Scuba diving in the UAE

Live the life aquatic with the help of this comprehensive round up of the best places to dive around the UAE – and beyond…

Getting down with the marine life
Getting down with the marine life
It’s worth shelling out for a Padi course
It’s worth shelling out for a Padi course
Khor Fakkan Public Beach
Khor Fakkan Public Beach
What a dive...
What a dive...
Snoopy Island
Snoopy Island
1/5

It’s not just pristine beaches that make Dubai and nearby Oman so popular with tourists – the rich marine life and sunken shipwrecks in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman have made the region one of the best in the world to dive. What’s more, since many of the most popular dive sites are accessible without having to go too deep, beginners and advanced divers alike can enjoy Neptune’s abundant offerings. The UAE’s East Coast is the country’s prime spot for teeming reefs and busy waters, while Oman has fjords, underwater caves and a variety of species to make for an exciting descent into the wide blue yonder.


UAE

Dibba Rock
According to Francis Uy, chief instructor at Al Boom Diving Centre, this is a favourite spot among divers, since there’s an 80 per cent chance of spotting sharks and turtles. ‘Also, as it’s only 10m deep, the visibility and lighting for photography is good,’ says Uy. ‘It’s very colourful and a great place to get hooked on diving.’ And, apparently, there are fewer bubbles in the water because the sea is relatively shallow around Dibba, meaning that ‘you can interact with the sharks better’. Great.

When to go: Anytime

How to get there: Al Boom Dive Centre offers dive tours

Inchcape One, Two & 10
The Inchcapes are ships purposely sunk to make artificial reefs. Inchcape One was donated by Inchcape Shipping Services in 2001. With the assistance of Dibba Municipality, Sandy Beach Motel, Sandy Beach Dive Centre and Al Boom Marine, it was sunk to depths of 30m. Though a small wreck, it’s already full of life and a likely spot for stingrays, barracuda and emperor fish. Inchcape Two was sunk in 2002 and lies 22m deep. While the same size, you can also swim all the way through this little vessel (providing you’ve got a Padi Wreck Diver qualification), with a good chance of seeing moray eels, stingrays and juvenile barracuda. Inchcape 10 is the biggest and newest of the wrecks, dropped in 2003, and home to an impressive fish population – such as lionfish, snakes, snappers and jacks.

When to go: March to December; a favourite for early morning dives

How to get there: Al Boom Dive Centre and Divers Down offer dive tours

Martini Rock
This rock formation is named as such because of its remarkable resemblance to a Martini glass when viewed from the air, or simply because the people who discovered it were quaffing Martini the night before – you decide. At a depth of 22m, this is ideal for advanced divers. Snapper, barracuda, pufferfish and turtles are commonplace here.

When to go: Anytime

How to get there: Al Boom Dive Centre, Divers Down, and Emirates Diving Association all offer dive tours

Snoopy Island
At the centre of this dive site is a big rock that looks like cartoon character Snoopy lying on his back (if you squint), hence the name. A big favourite with snorkellers and divers alike, the depth is just six-seven metres and you can wade out from the shore, but be careful of the sharp rocks on the approach. Surrounded by coral, you’ll often see harmless black-tip reef sharks, turtles, Arabian angelfish and moray eels.

When to go: Anytime

Hot to get there: Sandy Beach Dive Centre offers dive tours

Sharm Rocks
Near to fishing village Sharm, this site is made up of four rock formations that peek above the surface (the area is also known as The Pinnacles). On average this site is around nine-12m deep and is another good spot for turtles, as well as squid, jacks and pipefish (cousins of the seahorse).

When to go: Anytime

How to get there: Al Boom Dive Centre offers dive tours

Shark Island (Khor Fakkan Island)
Despite its English name, few divers claim to have actually seen a shark here. At 18-21m, this site is a little too deep for beginners. But the biggest drawback is that construction on the island has affected visibility and the coral is less than impressive.

When to go: Anytime between March to December

How to get there: Al Boom Dive Centre and Divers Down offer dive tours


Oman

Bandar Jussa
This is an ideal site for snorkelling and novice divers owing to its shallow waters (maximum 15m depth). The area has five dive sites and, while not the most scenic in all of Oman, they do offer plenty of cuttlefish, spiny lobsters and turtles. Bandar Jussa is also a prime location for a night dive.

When to go: Anytime

How to get there: Gulf Leisure Tours offers diving tours here

Bandar Khairan
A mere 20-minute boat ride from Muscat, Bandar Khairan is a pristine set of fjord-like islands, with breathtaking bays, plush mangroves and a sandy beach that is perfect for camping and picnicking between dives. There are several dive sites in the vicinity, ranging from shallow, four-metre-deep coral reefs (ideal for snorkellers and beginners) and 30m drop-offs. There is even a cave site, which marks a great place to spot moray eels, turtles and angelfish.

When to go: Anytime

How to get there: Global Scuba Dive Centre, Gulf Leisure Tours, Moonlight Dive Centre, Muscat Diving and Adventure Centre, and Oman Dive Centre all offer dive tours

Fahal Island
A large island four kilometers off the coast of Muscat, Fahal Island is a great place to spot sharks, many of which tend to rest on the sandbanks. The area also boasts the greatest variety of coral in one area in the whole of Muscat. For the more adventurous, there is a cave swim-through, a wreck at 30m, and deep reefs down to 40m, where schools of barracuda can be found.

When to go: Anytime

How to get there: Global Scuba Dive Centre, Gulf Leisure Tours, Moonlight Dive Centre, Muscat Diving and Adventure Centre, and Oman Dive Centre offer dive tours

Daymaniyat Islands
This is perhaps Oman’s most unspoiled dive site, partly because these islands represent the country’s only wildlife conservation area. As a result, it is necessary to gain permission from the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Environment before attempting to dive. A string of nine islands 18m off the coast, the Daymaniyat Islands mark one of the only places divers will get to see leopard sharks. Whale sharks and turtles are also common sites.

When to go: Anytime

How to get there: Global Scuba Dive Centre, Gulf Leisure Tours, Moonlight Dive Centre and Muscat Diving and Adventure Centre all offer dive tours here

Musandam Peninsula
Extremely diverse in its marine life, the water off the peninsula sports colourful corals and reef life, which can be found in the first 30m of depth. Diving can be extreme, due to strong currents in the Straits of Hormuz, but the numerous bays of the area provide excellent opportunities for fish spotting.

When to go: Anytime

How to get there: Al Boom Dive Centre, Al Marsa, and Pavilion Dive Centre offer snorkelling and dive tours

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