We spent our second day in Oman at the house, reading and relaxing by the pool in better-than-I-can-tell-you-after-a-long-winter warm weather. As a result, we didn’t have time during the trip to make it out to the Western Hajars, the mountainous area east of Muscat, but a day of rest and relaxation was what we needed. And it was amazing. We even had cupcakes, which are pretty much unheard of in Turkey -- and how I've missed them.
On our third day, we went scuba diving! I had heard/read that the scuba diving in Oman is good, but there’s not a lot of information out there, so I really wasn't sure what to expect. Lonely Planet, for example, says Avyalik, Turkey, is "famed" among the dive community for its red coral and implies that it's great diving, but that's a big ole lie created by one very entreprenurial dive company owner. But I digress...
I had really been hoping to dive the Daymaniyat Islands, a nature preserve and according to National Geographic Traveler, home to the Arabian Peninsula's best diving, but our dive days were limited (you're not supposed to dive 24 hours before or after a flight) and it didn't seem like anyone was going out there during our week in Oman. (Later, one of the dive guides told me that it wasn't really the season for Daymaniyat and they'd start going there in a couple of weeks or so, though the Internet seems to suggest it's a year-round scuba destination.) Instead, we went diving at Banda Khayran, near Muscat, with Omanta scuba, which operates out of the Intercontinental Hotel, though the marina is probably a good 40 minutes, maybe more, to the west, outside the city.
We went to Mermaid Cove and Seahorse Bay, and although the water was a little cold, even with a wetsuit, we saw a number of critters down there. I usually judge a dive destination on number/variety of marine life and while Oman doesn't compare to the Red Sea, for example, or any of the other blockbuster places, it was solidly good diving. We saw a number of moray eels, clown fish, box fish, lion fish, crabs, butterfly fish, a nudibranch, a flounder and even a cuttlefish. We also saw a number of poisonous stone fish, sneakily lying on the sand or the coral -- in the photo below, to the right, there's one on the rock formation. Can you find it?
While on the boat, we also saw a sea turtle swimming near the surface and a shark nursery in a shallow inlet. (You can see them in the photo in the first group, to the right -- it was easier to spot the sharks then since they were swimming, but they're pretty much any of the large dark spots to the right of the big rock jutting out of the water, or from there to the shore. I can pick out five in the photo, though there were probably 10 or more.)
Overall, I thought the dive company was pretty good. The boat was pretty small but there were only six divers, so it wasn't a big deal -- however, the dive boat only had the one main area, where all the gear was, so if there had been another five divers, say, I think it would have felt incredibly crowded and perhaps not relaxing. We also had two dive masters with us -- one was a British guy and he was incredibly friendly and helpful. The other guy was Omani, and he wasn't so nice -- in fact, he kind of treated us like we were imposing on his time. But overall, I was pleased with the trip and would consider diving with Omanta again.