Dubai Diving

Anchor Barge

Depth: 23m

Difficality: Advanced

A site well worth exploring and a good place to watch the cuttlefish swim by.

Sunk by the White Sea Shipping Company in 1998 to form an artificia l reef, the anchor barge is a large upsidedown wreck. She rests on her forward machinery cabin in 23m of water, and the roomy open area between her deck and the seabed means that there's plenty of hiding space for sea creatures. The cabin contains anchor winches and the cargo and bal last transfer pumps, with her bulk being supported by the cabin and deck equipment The wreck lies on a ridge of rock a metre high. Not all operators dive this wreck, due to its distance.

Marine life

Scallops, oysters and small clumps of black sea squirts have taken hold of the wreck, along with hydrocorals. On the surrounding sand and rocky bottom, flatworms (black with a colourful orange edging) abound in February and March. You also have a good chance of seeing cuttlefish on this site. These amazing creatures have a neon-like line that runs around their mantle, and they can alter their colour and shape to blend in with their surroundings.

Barracuda Barge

Depth: 18m

Difficality: Advanced

This old barge is now home to plenty of barracuda, particularly in the cooler months.

Although th e circumstances of lossaren't fully known, the fact that the vessel's engine and steering gear have been removed would suggest that a loca l fisherman sunk this barge to form an artificial reef. In the winter of 1997, a fisherman told Blue Planet Diving about the wreck and its location.

The barge sits upright in 18m with her bow facing 340°. The seabed is flat and feature less and there are a few bits of wreckage scattered about Unusually, for a barge, the wheelhouse and engine room are double-s toreyed.

Several windows and doors give divers easy access to the interior, but when you enter th e small rooms be careful not to stir up th e silt, which dramatically reduces the visibility. The top of the wheelhouse is at 1Om and covered in algae and shells. You'll find small shoa ls of surprisingly tame fish congregating around it. The small wreck is easily circumnavigated several times in a dive. Take your time inspecting the outside hull and look for small gobies with shrimp in their sandy homes on the seabed. Then explore the UAE Diving hold before you go in and out of the wheelhouse. Check out the unusual anchor still sitting on the bow.

Marine life

During the winter months this wreck is surrounded by shoals of barracuda, although during the summer months they move to cooler, deeper water. Barracuda Barge is also home to the usual yellow snappers. These fish literally engulf the wreck, swimming above, around and within it and squeezing into every available nook and cranny, no matter how small. The cowries you'll see here are a similar ru sty-brown colour to the ones found on MV Dar a, which is a result of them absorbing the iron oxide from the rustin barge. The wreck is covered in orange, red, brown and black sponges, and lots of ba rnacles with their fea thery arms that feed on small algae and other morsels. Several types of nudibranchs inhabit th is wreck, their gills pulsing as they breathe (look to see if you can lind their eggs in circular patterns close by). You'll also notice a white, fern-like plant; take car as these are stinging hyd roids and may give you a nasty sting or rash.

Energy Determination

Depth: 80m+

Difficality: Advanced

This wreck has an interesting story behind it and plenty of scope for exploration.

The Energy Determination sa iled with ballast from Bonaire, Netherl nds Antilles on 5 November, 1979. She was bound for Das Island in the Gulf, where she was due to load a ca rgo of crude oil. However, at 1 am loca l time on 13 December, as the Energy Determination was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. about 64km from Ras AI Khaimah, there was an enormous explosion. A fire broke out near the number 9 sta rboa rd tank, which contained 354 tons of slops Fire and smoke quickly spread to th e engine room and living quarters.

The ca ptain decided to abandon ship and the life rafts were deployed. Of her 38man crew, 37 were picked up from their life rafts by an Omani naval vessel that was in the area. Meanwhile, the fi ercely blazing Energy Determination, visible over l Skm away and with burn ing fuel oil leaking from a hole in her sta rboard side, began to list and settle by the stern.

Marine life

The forward 25m section of the hull is covered in yellow, white and red soft corals, and some lime green whip corals.Strong currents allow these corals to grow and when you swim down, their bright colou rs glow in the gloom. The fish are bi g and tame on thi s site. Among other crea tures, you may see large, rather frighte ning, but surprisingly tame marble rays, or even a whale shark. One has been photographed at close quarters on th is wreck and a pa rticularly lucky dive group were on the wreck when a whale sha rk party of five appeared.

