Oman is rated as one of the big 'undiscovered' diving destinations, if thats not a contradiction. Its not the best in the world, but its not too far off either. Given the minute number of tourists here, the dive sites are undamaged and pretty much undisturbed.
I've almost finished my PADI open water diver course. I've been taking it at the Oman Dive Centre which is about 40 minutes drive away through some of the dramatic scenery pictured (right). (Aside - Apparantly there's been lots of directors wanting to film in Oman given the ready-made star wars type landscape, but they've either not been given permission or they gave up because of the beaurocracy (how do you spell that?). I'm not sure which story is true, but both are entirely plausible.)
Anyway, turn left towards Qantab, left at the sign, pass some ancient ruins of old look-out posts, past a beautiful beach, up and down a hill and into the dive centre.
The first two sessions of the course are theory followed by dives in the pool to practise skills. Then the third session you get to wear a wet suit (right) and go out to sea :-D
Be warned of dodgy equipment though... In my first two pool sessions, I went through about 3 regulators (the valve things you breathe through) before I got one which didn't leak. Don't worry Mum, its not life endangering :-)
I've been doing the course with a guy called Saj from Surbiton who's working for the Police on their new all-knowing civil-liberties-infringing ID card system. Good person to know, lots of funny stories every week. Anyway, The last photo is of Saj and our dutch instructor Stephanie ("breathe through the schnorkel").
On our first dive, we saw 6 turtles a-sleeping, 2 Moray Eels a-hiding and a stone fish in a pear tree. Or rather hiding in the sand. And loads of other funky fish in all sorts of sizes, shapes and colours. Very beautiful. You have to learn to dive.
I only destroyed a few thousand years of coral growth due to lack of buoyancy control. It won't happen again, I promise.
Another equipment malfunction was while I was practising towing another diver at the surface. I was towing away merrily with my head underwater when all of a sudden my breathing apparatus started feeding me pure sea water. Nice. Fortunately I was at the surface and could just breathe normally by raising my head, but it turned out that the gum-shield thing came off the air supply, leaving me with the air supply danging somehwere below me. Good job it happened at the surface! Don't worry again Mum, there's a spare air source on every thingy, so if it happened under water, I would just switch to the other.
Saj and I were also disappointed to find out that the PADO Underwater Dive Hunter course has been withdrawn due to ecological reasons. We were hoping to become master spear fishers and harpooners, but sadly we will have to find a more mercenary cash-poor country which has no regard for its natural environment.
If you want some underwater photos of what's here, you can either order me the underwater case for the Canon S230 from amazon.com, or send my 10 Omani Rials for me to rent an underwater camera from the dive centre. Otherwise you'll just have to come out here and come diving with me.