A few kilometres away from Muscat Hills Dive Resort, the new name of Oman Dive Centre, a 3000-ton vessel sits at the bottom of the ocean. It was sunk by the Royal Navy of Oman in 2003 and looking at what’s left of it today, it’s hard to imagine the 84 metres long and 14.5 metres wide ship built in England to have once dominated oceans.
If one is to ask Carole Robert, one of the diving instructors of the resort, without reference, she said it’s quite hard to imagine how the ship originally looked like. But just because it’s a wreck doesn’t mean it didn’t take a different beautiful form.
Carole said that the only thing that reminds you that the ship was once inhabited by people is the toilet and bathtub that remains intact even to this day.
The Al Munasir wreck is one of the most popular sites within Muscat and aided patiently and gloriously by nature and made even better by the presence of different marine life that calls it home, it has become a totally different world worthy to be explored.
To see the Al Munasir wreck and the 20 different diving spots the resort said they knew of within the Muscat area, one needs first an advanced Open Water Certification card to qualify.
“Diving is one of those sports that is really very cool. I’d been in the country for only two months but the number of people coming in to dive with us is consistent day by day. Within the region, Oman actually offers a great alternative for this kind of activity,” Carole said.
“I’d been diving in France since I 13 in and had been acting as full time diving instructor for three years. The diving spots in the country is diverse and there are really a lot of good spots here. Given its proximity to Europe, it is easy to understand why they would prefer to come here rather than go somewhere in the Pacific,” she said.
Carole said, “What people is missing when they don’t dive is that there is a completely different world down there to appreciate. The underwater creatures have taken this different unique forms nowhere else you can find on dry land. There are things underwater that you can easily mistake for plants when in fact they are animals. It’s all very different including the range of colours — all these vibrant animals of purple, orange, red and blue and it’s also only underwater you can find the largest animals on the planet like the whales.”
She added, “Being underwater also gives you this feeling of flying. When you learn how to be comfortable with all your equipment and can manage them well, it gives you total freedom to explore. Even astronauts do training underwater because it is there that you feel this certain weightlessness that you can also experience in space.”
But it’s not for everyone.
“Realistically, once people give it a try and then had that first experience of getting submerge underwater, it’s either they say ‘It’s not for me’ or they say ‘It’s awesome,” she said.
Bunch of questions
“When one decides to try scuba diving, we have a programme for beginners. For those who want to pursue it professionally, the programme includes a series of questions related not only to health but some mental questions to determine the readiness of a person,” Carole shared.
“You have to answer a medical questionnaire. It’s a long list of things asking about your medical history. For example, if you have asthma, this medical condition can cause crisis underwater and there are a lot of factors to consider to guarantee your safety,” she explained.
Those serious to pursue scuba diving has to undergo the PADI system certification — a “progressive training that introduces skills, safety-related information and local environmental knowledge to student divers in stages. PADI courses are student-centered and provide maximum practice and realistic application,” according to its website.
‘With open water diving, you can go up to a depth of 18 metres. Technically, once you have this certification, you don’t need for a professional to go with you but many still prefer going with experts because you can’t predict the things that happen underwater,” she said.
It takes a lot more of training to qualify as a master diver. Carole also explained that there are different specialisations in diving which include cave diving, underwater videography and photography, wreck diving among other things.
While it may look easy when showed on videos, scuba diving is actually a very technical process.
After answering series of questionnaires, Carole then went on to check the gears. From the dive mask, to the wetsuit, to scuba fins to how much gas there is on the tank — everything is meticulously checked before heading to the water.
Since communication is limited underwater, it was also part of the programme to train beginners on different hand gestures that are universally recognised among divers.
“Unlike on land, we have to adapt a form of communication so that we would know what the problem is. There are a lot of problems in diving that can actually be solved underwater,” she said.
Carole also demonstrated how to recover the gas mask when you lose hold of it, how to clear the dive mask if water enters it as well as how to properly equalize.
“Equalising is important to relieve pressure from your ears. There are certain ways to do it. Some prefers making the swallowing gesture, others prefer pinching their nose and some choose moving their jaws back and forth,” she said.
“A lot of beginners make the mistake in their breathing when they are underwater. Make sure that you breath in and out properly. When you master your breathing techniques, the experience will be more seemless,” she added.
“Diving is a lazy sport too. You have to take your time. When you are in the open water and there are a lot of underwater life to see, enjoy the moment, appreciate what is around you. The ocean is filled with beings really worthy of appreciation,” she said.
“Anyone interested in diving, we have different programmes for them here in Muscat Hills Diving Resort. We offer a complete range of courses from beginners to professional, all taught by an international staff with years of diving experience,” Marketing Manager Bassel Chammaa shared.