With vast deserts and rich history, the Sultanate of Oman is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. Until the 1970s, the country was almost completely closed to outside visitors but since it opened its doors, the scuba diving world has become richer because of it.
Oman’s coastline is relatively untouched and there is some fantastic diving near the capital of Muscat. You can also head to Oman's northernmost region of Musandam, which juts into the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. This rugged, remote land has nutrient rich waters that support a massive amount of diversity and abundance of marine life. Here divers can relish the opportunity to dive on gorgeous reefs with mesmerizing marine life, including the elusive whale shark.
Far to the south, the area around Salalah has a pristine coastline with seemingly endless bays and beaches. Kelp forests appear here during the summer, made possible by a cool upwelling during the monsoon, and then slowly die back in late September.
This makes it uniquely possible to dive in kelp and on coral reefs at the same sites for a short time. The best diving here is from October through May when the seas are calm and the water is warmer. Perhaps it's time to take a scuba diving holiday to Oman before the secret gets out!
Daymaniyat Islands, Muscat
This string of small, rocky islands north of Muscat are encircled by coral reefs and are a nature reserve and an important turtle nesting site. You’ll be surrounded by abundant fish and glide over lush coral reefs down to 30 metres/100 feet. It’s not uncommon to see turtles, of course, but also rays and reef sharks.
Bander Khayran, Muscat
Several dive sites are located within a series of coves and bays southeast of Muscat. The diving is predominantly on relatively shallow coral reefs, but the area also features a few drop-offs and one of the best wreck dives in Oman - the Al Munnassir. The Oman government sunk this 84-metre/276-foot vessel as an artificial reef and she now lies upright on the bottom in about 30 metres/100 feet of water. Giant morays, large schools of snapper and goatfish as well as turtles and rays all now call the vessel home.
Fahal Island, Muscat
This small limestone island offers excellent diving with swim-throughs and reefs down to 40 metres/130feet. It's also known by another name – Shark Island – due to frequent sightings of sharks on the adjacent sandbanks.
The Caves, Musandam
Normally accessed from the United Arab Emirates, at this site you’ll find that the ocean has eroded a series of chambers and tunnels into the surrounding limestone rock, which provide hiding spots for spiny lobster, cleaner shrimp and other creatures from the turtles cruising by. The sandy bottom of the caves is the perfect daytime resting place for rays and sharks. Be sure to bring a dive light.
Lima Rock, Musandam
The two dives sites at Lima Rock are normally accessed from the United Arab Emirates. Here, you’ll find coral encrusted walls to depths of 20 metres/66 feet along with caves and crevices created by erosion of the limestone substrate. Schools of jack and tuna prowl the open waters adjacent to the rock and you may spot whale sharks in the cooler months.
Many of Salalah’s dive sites are reached safari-style by four wheel drive vehicle, but there are also boat trips available. You’ll tuck into a small bay to access the coral covered rock outcrops populated with morays, sharks, octopus, snapper, turtles and occasionally, dolphins. Sites will look very different when kelp is growing versus when it’s completely gone.
You can often encounter huge schools of fish and colourful and healthy reefs. Due to the Sultans progressive green policies, the marine ecosystem is improving annually.
At particular dive locations around Oman you have the opportunity to encounter white tip reef sharks, green and hawksbill turtles and even spinner and bottlenose dolphins.
The reefs off the Omani coast can contend with the reefs of Egypt, with beds of vibrant table and bush coral. Although the visibility is not as clean as the Red Sea, the sheer amount of mackerel fish that school in the thousands is stunning!
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