Musandam Diving

The Caves

Depth: 10-18m

Difficality: Advanced

Great exploring and a wide variety of marine life awaits in these limestone caverns.

For interesting diving in underwater cavern s, start either at 60m from the exit point at Ras San nat, where a cave is visible from the surface. or go SOOm from the pointed rock stack at Khor Mala, where you'll find the caves below the surface. Erosion by the sea has cut these caves deep into the limestone rock face. The main chamber is an undercut section that runs about 15 to 20m into the rock. The bottom, at about 1Om, is sandy and marked with boulders. There are several small recesses (at 18m) at the back of the main chamber.

Marine life

Enter slowly, looking for stingrays and resti ng sharks on the sandy bottom. As you move into the caves, large shoa ls of golden ca rd inal fi sh will form curtains of red and silver as they guard the deeper crevices. The caves attract many va rieties of small fi sh seeking safety and food. Cleaner shrimps hide in the hollows. These white- and brown-banded shrimps can usually be seen by their tentacles sticking out of their hiding places If you're lucky, you may spot some spiny lobsters hiding deep in the cracks. At night, octopus and turtles rest on the bottom.

Lima Rock

Depth: 12-60m

Difficality: Advanced

Boulders, limestone caverns, abundant reef life and a nearby island to chill out on.

A great dive' North of Dibba, Lima Rock, amid a plethora of coral and marine life, marks the southern entrance to Lima Bay. This small island is a pinnacle of limestone rock, about 300m long by 200m wide with steep, jagged sides. The waves have undercut the rock in places, leaving shallow caves and deep lissures. Sheer cliffs drop almost vertically toa d pth of about 12m, then boulders and scree run steeply down to a sandy bottom at more than 60m. Check tides and expect currents, including downward currents.

Marine life

On the southern side of the island, there are a couple of relatively deep caves, one of which used to be the home of a 2.5m nurse shark, now only seen very occasionally. At the south-eastern end of the island, a massive boulder guards the easternmost tip of the island. If the currents are mild, wait on this monolith and look out into the deep water for tuna, jacks, sharks and devil rays. You may even see a whale shark or a sunfish. Between 12 and 20m, the boulder field is covered with hard corals (ta bl e, stag horn, brain and boulder coral), and patches of soft corals (orange and pink teddybear coral). The marine life is abundant, with larg e shoal s of reef fish. At 20m and deeper, abundant yellow and green coloured black coral, and numerous clumps of purple coral appear between the patches of sa nd. Look out for the yellow-mouthed morays with their vivid, colourful markings. Moving deeper towards the shelving sand, white tip sharks, marble rays, torpedo rays and leopard sharks are often seen resting on the bottom. On the north side, steep walls drop down to the sand at 20m. Thi s side of the island is in shade from mid morning onwards. Keep an eye open for critters and nudibranchs. They vary in size from 2mm to 20cm, and are very colourful. The island is also home to a va riety of birds such as ospreys, swifts and sooty falcons that frequent the high ramparts of the rock, making it an interesting location to wait between dives.

JAZIRATUMM ALFAYYARIN

Depth: 6-50m+

The south bay and the east side are the best dive sites on this island, but be aware of currents. Go when currents are mild or running south. Descending to SOm from the south east corner is a rocky outcrop that separates its two dive sites. Hanging in the current are jacks, barracuda and tuna. The east side dive consists of a magnificent reef of stag horn and table coral, dropping in steps from six to 20m, from the rock to the northern end of the island. The south bay consists of fa llen rock covered in coral that descends to a sandy slope at 20m. The sand continues downwards past SOm. Sunf1sh, huge schools of snapper, turtl es, barracuda, large honeycomb moray eels, rays, sharks and nudibranchs can be seen here.

RAS BASHIN

Depth: 4-25m

Ras Bash in is at the northern headland of Shaboos Bay and it comprises a sandy bottom that becomes a sloping reef covered with a vast array of vibrantly coloured soh corals. There are always lots of reef fish darting around. Sta rt the dive wi th your right shoulder facing the reef (depending on the cu rrent) and dive towards the head of the bay. The regulars you should look out for include: batfish, butterfl yfi sh, angel fish, mantis shrimp, eels and t riggerfish. There are some beautiful corals at the point where the rock drops to 25m deep. Watch out for the pelagics cruising around as you round the point, especially ea rly in the morn ing or towards dusk.