Hammour Barge

Depth: 15m

Difficality: Advanced

A small, accessible wreck that has been claimed by hammour as their home.

The vessel lies upright in 12-l Sm of water. Her hold contain s a ca rgo of pipes that make a perfect home for hammour which is how the site obtained its name. The wheelhouse is intact. but all the 'good ies' have been removed. It's not known precisely when this wreck was sunk, but judging by the abundant marin e growth on her, she's been resting on the seabed for at least 25 yea rs and is home to many fish.

Marine life

The wreck is not often visited by divers, which means that the fish are reasonably tame. These sha llow wrecks are often home to the more brightly coloured reef fish like the orange dottyback, and their less colourful cousi ns, the Gulf dottyback. Keep an eye out for the several varieties of blennies to be found here. It's amazing how these colourful fish manage to squeeze into the tiniest of spaces, even trying to hide inside empty ba rnacle shellsl They can be seen waiting near or inside their little holes with just the top of their head st ickin g out, ready to dart out of sight at the first sign of danger. Arabian angelfish can be seen all over the wreck, picking over the encrustations, and you might also spot some moon wrasse.

Hopper Barge 6

Depth: 23m

Difficality: Advanced

An easy wreck to navigate, with a number of interesting marine inhabitants to observe

This is another of th e wrecks that has been sunk by a loca l fi sherman in close proximity to the Neptune 6's marker buoy (see p.42). Under international maritime law, wrecks that could be a hazard to shipping must have a marker buoy, known as a ca rdinal marker buoy, to indicate where there is clear water to passing vessels. However, tile upkeep and maintenance of these buoys is cost ly (in excess of US$50,000 a year), so fi shermen understandably tend to sink vessels near to existing marker buoys, rather than incur the cost of a new buoy. The HB6 ended up here when she drifted onto the lee brea kwater of Port Khalid in Sharjah during a storm on 18 February, 1982. The result was a total loss insura nce claim. She was later raised, towed to her present location and sunk. Among the sights here are the barge's drop-bottom doors, which were hyd raulica lly operated, and the two cabins that housed the hydraulic gear on the stern. There's also a large cavity on the sta rboard side, which is the result of her co llision with the breakwater stabits.

Marine life

We once found empty Cypraea pulchra cowries here when exploring one of the holes under th e wreck. Known locally as 'four-eyes: these bea utiful shells are light pinkish brown and have two chocolate brown blotches at each extremity. Batfsh will oft en follow you nea rly all the way to the surface on your ascen t. These large fi sh seem unafraid of divers; the fact that they're not targeted by fi shermen could explain their friendliness.

Jasim

Depth: 27m

Difficality: Advanced

It's easy to become completely engrossed in this interesting dive, so keep an eye on your bottom time.

Once used by the UAE armed forces for target practice, the Jasim now rests on her port side, in 26-27m of water. She's broken into three large sections. The stern section consists of the engine room and accommodation, with the large single propeller and rudder st ill in place The middle ca rgo section is a tang led, confused collection of broken hatches, rigging, o ld vehicle parts and lorry wheels. And the bow section sti ll remains more or less in tact wirh lamp rooms and deck winches

Marine life

Thi s wreck offers the opportunity to see the usual west coast marine life, including several species of brittle stars and cowrie shells. The shells are normally nocturnal, but on this site you can usually find one or two during the day There are also many hydrocorals, orange sponges and sea squirts. Although this wreck was sunk 20 yea rs ago, the marine growth is not as advanced as it is on some of the west coast's other wrecks.

Jazirat Sir Bu Na'air

Depth: 36m

Difficality: Advanced

An island sanctuary for magnificent corals, turtles, rays and large pelagic fish.

Jazirat Sir Bu Na'a ir is an island that lies 70km off the UAE coast. Measuring just over 1 km long by O.Skm wide, it's a UAE military outpost and coastg uard station, but also a protected turtle breeding area. There are no restrictions on sa iling or diving near the island, but it is a sensitive military base so landing is not advisa ble (a lthough you do occasiona lly see people picnicki ng on the beaches). In 2000, HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed AI Qassimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, issued Administrative Order No.3 that banned all activities considered harmful to the environment of Jazirat Sir Bu Na'air island. The six article order seeks to halt the deterioration of the island's environment protect its marine life, and develop its natu ral resources. This means that fi shing all species of turtle, collecting their eggs or damaging their nesting beaches along the island's coastl ine is stri ctly prohibited. The order also bans any activities that could threaten the sa fety of the island's many resident and migrating bird species.

