Scuba Diving Oman
Oman is one of the most popular diving destinations in the region. It has an exceptionally diverse marine life and coral reefs.
The Sultanate of Oman is in the Middle East, on the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arab Emirates in the northwest, Saudi Arabia in the west, and Yemen in the southwest. Oman has two exclaves separated from it by the United Arab Emirates, the Musandam Peninsula and Madha. Muscat is in a beautiful region of mountains and has a lovely coastal view, but the heat and humidity of the summer can make it extremely unpleasant for visitors, especially those from more moderate climes. The best time to visit the city is between December to March. This is the time when temperatures will be much more mild and agreeable, and the risk of sunburn, heatstroke, and dehydration are greatly reduced. While it is still warm compared to other regions’ winters, it is cool enough to enjoy being outside and seeing the sights.
SCUBA DIVING OMAN
The most prominent diving areas around the capital Muscat are: Al Khayran, Al Fahil Island, Dimaniyat Islands, Al Makbara Bay (Old Muscat), in addition to Al Jissah Beach. Each of the above mentioned locations contains not less than 11 different diving sites, each with a diverse environment.
DIVE SEASON: The best months for diving in Oman are the period from April to July, but diving can be enjoyed at all times. You may want to avoid the “slack season” of July through September, when air temps & humidity can be a bit withering. You were made for Arabian Sea diving.
VISIBILITY: With Oman’s long coastline and clean unpolluted waters, there is a wealth of underwater flora, and marine life. Sea life is abundant with a variety of hard and soft corals. The waters around Oman have an average visibility of 20–30 meters or 60 feet to 90 feet.
WATER TEMPERATURE: 19-28o C/66-82o F offers year round diving.
WEATHER: Generally, it’s hot with little rainfall. The Dhofar Mountains in the south have seasonal rainfall and heavy fog from June to September, but some parts of the coast may have no rain at all in any given year. Air temperatures vary from 22-37°C/72-99°F and can peak at 50°C/122°F.
MARINE LIFE: Whilst there are regional variations, Oman’s waters are best known for the following: Sting, Eagle and Torpedo Rays, some species of reef sharks, especially Leopard sharks; a wide variety of Moray eels, especially honeycomb, pepper and yellow mouth; Green and Hawksbill turtles; Spiny lobster, Snake eels, Nudibranchs, Squid and Cuttlefish, Porcupine, Lion and Scorpion fish. Regular reef and schooling fish include Batfish, Parrot fish, Angel fish, Trevalli, Snapper and Barracuda. Whilst infrequent, it is not unknown for spots of Whalesharks during the summer months, the odd Sun Fish (Mola Mola) and an elusive sea horse or two! Coral growth is generally exceptionally healthy, with boulder coral, whip coral, staghorn coral, orange cup coral and cabbage coral to name a few. Dive boats occasionally encounter both Pilot whales and Whale sharks. Five species of turtle are found in Omani waters, including the elusive Hawksbill. In addition to turtles, divers often see both Devil and Eagle rays. The sheer amount of life and quality of strongly coloured corals found on the reefs of Oman leaves the most lasting impressions on the memories of most divers.
CLIMATE: The climate of Oman is tropical desert, similar to that of cities such as Dubai and La Paz (Mexico). Summers are very hot and humid, with temperatures during the day reaching 38°C (100°F) and night time lows of 29°C (85°F). Springs and autumns are still warm-to-hot, with night time temperatures in the 21°C (70°F) and daytime temperatures anywhere from 29-35°C (85-95°F). Winters are pleasant, with nights around 16°C (60°F), low humidity, and days around 24°C (75°F). Oman is known for its beaches, with their white sand, turquoise waters, and year-round warm ocean temperatures.
LANGUAGE: Arabic is the national language, but most Omanis will speak good to excellent English, particularly in major tourist areas and cities. In the southern Zufar (Dhofar) region, an indigenous Semitic language called Jibbali is spoken, while the related Mehri language and other rarer languages are also found elsewhere in the country. Swahili and Balochi are languages spoken by long-established ethnic minorities in Oman, especially in the capital, Muscat. The presence of large number of expatriates from Indian state of Kerala has made Malayalam a prominent language, while the historical presence of other Indian traders has meant that Hindi is understood in some urban areas. An English-speaking traveler should have no language difficulties unless really off the beaten track.
ELECTRICITY: You can use your electric appliances in Oman, if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220V – 240V (as in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). Manufacturers take these small deviations into account. If the standard voltage in your country is in the range of 100V – 127V (as in the US, Canada and most South American countries), you need a power converter. To be sure, check the label on the appliance. If it states ‘INPUT: 100-240V, 50/60 Hz’, it can be used in all countries of the world (like chargers for tablets/laptops, photo cameras, cell phones, toothbrushes). In Oman the power sockets used are of type C / G
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: The currency in Muscat is the Omani rial (OMR). One rial is made of 1000 baisa and is officially tied at 2.58 US dollar per 1 Omani rial. Exchange rates on the streets are 1-2% lower. There are ATMs at the airport and many other in Muscat and every main town, but not all of them take foreign cards. You can change foreign currency at the counters inside the airport and at money exchanges throughout Oman.
GRATUITIES: It is not customary to tip in Muscat, especially in less expensive establishments. Upscale restaurants tack on a service charge to your bill in lieu of a gratuity, though it is not for the wait staff per se. In general, it is appreciated if you tip someone who extends a courtesy or provides an extra service, such as a driver who carries your bag. In this case, a small tip of a few Rial Omani is welcome.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Telephone cards Al mutaqa and pre paid pre-programmed alpha cards Jibreen are available in denominations of RO 1.5, 3 and 5. For incoming calls Oman’s country code is (++) 968. For out-going International calls made between 9pm and 7 am are charged at a discounted rate. Local calls are charged 25 baizas for 3 minutes. Public telephones use phone cards. Cards are available from filling stations, supermarkets and some smaller shops. Internet connection has been available in Oman since January 1997. The official Internet provider is GTO, the Sultanate of Oman’s General Telecommunications Organization.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: A single entry visa is issued at the point of entry and is valid for one month. A fine of $4 per day is charged for an overstay beyond the validity of the visa. There are also an express visa, a multiple entry visa and a common visa with Dubai and Qatar, and GCC resident visa. The fee is 20 OMR and your passport should be valid for no less than 6 months from the date of arrival. However, if you arrived by air into Dubai International Airport and subsequently enter Oman via land, the visa fee will be waived (this does not seem to be true any more as of 2014: even when you enter from Dubai by bus at the Al-Wajaja border post, you’ll have to pay the fee!). Any visa fees can be paid using UAE dirhams at a rate of 10 to 1 OMR. At the airports visa fees can be paid in any GCC currency, Euros, and USD.
CUSTOMS: It is prohibited to bring firearms, narcotics or pornographic publications into Oman. Non-Muslims are permitted to bring two litres of alcohol into the country at Seeb International Airport only. You are not allowed to bring alcohol into the country in private cars at land border crossings.
GETTING THERE: Virtually all international flights arrive at Muscat International Airport (MCT) in Muscat. There are also a small number of regional international flights to Salalah (SLL). Purchasing a visa on arrival in Salalah can be quite difficult, as the airport is very small and immigration officials tend not to have change for larger notes. There are scheduled services by numerous airlines, including but not limited to Oman Air, Emirates, Gulf Air, Etihad, British Airways, Kuwait Airways, Saudi Arabian Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Swiss International, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Air India, Air France, and Thai Airways International. The most frequent connections are via Dubai (DXB). There are also direct flights from various Indian cities by airlines like Air India, Indian and Jet Airways.
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