highlights of the area are undoubtedly being in the water with humpback whales, manta rays and sperm whales. The marine life of these islands is diverse and divers can enjoy huge pods of dolphins and schools of fish. Being remote and adventurous, the diving here is more suited to experienced divers.
Divers visiting in summer can enjoy a unique phenomenon at the dive sites around Salalah; diving within kelp forests and on coral reefs at the same time. The kelp forests appear in summer only, due to cool upwellings during the monsoon, and die back by October each year.
Wreck divers should consider visiting one of Oman’s best wrecks, the Al Munnassir. This 3000-tonne vessel is 84 meters long and was sunk by the Omani government as an artificial reef. A former troop carrier and tank transporter, she now lies upright at 30 meters depth and is home to goatfish, turtles and rays.
When is the best time to dive Oman?
The best time to dive Oman depends entirely on personal preference, though October to May is a great time of year for calmer seas. Those looking for big marine life encounters should visit in winter for the whale shark season, whereas May and June are ideal for spotting Hawksbill turtles nesting on island beaches.
The Oman Aggressor yacht offers 7 and 10-night itineraries to the Daymaniyat Islands, Musandam Peninsula and Hallaniyat Islands in Oman all year.
How do divers get to and from Oman?
Most flights will arrive and depart from Muscat. Oman liveaboards going to the Daymaniyat Islands depart from Muscat marinas, whereas safaris to the Hallaniyat Islands depart from Salalah Beach marina. Salalah has its own international airport, though transfers through Muscat may be required. Though diving is fairly new in the country, though there are a few dive shops in the big cities. Arabic is the local language and the warm desert climate is present all year.
This article first appeared in The Jakarta Post.