Marine life

The island is rarely visited by divers or fishermen and the resul ting lack of disturbance encourages prolific shoa ls of fish. There are numerous large pelagic fish, spotted eagle rays, barracuda and large rays. It's a long journey to the island, but the diving and snorkelling at Jazirat Sir Bu Na'air is definitely worth the trip.

Lion City

Depth: 30m

Difficality: Advanced

An exercise in orientation and navigation that makes a good second dive.

The Lion City- you can still see her name on the bow, and a star emblem on the funnel - lies on her port side in 30m of wa ter with her bow facing 300°. Despite being used for target practice by the UAE military, the vessel is mostly intact with the funnel and some rigging lying on the sandy seabed. The distance from the shore makes th is wreck a good s cond dive if you've been explori ng ei ther the Jasim (seep 26) or the MV Ludwig (see p.38), which are not too far away.

Marine life

The marine growth has been slower to colonise this wreck than it has on others, but it began with the formation of some white coral patches on the deck and on the upper side of the hull. Covering large areas of the hul l, these cora ls grow in circular patches about 1 OOmm across. Hydrocoral s, looking like mini fir trees, have given the hull a dull light brown colour. On one of the walkways across the pipes, a colony or white soft corals has taken up residence on the treads and handrail s. Shoals of yellow coloured blacks pot snapper swim over and under the labyrinth of pipes on the Jasim's deck hunting for their quarry. These little hunters are di stinctively coloured and sport a black spot under the dorsa l fins and longitudinal yellow pinstripes. They work equally well in packs, or on their own when they wait in the shadows for their dinner to come to them.

Mariam Express

Depth: 21m

Difficality: Advanced

One of the newer wrecks, she is home to unusual cargo and varied marine life.

Lloyds Casualty Register notes that the Mariam Express was overloaded when she encountered strong winds and moderate seas en-route to Iraq. She took on water and sunk rapidly. All crew were rescued.

Marine life

After only a few months of submersion, the Mariam Express wreck boasted a va riety of fish life, which increases with time. Large barracuda hang out at the bow, enjoying th e currents, while juveni le barracuda hide in the hold with the crockery and bedding. The wreck is smothered with small oyster shells, and between the gaps you'll find numerous colonial ascid ians or sea sq uirts in di ffe rent colours - white, yellow, green, red or orange- as well as small anemones. The wreck also hosts the usual snappers, pennantfish and jacks. You may find a pa ir of resident sabretooth blennies. but their ca mouflage is excellent, making them difficult to spot

MV Dara

Depth: 18m

Difficality: Advanced

The disastrous sinking of the MV Dara has resulted in a difficult, but rewarding wreck dive.

The MV Dara was a passenger liner built in 1948 by Barclay Curie & Co. of Glasgow, UK. Fitted with a single Doxford oil engine, she was operated by the British India Steam Navigation Company. The story of the disaster is wel l documented. The following information has been compiled from Lasr Hours on the Dora by PJ Abraham, The Grey-Widow Maker by Bernard Edward and an article by lan Bain that first appea red in the Khaleej Times Magazine on 4 April, 1 980. The Dara sa iled between Bombay, Karachi, the Gulf and the ports of Basra, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai and Muscat, carrying passengers, mail and ca rgo. During the ea rly hours of 8 April, 1961, after putting to sea on 7 April to weather out a storm, a bomb planted on her by an Omani rebel exploded. It's believed that the bomb was timed to explode when the Dara berthed at Muscat but due to the storm, her departure from Dubai had been delayed. The bomb was planted to further the cause of the Dhofar rebell ion; the uprising aga inst Sultan Sa id bin Taimur

Marine life

One of the unique species of marine life that you're li kely to see on this site are the cowries of the cypraea histro and arabica varieties. Their shells have absorbed the iron oxide from the rusting wreck, giving them a metallic reddish-brown colour. The Dara also attracts many species ofrays; shovel nose guitarfi sh, eagle rays and even feather tailed sti ngrays. The site is usually covered with snapper and, in the cooler months, barracuda, and it's occasionally visited by whale sharks. rather erratic and isolated ru ler of Oman, who was final ly replaced in a bloodless coup by his son, the present Su ltan. The explosion between decks started a fire that raged for two days and caused considerable loss of life. The fire was finally extinguished, but the ship sank whi le under tow by Ocean Sa lvor, a sa lvage vessel. The fina l figure was 238 deaths; the second greatest number of fatalities recorded at sea in peacetime aher the Titanic disas ter. The MV Dara is now owned by Clive Frost of Aqua Diving Services.

