Diving in the desert

Diving in the desert

When we think of the ideal dive destination tropical islands and coconut trees come to mind. We seldom think that destinations in the desert could offer good diving. Here is a few Desert Diving destinations to consider for your next dive trip.

Eliat

The most Northerly tropical coral reefs in the world can be found in this beautiful dive location.

Most of the dive sites in Eliat can be reached via a shore entry with numerous slopes and drop offs of between 20-40 meters within a few minutes’ swim from shore. This makes Eliat perfect for beginners and more experienced divers.

What can you see: Eliat offer diving for all tastes with wrecks, caves, walls, ancient tables of Acropora corals, coral gardens created by the Marine University and a diversity of marine life.

Part of Eliat is a Nature Reserve where you are sure to see a wide diversity of tropical fish and coral that are well preserved. There is a whaleshark mother and calf that usually pass by during the summer months.

When to go: July and August, when the water temperature is around 29°C, is generally the high season in Eliat. September and October still sees warm water with less crowds and is recommended as a good time to go. Low season is in January and February when the water temperature could drop as low as 19°C. Visibility averages at about 40 meters.

Oman

With a coastline of 1700km, Oman- the oldest independent stat in the Arab world- offers extraordinary diving.

What can you see: With between 1300-1500 different species of fish, Oman has a number of unique fishes loosely labelled as ‘Arabian’ species. The water in the Northerly Arabian Gulf is exceptionally salty with temperatures between 10-35°C. Because of these factors the most diversity of fish can be found in the Southern areas of Oman, in the Arabian sea.

The Daymaniyat Islands is a group of 9 islands spread out over 50km’s and shelter nesting populations of Green and Hawksbill turtles. Because of this turtles can often be seen on dives with plankton blooms bringing in worse visibility but the potential of seeing whalesharks. Water temperature here can be as low as 22°C with maximum depths of 20-28 meters. The Daymaniyat Islands also offer the chance to see many moray eels, scorpion and stone fish as well as possibly seeing leopard sharks.

Muscat offer a variety of tropical fish and coral as well as the MS Mimoona wreck with lies between 8-16 meters.

The Royal Navy of Oman sunk a ship in Al Munnassir in 2003. The wreck lies between 8-26 meters and, although fairly new, it already houses a variety of fish life including large shoals of fish.

When to go: The average visibility in Oman is around 5-10 meters with better visibility during May while Whalesharks are often spotted between September and October. Winter months generally have bad visibility and water temperatures could go as low as 20°C.

Jordan

Jordan offer some of the best diving in the Red Sea with gardens of coral and an abundance of fish life- some that are indigenous to the area. Aqaba is described as having the beauty of Egypt without the crowds. Many dive sites here can be reached by shore entry and boat trips are also offered by most dive operators.

What can you see: Aqaba has a Lebanese fighter ship wreck that lays between 9-26 meters, sunken American M42 anti-aircraft tank and spectacular wall dives. You can also explore an underwater tea garden, bridge, walkway and hangman’s noose all surrounded by emperor angel fish. Keep your eyes open and you might see giant morays, black coral, frogfish, feather tail stingrays, seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish, dragon fish and napoleon wrasse.

When to go: September/October and April/May are good times to go with water temperatures between 23-26°C and air temperature around 35°C. During June to August the air temperature can go as high as 50°C while February to March often have strong winds, sand storms, plankton blooms and large waves.

Morocco

There has been rumours that diving is banned in Morocco, fortunately this is not true. These rumours also mean that the dive industry in the country is underdeveloped- which means pristine, empty dive sites on the North West coast of Africa (Morocco is neighbour to the Canary Islands).

As the dive industry in Morocco is still growing, dive centres are limited with most of them located in Tangier.

What can you see: Pods of dolphins can often be seen here as well as sea turtles and blue conger eels. On the untouched reefs you might find groupers, cuttlefish skates and schools of barracuda. While some dive sites have little to no currents, others have strong currents and are recommended only for experienced divers.

When to go: The water temperature ranges from about 15°C in the winter to about 25°C in the summer.

All of these destinations have unique cultures and amazing sites to explore above and below the water. Tell us about your diving in the desert experience!

*A version of this article was first published at www.scubadiverlife.com

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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