RAS DILLAH

Depth: 6-40m+

This si te ru ns SOOm into the bay from the north head land t ip at the entrance to Khor Habalayn. Dive starting inside the bay just before the headland and swimming around the corner in a northerly di rection, or reverse the profile on an ebbing tide. Note that it's in shadow by late afternoon. The sheer rock wall drops 15 to 20m to the sandy bottom, which is strewn with boulders. Follow the sand down and swim out a little, you'll reach a depth of 40m. The rock walls and boulders are covered in black coral and the big pelag ic fish tend to gather around the head land.

RAS DILLAH GHUBBATASH SHABUS BAY

Depth: 6-30m+

A tal l peak resembling a lighthouse dominates this cliff-wal led bay. Ospreys perch high above the water surveying the dive boats. Rocks and boulders have tumbled down into the sea and onto steeply shelving sand at about 20m, and if you swim out the depth is more than 30m. You may see feeding stingrays filtering the sand and ca using sand storms. Undercutting of the rock wal ls and large bou lders has created numerous overhangs and small caves (always good places to search for unusual marine life) while yellow and purple coral clings to the rocks. This is a colourful dive site with lots of large fish

RAS SAMID

Depth: 5-15m

This site has a sloping coral reef down to a sandy bottom where you can see shoals of barracuda and fusiliers, batfish, cuttlefish, lobsters and turtl es. There are beautiful soft corals. To get the best view, sta rt your dive entry from the interior of the bay and swim east towards Ras Sa mid. Ras Sa mid is in Khor Qabal and drops off to 30m. Be wary of the fishing net in the area, though it does attract quite a lot of marine life. This is a calm area to dive, but bear in mind that th is is not a very popular site as the military base is quite close.

RAS SARKAN

Depth: 6-50m+

This dive site is around the headland on the south entrance to Khor Habalayn. The direction of the cu rrent will decide which side you will dive- but both are good. The site consists of fa llen rock and cora l with patches of sand below 20m. Try to make your way to the point of the headland and watch the trevally and tuna feed ing in the main current stream. Whale sharks also like to visit here. A dhow sank here years ago and it's still on the sand at SOm, making a great site for technical divers. Schools of devil rays are also regularly encountered on this site as wel l as the rare but amazing sunfish (a lso known as mola mola). Also watch for the clea ning stations, where large fish wait for smaller cousins to pick off their parasites.

Octopus Rock

Depth: 5-20m

Difficality: Advanced

Another great Musandam dive, this site is practically amannezoo.

With its distinctive undercut top, this isolated stack lies 3km offshore, north of Lima. It's about SOm in diameter and its sides drop vertica lly to a mixed rock and sand seabed. The rocky bottom runs in ridges to the west, north and east, forming sandy-bottomed gullies. The depth of these gul lies varies from 15-20m around the base of the rock, when they slope off to the southeast, descending more than SOm.

Marine life

The Stack is a gathering point for a g reat va riety of shoaling fi sh life. Close to the rock you'll find numerous reef fi sh, w hi le further out are jacks, t reva lly, tuna, barracuda and, if you're lucky, rays, sharks and huge nudibranchs. Seahorses can be seen on the tip of the eastern ridge Jt about 28m. Soft and hard cora ls abound; green coloured black coral and purple soft coral whips predominate, and together with the pink and orange teddybear coral s, they create a kaleidoscope of colour. The rocks are home to fanworms, featherstars, juven ile crayfish and anemones. Look under overhangs and in hollows for black or red lionfi sh, but ta ke care as these fi sh are poisonous. Stingrays can be seen feeding in the sand or resting under boulder coral overhangs. You also have a good chance of seeing leopard sharks, whale sharks, torpedo rays, devil rays, eagle rays and schools of yellow tail barracudas on thi s site.

Pearl Island

Depth: 5-12m

Difficality: Advanced

A great choice for a second dive of the day, this little gem offers snorkellers and divers plenty to see.

Located in Lima Bay, Pearl Island lies close to shore, JUSt north of Lima. The water off the east tip of this rocky island is about 12m deep, and it gradually becomes shal lower over the sand bar on the west side. Coral reef su rrounds most of the island, descending gently from a depth of Sm to a sandy bottom at about 12m.

