Diving Oman and Exploring Muscat

FYI this was written September 4th but I just got home with internet!

 

Hi everyone! Good news- I made it to Oman safe and sound. Also at the moment I’m heading into the mountains to hike to the highest mountain peak in Oman and camp for a night! This means that I won’t have internet for a while and won’t be able to post this for a while so sorry for the delay!

We arrived on Thursday night where we were able to purchase our visitors visa at the airport and get through customs easily. We found thrifty very easily and the car rental employees were super nice! There was no issue that we picked up our car late (because we called) so it was still available for us! For the first three nights we stayed in an air B and B near Seeb (I think 30 minutes from the airport). I drove and had to deal with roundabouts which I’m really not used to using. Fortunately we downloaded the maps.me map of Oman so we could use that as a GPS everywhere. We were able to find it eventually, it’s right behind “Magic Touch Beauty Salon”. We didn’t know the exact address so we just went into the salon and the owner told a young girl to get the keys so it all worked out. Unfortunately, we parked in the wrong spot (cause we didn’t know where the apartment was exactly). When we returned to our car for some reason it wouldn’t start. We assumed this was a battery issue so we called Thrifty And sat in the car brainstorming what to do and who to ask. We unpacked the car in the meantime. We really wanted to get this issue resolved because we had diving planned early the next morning and obviously didn’t want to miss it! After our travel fiasco I was feeling a bit defeated and like this whole trip was going to end in chaos. About 1/2 hour later I returned to the car and tried everything again. Making sure the car was in park, that the key was in the right way, then I remembered when this happened to my car in the pool parking lot in high school. My car is a lot older so I didn’t really think it was even comparable, but I shook the steering wheel back and forth a few times and by some miracle it started! Woooo! I kept the car running for a few minutes to ensure the battery was charged and then returned to the apartment and went straight to bed (without dinner- oh budget traveling, fortunately Oman Air had a vegetarian lunch option so I wasn’t hungry). The next morning we woke up at around 5 AM to ensure we could find the dive shop and breakfast. The dive shop was 40 minutes from the apartment, the first time there I took the wrong turn once but no big deal, we got there! We had about 45 minutes before meetup time, so we continued down the coastline until we found a small village. We parked and got out of the car to walk around. It was now the Friday of EID, a huge holiday here, so any things were closed. We went to a few coffee shops but they only sold meat based meals which wouldn’t work for us. Then we spotted a tiny shop with a sign that only said “restaurant” on it. We walked in and asked if they sell any breakfasts without meat, and he said he would make us something. So we sat down, not quite sure what we ordered or how much it would be. To our pleasant surprise breakfast was amazing! It was a delicious paratah (an Indian bread like deliciousness) that came with veggies and some sort of potato curry. I really have no idea what I ate or what’s it called but it was seriously amazing. The best part, my whole meal (which lasted two meals because I had leftovers) with water cost only like $2.50 USD. Prices in Oman grocery stores and malls and big restaurants are pretty expensive so we found that going to random local eateries is the best option price wise.

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breakfast from day 1
We got to the dive shop right on time. We brought all of our dive equipment because diving here is very expensive so we wanted to keep the prices as low as possible, plus I’m used to my dive gear so why not! We planned to go To Daymaniyat islands (an incredible marine reserve) but the waves were too big so we did a closer dive. The scenery here is spectacular! I didn’t really know what to expect because I knew absolutely nothing about Oman before this trip. There’s sea cliffs into vivid blue water.

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Dive views
The ocean here is the Gulf of Oman in the Indian Ocean, and I’ve never dive in this particular part of the world so I also didn’t really know what to expect. But similarly to Saudi, not a ton of m tourists visit Oman so the diving is still really good! The visibility wasn’t as good as the Red Sea (I don’t think visibility will ever get as good as the Red Sea) but there were tons of critters I’ve never seen before! There were huge colorful cushion starfish, beautiful lion fish, some colorful flashy nudibranchs, a torpedo ray, other string rays (I need to google the exact name cause I’m not 100% sure what they were). There was lots of purple soft coral which was beautiful. Oh also tons of jellyfish. Some were being eaten by fish and some were floating gracefully in the water column, I thought they were quite beautiful! This first dive was called “caves” and was close to some sea caves. When I ascended to the surface I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape! My ears had a bit of trouble equalizing this dive, and I was a bit nervous on if I’d be able to dive for the next few days. But fortunately the second dive was perfect. I got down easily and enjoyed finding some cuddlefish, nudibranchs, a turtle, and other beautiful critters!

IMG_8215[1]IMG_8216[1].PNG By the time we arrived the the dive shop it was around noon. We decided to go to the grocery store and stock up on some food for the next few days, as well as supplies for dinner. After shopping we decided to go to the beach for lunch. We ended up finding on it to far from the Euro Divers dive shop. There was a 3 OMR entrance fee but it was worth it. We got access to picnic tables and cabanas with lounge chairs. I ate my leftover breakfast and enjoyed the beautiful views of the beach. After laying out in the sun for 10 minutes I was already hot (it’s like 95ish F during the day). So I headed into the sea, which was surprisingly refreshing. The Red Sea was like hot tub water so it was nice to cool off instead of heat up while swimming. When I was in the sea I noticed some shells so obviously I grabbed my snorkel and mask and started seeing what I can find. Unsurprisingly I had a blast shell collecting and had my face in the sand in the ocean as I commonly do back home in Hawaii. It was amazing, and now I have a little mason jar of Oman shells to add to my ever growing collection!