MV Hannan

Depth: 20m

Difficality: Advanced

Practise your wreck penetration skills and hunt for warty Doris and other residents.

Given her position near the offshore rigs and platforms, it's logica l to conclude that the MV Hannan sank while working in the Abu Dhabi oil fields.

Diving

The Hannan is a small coastal vessel that lies with her stern roughly pointing towards the north. Two buoys mark the site; the official ca rdinal wreck buoy, and a huge barrel with a large chain lin k that's anchored less than 3m from the stern on the sta rboard side. Once you've descended, start from the seabed and go around the wreck in a clockwise direction towards the bow. You'l l need to ascend a little in order to explore the hold area that's spl it in two by a small derrick. You can try some wreck penetration; you might be able to access the bridge and accommodation areas via a small window or via the companionway door. If you go through the door and out of the small window at the top of the wheelhouse, you'll find a small object that looks like a left-over treasure box.

MV Ludwig

Depth: 27m

Difficality: Advanced

Once used as target practice, this wreck is now host to a growing marine community.

The large 1,200 tonne MV Ludwig is more or less intact and lies on her port side, with her bow pointing east at 70°, in 27m of water. The UAE armed forces used the Ludwig for target practice and they were very accurate 1 The bridge received a direct hit and the explosion ripped out the internal walls and roof of the bridge. Damage can also be seen on the funnel, where ~ hrap n e l from Llle bridge punched holes in it. There is another projectile exit hole on the starboard side of the hull.

Marine Life

The marine growth on the Ludwig is developing well; hyd rocorals and sea squ irts were among the fi rst in habita nts. The wreck's pipes and rigg ing offer security to a profusion of reef fish, such as the shoals of pennantfish that glide over structures in close fo rmation and the damselfish that dart in and out of the cover of the iron and steel. A large res ident shoal of yel low snappers seeks security inside the wreck from the hordes of barracuda that constantly circle outside, while batfish live further out.

Nasteran

Depth: 23m

Difficality: Advanced

This site offers a good opportunity to practise your wreck diving skills ... and to search for sea hares.

The Nasteran lies completely upside down in 23m of water, with her bow or landing door facing the shore at 150°. The wheelhouse lies to the east. next to the starboard side of the vessel, and both her propellers have been cut off.

Marine Life

If you take the time to explore the upturned hull you're likely to be rewarded with the sight of many of the smaller creatures that are often overlooked; look out for shells, shrimps, nudibranchs, small blennies and unusual creatures ca lled sea hares. Sea hares are members of the shell family and are ca lled 'ha res' because of their rabbit-like appearance. They have two rol led rhinophores (sensory organs) on their head that seem to give them rabbits' ears, and two Aaps, known as para podia, to aid swimming. They are herbivorous and feed on algae and sea grasses - which means that the Nasteran's hull is a regular smorgasbord for them.

Neptune 6

Depth: 23m

Difficality: Advanced

It's a long way offshore, but this is an excellent dive with the promise of 'treasure' to be found.

The Neptune was supporting the WD Kent, a drilling rig that was crossdrilling a burn ing oil wel l during one of the worst offshore fi res that the Dubai Petroleum Company's Fateh Field has seen. The Neptune pulled off during bad wea th er, but dragged her anchor and ended up collid ing with the WD Kent, ultimately sinking the rig. After the collision, it was decided that the Neptune would be taken to Sharjah. However, she capsized while under tow and sank in her present position.

Marine Life

The fish life tends to congrega te on the Neptune's port side, although you often find stingrays if you swim out beyond the wreckage. The crane structure is home to a colony of white soft cora l, that is very beautiful when illuminated. After circling the wreck, examine its surface where you'll lind shrimps, blennies and octocorals (so called because they have eight feathe r-like tentacles or pin nates). The octocora ls are tiny and come in many colours. They can live as individuals or in colonies. Some are purely soft and feathery; some have an internal skeleton composed of a type of ca lca reous material; and others still use another subject as a base from which to sprout. Take the time to watch their polyps pulse as they feed. The coral colon ies pulsate at different speeds and the effect is quite hypnoticl

Swift

Depth: 38m

Difficality: Advanced

A deep and seldom-dived wreck with good marine life and the odd treasure still to be seen.