Marine life

The reef is a mixture of hard and soft cora ls, with boulder, brain, cauliflower and daisy coral being the predominant hard coral s, along with some orange and pink teddybear coral. The island attracts a huge va riety of small reef fish, and at certain times of the yea r, great colonies of murex shells can be seen mating and laying their strawli ke eggs. The fi rst th ing you'll hear as you submerge are the pa rrotf1sh crunch1ng the coral. As you approach these pink, blue and green pastel coloured fi sh, they swim off leaving a trail of coral part icles. There are several patches of anemones dotted around the island, and almost each one is attended by its resident clownfish. If you're wearing brigh tly coloured gloves, especial ly yellow, and wave them near these li tt le clowns th ey'll probably t ry to attack. The assaults are usually harmless (a lthough for a small fish, they can deliver a nasty bite), and the f1sh soon tire of the fun and return to the safety of their poisonous hosts.

Ras Hamra

Depth: 5-16m

Difficality: Advanced

A shallow, colourful site with plenty of marine life, that's best dived in the early hours of the morning.

This site starts at the point of Ras Hamra and runs west along the north cl iff face. It's a north-facing site and lies in shade by the early afternoon, so to see this coral wonderland, dive early in the morning. Several large boulders break the surface near the headland, and the rest of the terrain consists of fal len rock and coral reef that drops to a sandy bottom. The boulder cora l on this site is extensive, runn ing along the side of the cliff from Sm down to 16m, where the coral reef runs down to the sandy bottom. Every gap is filled with corals, from brain and daisy to tables of stag horn and great clumps of cauliflower coral fighting for space between the boulder coral.

Marine life

This is a good site for reef fish as there are lots of hollows and gaps where the fish dart in and out, playing hide and seek. You'l l often see turtles resting between the clum ps of coral. Look into dark holes for the red striped squi rrelfish that tend to wait in shoals under the overhangs and in dark corners of the cora l. Little fish, with big eyes, they like to stay in the safety of the shadows. Deeper in the water there are several species of grouper; some are brown with blue spots, others are red with blue spots. Gliding over the tops of the cora ls are the real dandies of the reef; emperor angelfish

Ras Lima

Depth: 5-45m

Difficality: Advanced

Two sites for the price of one - and double the enjoyment for snorkellers and divers.

The Ras Lima headland has two good dive sites for you to choose from; the northfac ing site in Lima Bay and the east bay just south of the headland. The north site is an interesting wall dive, with a steep cliff face that drops down to 1 0-lSm in a tangle of fal len boulders. The east bay is located under the east headland cliffs. These are nea rly vertical and plunge into the water to a depth of 6-8m where the coral reef gently runs down to the sand at 15m plus. Scattered throughout both sites are a number of large rocks, some of which form shallow caves.

Marine Life

Th is is a good site for smaller reef fish and big pelag ic fish. Devil rays have been seen here on several occas ions, and the area is probably a cleaning station for them. Sea horses can also be fou nd amongst the black corals. From live to 15m, cora ls cover most of the boulders that have fallen from the cl iffs above. The boulder corals are large, with lots of cavities that make a perfect hideaway for fish like the blue triggerfish. Triggerfish don't seem to mind leaving pa rts of their bodies exposed when they are hid ing, and you can often see bits of those distinctive, bright blue ta ils protruding from their hideaways when you're swimming overhead. Stag and table coral fil l the gaps between the boulder coral, but as you go deeper, teddybear and purple cora ls star t to ta ke over. At 12 to 16m you'll lind yellow-coloured black coral.

Ras Marovi

Depth: 6-35m

Difficality: Advanced

These islands and channels make for a fun drift dive when the tide is running.

A collect ion of four islands make up Ras Marovi. The two larger islands run in a line south-east from the mainland of Jebel AI Khatamah. The fi rst large island is sepa rated from the mai nland by a 1OOm channel and the second large island has a 200m channel dividing it from the first island. The two smaller islands run south from the most seaward island. The cl iffs of the two larger islands drop down vertical ly into the water. On the north face of the inner island, the wall is sheer al l the way down to 30m. The west coast of the seaward island is a bea utiful sloping coral reef, which serves as a cleaning station for visit ing fi sh. It's a great site for the third dive of the day, or a night dive. The coral garden slope and the cavern with its res ident cowtail stingray are highlights

Marine life

There are lots of soft corals on these sites, including plenty of orange, pink and red teddybear coral. Purple and yel low coloured black coral is also prevalent. Soft lettuce coral is also abundant, and turtles come to feed and mate here. The islands attract a lot of reef and pelagic fish. In the rock walls there are several shallow caves where large hammour lie in wa it for their prey. Leopard sharks, zebra sharks, grey reef and white-tipped reef sha rks and dolphins are reg ular visitors, while deeper down, stingrays rest on the sandy bottom. There have been several sightings of manta rays around the outer island.