There is a large peninsula between Africa and the rest of Asia, facing the third largest ocean on Earth. This is a land of deserts, dry mountains, oasis spots, and warm, transparent waters at the coast. And in the far southeast of this peninsula is Oman- an exotic country taken from the tales of Sindbad the Sailor. Let’s go diving in Oman and explore its waters, reefs, and its underwater world!
Oman is dry tropical land, located on the southeastern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Its coastline faces the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman (technically, it is just a strait, open to the Persian Gulf). And its interior is mostly dry, with mountains in the north and south, and desert plains in the rest of the country.
The country’s capital is Muscat, and all the big cities are located along the coast, mainly in the northeast. And the rest, especially the interior is almost uninhabited.
Landscape of Oman
So, this is what the landscapes in Oman look like- sand deserts, rocky treeless mountains, oasis areas with palms, dry canyons, fairy ponds, and weird rock formations. In addition, there is still some And the coastline is directly exposed to the waves of the Indian Ocean, with incredibly beautiful long, empty beaches, and some rocky cliffs.
Oman is full of undiscovered gems- natural, historical, and cultural. And all of this suggests a lot of adventures. The country is just recently opened for tourism, so the spots of interest are mostly untouched, waiting to be explored.
This is the land of Oman. But how about its underwater world? Is it worth exploring? Of course, yes! Let’s see…
Oman underwater world
If you open the map, you will see that most of Oman’s seacoast is a long uninterrupted coastline. There as almost no peninsulas, no series of promontories and bays, and no archipelagos of small islands, islets, reefs, and sandbars (like in the Maldives). Instead, the coastline is directly exposed to the waves and currents of the Indian Ocean.
Yet, there are some exceptions. Several small archipelagos, as well as the northernmost tip area of Oman provide a different underwater landscape. Here the water currents are calmer and the marine wildlife is more specific.
Since Oman is located in the tropics, the waters are warm all year round, from 24 to 30°C. The water visibility is relatively high, especially in places with small or no currents. And the wildlife is typical for the tropics, with coral reefs and tropical pelagic fish schools.
Diving in Oman
Oman is only recently opened for tourism. It has more than 1700 km long coastline and large sections of it remain unexplored and undeveloped. We can only guess how many hidden underwater gems await to be discovered, but for now, diving activities are focused only on a few places.
Diving sites in Oman
So, the diving sites in Oman can be found in three diving areas. This is where diving tourism is developed and where you can find short diving tours and liveaboards. These are the Musandam Peninsula, the area around the capital Muscat, and the southwestern Omani province of Dhofar.
Musandam is the peninsula that separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman. The northernmost part of it belongs to Oman, and the rest- to the United Arab Emirates, as the Omani part is separated from the rest of the country as an exclave.
The northeastern coast of Musandam is different than in the rest of the country. Here the nearby mountains literally “sink” into the sea and their ridges and valleys form a complex, highly segmented coastline. There are about 25 identified diving spots here, mostly with coral reefs (soft and hard corals) and a lot of pelagic fish, including giants like whale sharks.
Diving spots in Musandam
These are the best diving spots in Musandam, all of them located around Lima Resort:
- Lima Rock. This is the most popular and according to many divers- the most beautiful diving spot in Musandam. It is a small limestone island with underwater caves, cliff drops, and a variety of corals and marine life. However, diving is a bit difficult, proper for advanced divers.
- Pearl Island (Jazirat Hamra). This is a small island, located inside Lima Bay, just about 2 km northwest of Lima Rock. The bottom around the island is richly covered by soft and hard corals, and the wildlife consists mostly of colorful small coral fish.
- The Caves at Ras Sannat. This is a limestone area, partially immersed in the sea. There is one big cave at Ras Sannat, visible from the surface, and more caverns at Khor Mala. The place is full of colorful fish, as well as stingrays and sharks. This spot is great for those who like underwater caves.
- Octopus Rock. This is an isolated, mushroom-shaped rock, located about 3 km north of Lima. Its underwater slopes are mostly vertical, dropping to a 15-20 m seabed. The Octopus Rock is one of the richest of marine wildlife places in Musandam.
