Diving in Fujairah: enjoy a Martini (on the) Rock!

Toxopneustes Pileolus, commonly known as Flower Sea UrchinToxopneustes Pileolus, commonly known as Flower Sea Urchin. Picture courtesy of Pedro Santiago, instructor and owner of The Dive Shop Dubai

During the divemaster course, the candidate has to assist his instructor during practical sessions, both courses and dives with certified divers. On the occasion of my divemaster course, I had the opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful dive sites in the UAE. Despite it’s long coastline, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has only recently started to attract dive travelers. Encompassing the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, which separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman, the UAE – especially Dubai – has long been known as a retail-therapy and duty-free destination, rather than an sporting attraction.

The sea around Dubai has an average depth of 10-20 meters off the coast, while along the coast, the depth varies between 3 and 10 meters, with a mostly sandy bottom; not the best conditions for a beautiful dive. But within two hours driving you can reach several regions to dive along the east coast as well as the Gulf of Oman. Popular areas include Fujeirah, Khorfakkan and Musandam along the Gulf of Oman and Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi along the Persian or Arabian Gulf. On the east coast of the country, the shorelines and reefs are virtually untouched – revealing a land that would look unchanged and familiar to ancient seafarers.

During my course I had the opportunity to explore the three dive sites of interest for both local divers and travelers.

Inchcape 2

Location: 25°20’19.8″N; 56°22’53.3″E
Description: Wreck Dive
Depth: 18 – 22 metres (60 – 72 feet)
Visibility: 5 – 15 metres (15 – 50 feet)

This wreck was sunk by Inchcape Shipping in 2002 and it is amazing how much has grown on it since then. The artificial reef created when Inchcape 1 was sunk, was so successful, and the marine life it attracted in a relatively short time so prolific, that it inspired the Inchcape team to offer another boat for the same purporses. This is a lovely wreck dive not far from Martini Rock. As you go around the edge of the deck you can see lots of morays, scorpionfish, nudibranchs and little boxfish. The coral is bright yellow, pink and purple in places. It looks particularly beautiful where it has grown over the tyres on the side.

If you look carefully, you can see some beautiful nudibranchs. Plus the railings and the ropes have on them crabs which are really well camouflaged as they have things growing on their shells. It’s possible to enter and swim through the whole wreck, end-to-end, but take care as some of the internal fittings have become loose with age.

Name: Inchcape 2, originally known as Gray Lance
Nationality: UAE
Year built: 1971
Type: Steel crew boat
Tonnage: 57 tonnes gross
Dimensions: L 21 m x B 5 m x D 3 m
Date sunk: April, 24th 2002

Martini Rock

Location: 25°20’05″N; 56°22’53″E (Al Fujayrah, Indian Ocean side of the United Arab Emirates)
Description: Large rock formation close to shore
Depth: 3 – 22 metres (10 – 72 feet)
Visibility: 5 – 15 metres (15 – 50 feet)

A pleasing and colorful site that makes you feel like you’re diving in an aquarium. Martini Rock is a small submerged coral outcrop, the top of which is visible from the surface at 3 meters. The variety of fish life is excellent and the top 5 meters is like an aquarium: schools of snapper, fusiliers, anthias, triggerfish and large-mouth mackerel are present most of the year. Lovely rich orange soft coral everywhere and some deep purple and bright yellow soft coral as well. Every other metre you see something interesting, starting with cuttlefish on the sand, nudibranchs, lionfish, scorpionfish, puffer and burrfish, snappers, broomtail wrasse, and geometric and yellow-margined morays. You should be able to dive all round the rock (which is supposed to be like a martini glass on its side) in one dive, starting off at about 12 metres, moving to 20 and then going back to shallower again.

Shark Island (also known as Khor Fakkan Island)

Location: 25°21’12″N; 56°22’36.2″E
Description: Large rock formation
Depth: 16 metres (55 feet)
Visibility: 5 – 15 metres (15 – 50 feet)

During the third dive of the day, I helped the instructor with two people attending the OWD certification courses. So we have limited ourselves to dive in relatively shallow waters. Nevertheless, we got to meet up a huge sea turtle, very close to us. As the name suggests, this place is favorable for spotting certain types of shark, especially the black tip. There are also numerous anemones, natural home of clownfish (Nemo.. just to be clear).

The divemaster course I am currently attending is granted by the instructor Pedro Santiago of The Dive Shop Dubai.

34G European Business Center,
1 Dubai Investment Park, Dubai, UAE

The dives were organized in collaboration with the 7 Seas Divers.

Toxopneustes Pileolus, commonly known as Flower Sea Urchin.
Toxopneustes Pileolus, commonly known as Flower Sea Urchin. Picture courtesy of Pedro Santiago, instructor and owner of The Dive Shop Dubai
Phylum: Echinodermata
Class: Echinoidea
Superorder: Echinacea
Order: Temnopleuroida
Family: Toxopneustidae
Genus: Toxopneustes
Species: E. pileolus
Did you know that this innocent and beautiful common sight in the East Coast of UAE is actually one of the most poisonous sea urchins? It can send you to the hospital where loved ones can actually present you with a less dangerous version of a flower – if you are into that sort of things.

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