Swift sank following a collision with the Brown and Root pipe-laying barge No. 207, while working in th e SW Fateh Oil Field. Today the vessel sits upright and intact on the sa nd, and stands 1 Sm high in 38m of wa ter. Her location is close to the Dubai Petroleum Company (DPC) and Dubai Natural Gas Company's SW Fateh oil and gas platforms

Marine Life

The white soft telesto cora ls (octocorals) are spectacular; they look like a blanket of snow that covers large sections of the vessel. Shoals or yellow and b lack striped jacks and snappers circle the wreck, parting and regrouping as you swim through them. The marine life is well established and every surface is covered in layers of barnacles, oyster shells and hard and soft corals all competing for space. There are many holes and crevices for little creatu res to dart in and out of, making this a very interesting dive.

Turtle Barge

Depth: 8m

Difficality: Advanced

An easy-to-access site that's home to fascinating corals, along with a friendly turtle.

This is probably a small barge that's been scattered over a large area in three parts or large pieces of wreckage, but it could even be two small wrecks. Th e site was discovered by Blue Planet Diving in 1999 when divers were training outside the harbour wall in Ajman The circumstances around the loss of th e wreck (or wrecks) aren't known.

Marine Life

As you descend the mooring buoy you'll be greeted by a lone clownfish who has made his home under the mooring line. And as the name suggests, you're also likely to encounter the friendly turtle that has taken up residence on the wreckage. This is an attrac tive site with an incredi bly large number of hard corals spread over the seabed and wreckage. There are colonies of different coral fami lies growing on top of one another, competing for space and light. If you look closely, you'll see the corals are almost Auorescent, and glow with hues of orange, green, red and blue. The west coast regulars are all here yellow snappers, blennies, monos, hammour and barracuda. On closer inspection, you may also see nudibranchs, various types of sponges and shellsespecia lly if you bring a torch. Th is is an ideal site for students, but even well -dived instructors will find something to enjoy on this dive. If you're particularly keen to see many va rieties of hard coral in a small area, this is a must.

Victoria Star

Depth: 22m

Difficality: Advanced

As a new wreck she only has a few fish, but the site is improving very quickly, and is suitable for most levels.

The Victoria Star sank around August or September 20 13 after being hit by another vessel. She sits almost perfectly upright in 22m of water but is in an area many vesse ls use to approach the harbour and so has no card inal buoy. She was carrying a small cargo of insulated concrete blocks when she sank, and they are now scattered in the two main holds. The top of the bridge is around 12m and the deck around 16m. Dropping into the holds wi ll take you past the 18m mark, but there is plenty to keep your attention around the bridge area.

Marine Life

Given the Victoria Sta r has been underwater for only one year (at the time of writing), marine growth is good. There are areas of sponges, ascidians, sea squirts and barnacles from one end to the other. The fi sh life is mos tly small schools of snapper, monocle bream and batfish found in the two holds; and the occasional hammour swimming around th e bridge area. There are small crabs hiding throughout so look carefully, you never know what you'll find. The life living on this wreck is increasing all the time.

Zainab

Depth: 29m

Difficality: Advanced

An interesting dive not only for Zainab's illicit past, but also for her present day marine life.

The Zainab, formerly ca lled the Seasroun Five, sailed under a Georgian flag and was involved in the illegal transportation of light fuel oil from Iraq when she went down. She was a general ca rgo ship with two holds forwa rd and the machinery, bridge and quarters aft To concea l her illegal cargo, her holds had been converted to hold the oi l. She was carrying about 1,300 tonnes of fuel oi l when she was deliberately sunk by her 11 man crew to avoid being boarded by the US Navy, who were enforcing UN sanctions on Iraq. The si nking resulted in a major oil spill on the northern Gulf coast, and caused serious concern to the local gas processing plant as she sank within a few hundred metres of their offshore gas pipelines. The story was documen ted by Gulf News throughout April 200 1.

Marine Life

During the time the Zainab has been down, it has attracted a large variety of marine li fe. The wreck is ca rpeted with small oysters, and juvenile fi sh weave their way in and out of th eir she ll homes. Most avoid co ntact with divers, but some are very inquisitive and allow you to get close to them. You may find large rays resting on the seabed, and huge shoals of barracuda circ ling the wreck. You will often find large shoals of yellow snappers swimming round tile variou5 ma5t5 towards the bow, and there's usually a shoal of batfish that congregates near the bridge and wheelhouse.