Shine Bright like a Diamond in Musandam

One of the best things about being in a sports team, aside from the people you meet is the awesome places you get to travel either to compete or to socialise.  I am fortunate that my Dragon Boat Team is a very social team, who enjoy hanging out together and we have some superb organisers on the team!

Recently some of these superb organisers arranged for our team plus some friends to go on an overnight dhow cruise through the Musandam Fjords, which some people like to describe as the Norway of Arabia.  After a 4+ hour drive, a dodgy restaurant stop, that can best be described as a place you will head to if you want food poisoning or a quickie in one of the dodgy back rooms, a relatively fast border crossing, and dodging a million wild goats. We arrived in Khasab where we meet our boat.

Once aboard we swiftly set sail and were quickly greeted with the majestic Fjords of Musandam, as we cruised through admiring how striking the ragged white cliffs appeared against the turquoise water we decided now would be the perfect time to crack open the drinks.  We cruised for a good while admiring the sights, and sipping our drinks before we landed at Telegraph Island this is where we anchored for the night.  Once anchored it did not take long before people were jumping from the boat, or admiring the clear water and the many different varieties of fish from the deck of the boat.  Our Captain also got amongst the mix by showing us his summersaulting skills from the canvas covering of the boat, and bringing us sea urchins and other interesting creatures from the sea floor.

As night fell, a speedboat arrived from a town in Oman aboard this ship was not only our dinner, but also the perfectly timed arrival of several bottles of whiskey our captain had managed to acquire for us.  Stupidly as we were packing for our trip, majority of us thought let’s take this opportunity to have a relatively quiet weekend and give our livers a break, in hindsight we should of packed for the inevitable. Surprisingly the bottles of whiskey his friends managed to procure an astounding feat in itself considering we couldn’t locate a bottlestore before boarding, we were also in the middle of the sea, and it was a Friday an holy day in the area we were in. The bottles were not highly inflated and thankfully not that horrible to drink.

After our basic but beautiful dinner of mainly biryani rice, chicken, lamb kofta, hummus and bread, we continued the drinking and games upstairs on the top deck of the boat.  As night turned into early morning the last few of us decided, it was time to turn in, before doing so, we threw some water over the side of the boat, and the most amazing thing happened the bioluminescent water shone back at us.  The excitement level went through the roof, as we had heard of this phenomenon happening in the area, but when we tested the water earlier we were unable to see it due to the light pollution.  At this stage, all human decency for our friends and fellow sleeping passengers went out the window as we jumped and dove into the water.  Surprisingly the water was as warm if not warmer than before, and as we swam, every movement sent a million shinning diamonds and stars to light up our movements. Jim so aptly described it as like being stuck in a cold play video.  Bioluminescent water happens when a living organism gives off an emission of light, in our case plankton and every time we swam or moved, all of the plankton in the area shone as bright as a thousand blue diamonds!  Definitely, the highlight of the trip, and one of the most amazing things I have ever seen, as most of the boat can testify after hearing me exclaim this loudly repeatedly!

Some of the boat decided to have a quick dip early the next morning before we set sail in search of beautiful views and dolphins, the views were amazing as was the pod of humpback dolphins we encountered, they swam near the boat and some of our friends even got in the water with them.  As I tried to ignore the loud sounds of the motor, the terrible smell of petrol fumes and the effect they must be having on the poor animals in the water.  I waited for another sight of the beautiful creatures gliding through the water especially the young calf.  We watched the dolphins mesmerised for a fair while before cruising back to telegraph island for some lunch and more snorkeling.  This is when other boats started turning up, until that point amazingly we had the area to ourselves apart from a brief encounter with another dhow boat earlier that morning.   Now there were boats full of tourists’ swarming in the area and this was evident for the rest of the day. We were very thankful to have experienced the area with the tranquility of the night before and the early morning cruise.

The rest of the day, we spent cruising the fjords and a quick stop for our final swim.  This swim was a little different to our last due to all of the other boats in the area with the same idea. A lucky few managed to get a ride from a bypassing jetski and as we headed back to the mainland we spent majority of the time looking to the horizon to see if we could spot the jetski and our missing passenger.  Eventually she reboarded the ship just in time to see the horrible pantomime of the boats overcrowding and fighting for the best spot to view a pod of dolphins.  It was horrible to witness and I am glad our captain did not try to compete with the other boats for a space to view the dolphins.  We farewelled our Captain, and friends and started our drive back to Abu Dhabi which seemed about ten times longer on the way back with us being hungover and tired, but it was worth every minute of the painful drive back!  I cannot wait to head back to Musandam and I will definitely use the same company next time, the staff were so lovely, accommodating and professional!

What you need to know:

How to get there:  Drive, it will take you around 4 hours from Abu Dhabi and 2 hours 45 minutes from Dubai depending on the border crossing.  You’ll need your passport and car insurance documents.  It will cost 35Dhs for the UAE exit stamp and OMR5 (50Dhs) for the Omani entry stamp.  (If you need to pay, New Zealanders are free).  The return journey is free.

Where to stay:  If you prefer not to sleep over night on a Dhow boat but don’t want the long drive back to Abu Dhabi or Dubai you have several options.  Khasab being a small town, there aren’t many options for accommodation they have two hotels, Golden Tulip or the Khasab Hotel. Alternatively, with Ras Al Kahimah only a 1hr 25 minute drive you could spend the night there.

When to go:  I would recommend doing this trip during the cooler winter months October to March, however tours operate all year around.

Costs:  Will vary depending on what company and package you select.  The options vary widely, and some companies can arrange transport for your tour departing from Dubai.  We paid around 300Dhs per person, which included everything including three meals and unlimited soft drinks and water.

Recommendations: we had a great experience with Khourshem Tours I would highly recommend them!  Contact Number: +968 92067996, Email Address: info@khourshemtours.com and website: http://khourshemtours.com/packages/dhow-cruise/

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