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After we had enough sun, around 4 PM, we took a quick shower/rinse off and then headed towards the Muscat souk. Considering it was EID it was a lot more quiet than it usually is. Also, while the sun is out it always looks like a ghost town because no one is out and about. But st night it’s a bustling city with families picnicing outside and walking about. The souk was super cool, with lots of Oman goods for sale. I learned that silver, gold, and bass goods were a specialty here, as well as glassworked lights, and incense. I purchased a pair of earrings and a tiny bowl. As we walked through the many halls of the souk the shopsmen would try to put scarfs and perfumes on us. Apparently it’s super obvious we are tourists because there’s not a ton of them.

Muscat is a very beautiful and clean city, right alongside the coast. So we walked along the corniche for a bit and then decided to stop at a juice-restaurant thing for a break. Luckily for us, fresh juice is super common here and it’s pretty cheap. I got a huge mango pineapple juice and it was soo refreshing and yummy! IMG_8195[1]

After the souk we returned to our apartment at around 8 where Ann Marie cooked some pasta and re enjoyed some wine (alc is illegal in Saudi so might as well drink while we can).

The next morning was another early one, as we were meeting at the dive shop at 7 AM to head the the marine reserve, Daymaniyat islands! We made some oatmeal for breakfast then we were on our way, switching so Ann Marie drove and I navigated. After my cross country trip I got pretty good at navigating so I enjoy Beig copilot rather than actually driving. We got to the shop on time where I snuggled with their dog, Pookie (such a nug). The marine reserves is about an hour and a half boat ride from the shop, so we chatted and enjoyed the scenery.

Our first dive was called the aquarium, which is considered Omans premier diving. There’s the possibility of seeing almost everything (even whale sharks!) unfortunately we didn’t luck out with that but it was still so incredible. It’s different than anything I’ve seen. The vis wasn’t amazing cause there’s a lot of plankton in the water, meaning the ecosystem is very nutrient rich and a lot can live there (hence why whale sharks like it there). We saw many string rays, quickly color changing cuddlefish, and even a school of squid! Because Ann Marie is a scuba instructor we can just go in our own and do our thing which was super nice! During our surface interval I got in the water and did a few minutes of freediving which always makes me happy! The second dive was called police run and it was awesome! The highlight was the leopard sharks we saw. I’ve never seen a leopard shark so that was on my bucket list. But the second one had fishing line wrapped so tight around its body that it’s left pectoral fin was pinned down and the line was cutting into the top of its body, so it was bloody and obviously injured. Fortunately Ann Marie had a cutter with her. Neither of us knew if it was okay for us to touch a shark in a marine reserve so we handed it to the dive instructor with us and he went over and cut the line which came off the shark! Super exciting. Also still very upsetting that we are unintentionally harming so much marine life with plastics. It really makes me fear for the future with the amount of trash I’ve seen in the ocean. It’s horrific and I don’t foresee it changing. It’s going to be such a push to have people start changing their habits to be mindful of using plastic. Even on our trip in Oman we’ve unfortunately had to buy plastic water bottles because it’s hard to find water fountains suitable for drinking. But obviously we make sure these don’t end up near the ocean or land.

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Anyways, in addition to the leopard shark, this dive had great coral structures. There were some bleached areas but also some amazingly beautiful acropora table coral structures and the visibility was good!

After diving we drove to “Old Muscat” which had some amazing architecture with beautiful mountains right behind them. Unfortunately the museum was closed for EID but we could still walk around and see the palace and mosque and other gorgeous buildings.

IMG_8285[1]IMG_8268[1]IMG_8259[1]IMG_8264[1]We even found a juice spot for a snack! After we headed to the mall so we could do some grocery shopping and check out the food. We prepared for our two day hiking trek (which we won’t have a fire so we will be living off canned hummus and Pb and J for a little while). The was even a little parade at the mall with people on unicycles and drums, it was very odd and hilarious. After checking out the food court full of American restaurants (apple bees, cold stone, KFC, McDonald’s, Starbucks) we decided to find somewhere else to eat. We headed back towards muscat where we went to the grand souq the day before. We found a cute little restaurant on the second floor overlooking the corniche. I apologize I don’t the names of like anywhere we went but I’ll make an effort to  write more down. We got some falafel and hummus which was amazing. Then we headed back to the apartment to pack up our suitcases, clean, and prepare for camping! We finished off our wine, passed out of the night. Today we woke up bright and early and are now headed to Jabel Shams where we will be hiking to the top. 4×4 vehicles can get a bit higher than ours will, which is why we will be hiking for two days. I will make sure to update you all with hiking adventures when I get back!

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On our way to the souk we checked out this scenic fort!
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