Arriving at night comes with the joy of seeing things for the first time with fresh morning light. We wanted enough sleep to be rested for a possible full day of diving but I also wanted to be up to explore a bit and eat a lot before getting to the dive center at 7:40 am like we were asked. Swimsuits on with resort casual clothes on over, we exit the room to see a waterslide, palm trees, and mountains with plenty of lounge chairs and canopies in-between.
Breakfast is an overwhelming buffet of options — coffee, tea bags, karak, bakery station, omelet chef, six juices and four milks, fresh fruit bar, international soups and salads, Omani traditional snacks, a kid’s area, and so many other foods to choose from (as we think about what we will get tomorrow) as we only had time for one plate and a glass of green apple juice — one of my new favorites — and why isn’t this drink more popular?
The concierge calls the shuttle to deliver us to the marina but the driver lets us walk down the steep hill until he realizes we have bags and tries to offer help. It’s too late and we don’t care because we’re excited to be going diving. The land is yellow, the water blue, and the dive company has a reusable cup system which I like but a “use our numbered bag” policy which could be an inconvenience as our drybag is built into ours which we leave in the office with our dive logs as we follow the man carrying our gear. I lean over and tell Caleb, “I could get used to this”.
Michael, also called Mich, from Italy will be the divemaster for those needing a guide and an entertaining dive briefer to us on the expectations of the sites after getting Caleb hooked up with another regulator as his has issues again (the first time was a cracked o-ring). Mermaid Cove is a cuttlefish haven (or cephalopod mating area to the more scientifically interested, such as divemaster Tamsyn and I) with clearish water and beautiful reefs full of one of my new favorite fish — Arabian Boxfish aka Bluetail Trunkfish (Ostracion cyanurus).
Averaging 15 feet of depth in 79*F water (I had a 3mm and would’ve been more comfortable in a 5mm wetsuit) allowed us to get almost two hours of bottom time before lunch to spot some puzzle-piece fish (threespot dascyllus or domino damsel). Some people stay fully suited, others half wetsuit, and others into dry clothes for some hot tea with coconut cookies (or salt crackers) to dip. Caleb doesn’t have this issue as he’s diving in swim trunks and a long-sleeve rash guard and sipping coffee.
Back at the shop one of the hotels had delivered a boxed lunch for us (which can be arranged in advance — and I should’ve asked for veggie, but it worked out), so while others left for the day we sat down to a slider and mini bagel that I took the meat off of, two lunch meat wraps that I gave to Caleb (in exchange for his veggie one), a chicken leg, and an apple and banana wrapped in plastic. With an hour to spare, we walk to Al Hosn (the priciest rooms at the resort) where guests must be 16+.
The morning dives we were joined by Bill, also diving Nitrox, who is missing his wife on vacation with him but who can’t dive again until she gets her heart condition fixed. For the afternoon dive, we would be joined by a Dutch family currently living in Armenia (husband’s job has moved them to about five countries) and the kids are 12 and 13, but the daughter is going on 14 and is “woe is me… getting so old” as I think about how I’ve been with Caleb longer than she’s been alive — the other adults agree.
One of the first things a diver is taught after “Always Breath” is to check their buddies and themselves for BCD inflated and working, weights (on belt or integrated) and how to release them in an emergency, that their air is on and regulator functioning before they put goggles and fins on and enter the water. So you can imagine our surprise since we’re sitting on opposite sides of the boat when I enter the water without my tank open and have to call Caleb over to assist before our descent. The most dangerous part of a dive is still the boat — sunburn, pre-dive preparations, getting to and from boat/site.
We would double our average depth on this dive and make the mistake of trying to follow directions, “instead of following the reef just swim out to sea” like following the red line from Google Maps on the open road (there is no line) and when we lost visibility we lost the navigation (due to different headings on our compasses) to the place we were searching and ended up going almost 60 feet down (Nitrox works best between 50 – 100 feet). We cut our dive short to swim back over the shallow corals.
We enjoy a smooth cruise back to shore while watching the sunset behind the hills. Caleb thought we could change up the water temperature and get in the jacuzzi, but that would require a walk to another hotel, so we just slid into the heated pool for a race to the other side (forgetting about the loop on the other side of the bridge) and I was colder when we got out seconds later. Our shower though comes with options from comfortable to steam as 30 and 38 are written on the knob.
Classy as we are, we share a burrito that we brought with us before going to BAB Lounge on the boardwalk to enjoy the ambient lights, live DJ, and the snack tray: salt-n-pepper chips, carrot and zucchini sticks, and cheddar popcorn that Caleb thought was spicy. We saw Bill and he said he’d try to get some people to join us for a night dive — minimum four people required and good weather — we would get neither. We explored the water park and dhow lit up at night before going back to the room around 9 pm.