DIVE-SITE NAMES are quirky. At Cave Site there is no cave. It’s named after a hollow beneath the headland that, from the surface, looks as if it could develop into an underwater cave, but does not.
Ray-Monde is named after a diver called Raymond, but is also a pun in French. The literal translation is Ray-World, and it’s where many rays have been seen. At Ray-Monde there is a cave, or to be more exact, a barely submerged tunnel through the headland. It’s a good second dive, with no need to go deep.
I see no rays, but perhaps that’s because I stayed in the shallows above the thermocline. If I had done this as a first dive I would have gone deeper and might have found them. A few days later at Ras Abu Dawud there are so many torpedo (electric) rays that it adds an extra reason not to sit on the reef.
Typically the water is warm enough for a shortie down to 8-10m, then a sharp thermocline into cold murky water, then another layer that clears again below 15-16m. But while that sets the pattern for my trip, such layering is not dependable. Layers can vary with the season, between dive-sites and with the weather.
As the financial salesman has to say when trying to flog you an investment, past performance is no indicator of future performance. The same can be said for the layering of warm and cold water off Oman.
While I have chosen to bring my 7mm one-piece without hood, others survive in 5mm suits. Those with a hooded over-jacket appear happy, but those in only a 5mm steamer are noticeably reluctant to linger in the chilly deeper water.
I actually enjoy dropping below the thermocline into colder water. An initial “ooh” soon transforms into a pleasant and refreshing “aah”.
The range of water temperature, turbidity and current leads to a wide assortment of marine life, often all on the same dive. We get reefs of hard and soft coral in the shallows, then in the deeper water walls of purple gorgonians more reminiscent of the Mediterranean.
In some places we get a strange mishmash where the conditions just can’t make up their mind, and warmer-water life just about survives through cold periods while colder-water life struggles through the warmer periods.
Mosaic moray eel.
Every dive is a string of little surprises. Fish species are the usual suspects, but with a local twist. In the shallows, examples of one of my favourite fish, the Picasso triggerfish, are everywhere.
I don’t need to go searching, just look over the reef and 20 or more are in sight.
Why won’t these annoyingly camera-shy cubists ever let me get close enough for a good picture?
I am compensated by a profusion of honeycomb moray eels, which are extremely co-operative. There are so many that they could easily outnumber all the yellow-mouth and mosaic morays added together.