- Ras Marovi. This promontory with two large and two small islets marks the northern edge of Lima Bay. Here you can see vertical slopes, dropping directly from the large islands, as well as a beautiful coral garden. The place is richly diverse with wildlife and rock formation.
Now, let’s move about 350 km southeastward, to the next diving area.
This is the second developed tourism and diving area in Oman, for two reasons. First, here is the capital Muscat. And second, the area is really great due to the nearby archipelagos and other coastline formations.
Three diving sites are the most popular here, and they are the highlights of diving adventures in Oman.
Al Fahal Island
This is a small but spectacular island just 4 km away from the coastline, right beside the capital Muscat. The island is a limestone formation rising from the sea and as such, it presents interesting types of terrain.
And it is full of underwater wildlife. Soft and hard corals cover its slopes, and you can see a lot of pelagic fishes, including barracudas. You can even see some whale sharks. There is also a shipwreck and a mysterious reef for advanced divers who can penetrate more deeply underwater.
Bander Al Khayran
This place is located on the mainland of the continent, about 25 km east of Muscat. While the coastline runs relatively straight west and east of this spot, here it is suddenly torn into fjord-like bays and several small islands. As a result, the underwater landscape is different and offers some amazing features worth exploring by scuba divers.
But that’s not all. The rocks and the cliffs here are mostly made of limestone. When you travel by boat to the main island Bander Al Khayran, you pass through fantastic landscapes between the promontories and other coastline features. The most amazing of them are the natural tunnel arcs where the boat cuts its route to the neighboring fjord-bay.
Here you can enjoy three main spots:
- Al-Munassir is an old shipwreck, now turned into an artificial coral reef.
- Mermaid Cove is a rocky bay with hard corals.
- Seahorse Bay is the best place in the area to see the local marine wildlife- moray eels, anemone shrimps, and clownfish.
Daymaniyat (Ad Dimaniyat) Islands
This is the most beautiful diving area in Oman, according to many divers. Daymaniyat Islands is a small archipelago of nine small islets with complex forms and connections between each other. They are located about 70 km from Muscat. The islets are rocky and treeless, except Kharabah Island which is separated from the others.
The archipelago is a protected area, a natural reserve, included in the UNESCO protected areas list. Here you can explore rock cliffs and white-sand beaches with crystal clear water. And the underwater world presents amazing diversity of corals, pelagic fish, sea turtles, and various other creatures.
And the third diving area that travelers just started to discover is the far southwest of Oman- the province of Dhofar.
This is the least developed diving area in Oman, mainly due to its remoteness. In fact, the diving spots are just being discovered right now. And there are some fantastic places to dive that challenge adventure travelers and divers to penetrate deeper into the off-the-beaten frontiers.
Salalah is the capital of Dhofar Province (Governorate), and starting point for several diving spots at the coastline. All of them are located west of the city, where the steep slopes of the nearby Dhofar Mountains descend by cliffs into the Arab Sea.
The most interesting of these spots are Port Wall, Donkey’s Head, and Raysut Point. Here the main highlight is not coral gardens but the abundance of pelagic fish. You can literally find yourself in a fish cloud, where you can even see how some species hunt for other species.
Mirbat is a smaller city, located about 40 km east of Salalah. Here the diving spots can be reached directly from the coast, just by a 4×4 vehicle to the starting point.
The area around Mirbat is richer in corals, compared to the area west of Salalah. Three diving spots are the most interesting here.
Eagle Bay is an amazing spot with spectacular terrain with a beach at the shore, rich in hard corals and a lot of pelagic fishes.
China Wreck is a remnant of a 19th-century Portuguese Ship (probably coming from China). Now it is quite mixed with the underwater nature, turned into a haven for tropical marine wildlife.
The Aquarium is a narrow bay with a rocky wall and coral banks. Here the corals are mainly soft and you can see some interesting fish species like Squirrel fish, Torpedo Rays, and more.
Kuriya Muriya (Hallaniyah) Islands
This is a small archipelago consisting of five islands, yet the largest in Oman, about 40-50 km away from the mainland. The islands are inhabited and due to their remoteness, here you can not only explore the fantastic underwater world around them but also penetrate the well-preserved local culture.
The underwater world is unique too. This is one of the few places in the world where you can see hard corals mixed with kelp forest, although only during certain seasons. Aside from this, here you can also enjoy the abundance of pelagic fishes and many other amazing marine creatures.
Diving resorts and diving centers
As I already mentioned, tourism in Oman is still in the early developing stages. So, there are not too many resorts and diving centers in the country. However, the nearest cities to the diving spots are already turned into resorts with diving centers, being starting points for short local daily diving tours.
In Musandam, this is the resort of Lima (Limah), the closest settlement to the main diving spots in the area. And the neighboring bigger city here is Dibba.
Muscat is the main center for exploring the island of Al Fahal and Daymaniyat (Ad Dimaniyat) Islands. Bander Al Khayran is easily reachable from the resort with the same name near to the spot.
And in Dhofar, Salalah and Mirbat are the starting points for the nearby diving spots. Only Kuriya Muriya (Hallaniyyah) Islands are different, reachable only by local ferries or liveaboard tours.
Liveaboard tours in Oman
As a part of the local tourism, liveaboards in Oman are also recent. And in fact, there are still only a few liveaboard boats that explore the diving areas in the country, mainly focused on Musandam.
Let’s take a look at them in detail.
Brown Dhow Liveaboard
This is a beautiful yacht in the traditional dhow style (dhow is a local boat used by the people in Southern and Eastern Arabia). It has 6 cabins for 12 guests, a nice social area, and a sun deck on the top terrace. The boat is well-equipped for scuba diving activities.
Brown Dhow operates only along the eastern coast of Musandam. Although this area is small, its coastline is so complex that needs a long time to be well explored. So, the boat offers regular 6 days/7 night tours to most of the diving spots in the area, starting and ending the tours from Dibba.
Queen of Musandam
This is another beautiful dhow, sailing the waters around the Musandam Peninsula. It is also called “Yellow Dhow”. The boat offers 6 cabins for 12 guests and offers quite similar features to Brown Dhow. And again, it is well-equipped for scuba diving activities.
Queen of Musandam makes a bit longer tours- 7 days/8 nights, all around the best diving spots in the Musandam area. Again, its starting and ending point is Dibba.
So, these two boats are excellent, at least according to the diver’s reviews, and each one can be a good alternative to the other if there are not enough seats already. The problem is that they operate only around Musandam. But how about the other diving areas in Oman?
Oman Aggressor is one of the new members of the Aggressor Fleet. According to the diver’s experience, this is the best liveaboard in Oman. It is a large luxury yacht, offering 11 cabins for 22 guests. The boat has a large saloon, a dining area, and a sun deck with Jacuzzi and other facilities. In addition, it also includes a video and photo center.
The routes of Oman Aggressor are focused on Daymaniyat and Hallaniyat (Kuriya Muriya) Islands. From the beginning of May to the beginning of November, the boar explores Daymaniyat, and the rest of the year- the Hallaniyat islands. Tours are mostly 8 days/7 nights long, but sometimes it offers a combined 11 days/10 days tour that includes both of the archipelagos.
MY Oman Explorer
This is another luxurious yacht that operates in the same areas as Oman Aggressor, in general following the same seasons, although with a bit different dates. But this one also includes the diving spots around Mirbat.
MY Oman Explorer offers 11 cabins for 22 guests. Its social area includes a beautiful saloon, a lounge and dining area, and a library with fish ID books. It is again well-equipped for diving.
Most of the tours of MY Oman Explorer are 8 days/7 nights long. Daymaniyat season is from the beginning of April to the second half of November, and Hallaniyat occupies the rest of the year. Switching the seasons is marked by two longer tours (10 and 11 days long) that include both of the diving areas.
Oman diving and exploring tips
All of the above sounds great, but how to prepare and what to expect if you want to go diving in Oman?
Oman is located in the tropics. And the seawater is enough warm all year round, even in the winter.
In general, there are two climatic zones in Oman. The central and northern part of the country, where the Musandam and Muscat area is located is dry, with very rare rainfalls, usually in winter. This area can become very hot in summer, reaching about 50°C (122°F). But in winter the weather is nice and pleasant, sometimes even a bit cool.
And the other zone is the area around Dhofar. It is more humid and wetter than the rest of the country because it is directly exposed to the monsoons of the Indian Ocean.
They bring more rain and some fogs in summer. That’s why here you can see some green rainforests in the valleys of the Dhofar Mountains. These monsoons are called Khareef, and they can cause higher waves and swell in the sea.
Diving skills requirements
In general, many of the diving spots in Oman are relatively difficult. This is mainly due to the currents since the coastline is directly exposed to the open waters of the Indian Ocean.
For this reason, most of the diving sites are for advanced divers. If you are a beginner, you still can find places proper for you, mainly around the islands and some bays of Musandam.
However, if you want to travel on a liveaboard and want to enjoy all the diving spots on your journey, better join a PADI course in advance. They will give you the necessary certificate for scuba diving.
Anyway, some of the diving spots are quite difficult and require not just a completed PADI course, but also significant experience.
Permits and fees
Most of the diving sites in Oman are easy to reach. Just join a short boat trip or liveaboard tour and go. As mentioned above, some of the diving spots around Salalah even don’t need a boat, just go by vehicle to the coast.
However, some of the sites are more special. Daymaniyat Islands are a Natural Reserve and if you want to visit the place, you have to get a permit. For foreigners, it costs 3 OMR for adults and 1 OMR for children, and for Omanis- 1 OMR for adults, and 0.100 OMR for children.
Normally, the boat trips and liveaboard tours can arrange this permit, but you have to confirm it with them in advance.
Another more complicated diving area to visit is Musandam since it is an exclave, separated from the main territory of Oman. But first, let’s see how to visit Oman.
How to reach Oman
Oman is only recently opened for tourism, but the country wants to develop this industry. So, the Omani sultan and the government try to do their best to make your Oman visit easier.
Citizens from most countries can visit Oman freely, without a visa for 14 days. If they want to stay longer, they just have to obtain a 30-day e-visa online- single-entry or multiple-entry. Or, if they visit the UAE or Qatar, they can get visas for these countries that can be used also for Oman.
However, citizens from most African countries, as well as certain countries in Asia and the Caribbean must obtain a visa in advance (there is no visa-on-arrival for them).
The most popular way to reach Oman is by air- to the capital Muscat. There are several other small airports with international flights (like Salalah), but they are very limited.
Another option to travel to Oman is by car from the UAE- to the main territory of Oman or Musandam. You can’t do it from Saudi Arabia (there is no defined border with SA and there is just a sand desert), or from Yemen (due to the civil war there). Or, you can take a bus from Dubai to Muscat.
Finally, you can Oman by cruise ship. There are no ferries between Oman and neighboring countries.
Once you enter Oman, you can travel around the country by car, by bus, by domestic flights, or by ferry. More special territories include the islands (Hallaniyah, Daymaniyat, Masirah, Al Fahal, and other small islands), as well as Musandam and Madha exclaves.
The islands of Hallaniyah and Masirah can be reached by ferries, but Daymaniyat and Al Fahal- only by tourist boats and liveaboards.
You have three options for reaching Musandam:
- By domestic flight to Khasab.
- By ferry from Shinas to Dibba.
- By car from the UAE or the rest of Oman again the UAE.
The first two options are entirely within the territory of Oman- you don’t need to cross any borders. But for the third option, you need all the necessary visa/visas, as well as car insurance.
This is Oman and its sea waters- a still almost untouched paradise, with very few tourists. Here are the northwestern frontiers of the Indian Ocean, with a scent of Arabia, Africa, and Persia. All of these unique features make Oman a place for explorers and discoverers, for those who want to taste some new and exotic images of the geography.
Take a look at this video for more impressions from Oman (Daymaniyat Islands):
Check some travel books about Oman:
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.