Oman is a relatively undiscovered dive destination. Here, divers will find warm water, pristine dive sites and plentiful marine life — all without crowds of divers or boats. The country is rich in natural beauty as well, with vast deserts and wadis to explore, plus bustling souks and the beautiful waterside capital, Muscat. Despite being a new destination for liveaboard diving, Oman has three great areas to choose from: the Daymaniyat Islands, Musandam Peninsula and Hallaniyat Islands. Each has unique dive highlights and divers can visit on a 7- or 10-night liveaboard safari. Marine life includes whale sharks, molas, mobula rays, whales, sea turtles and more. Much of the best scuba diving in Oman is suitable for divers of all levels.
Oman’s waters are warm year-round, ranging from 75 F in winter to 86 F in summer (24 to 30 C), meaning a 5 mm wetsuit should be sufficient for most divers. The best time to dive Oman is from October to May, as the water and air temperatures are ideal for diving and land excursions, and it’s also whale-shark season. Fans of sea turtles should visit during May and June to watch green and hawksbill turtles nesting on island beaches.
The local language is Arabic, but most Omanis speak very good English. The local currency is the Omani rial and bear in mind not all ATM machines will accept cards from foreign countries. Here are our picks for the best scuba diving in Oman.
Where is it: North of Muscat
What makes it special: This tiny archipelago of rocky islands was the first marine reserve created in Oman. Coral reefs surround the islands, which are an important area for nesting sea turtles. Deep-ocean upwellings attract large schools of fish, plus zebra sharks, whale sharks and reef sharks. This destination is so special that the government closes the marine reserve for part of each year to protect it and allow the marine life to flourish.
Details: Dive depths are up to 100 feet (30 m) and the dives are suitable for all divers, from open-water divers with no logged dives upwards.
When to go: May to October
Where is it: Oman’s northernmost region
What makes it special: This peninsula in the northmost reaches of Oman is known for fantastic scuba diving thanks to nutrient-rich waters and diverse marine life. Musandam is famous for whale sharks, which swim in the shallow waters here, plus colorful coral reefs, sea turtles, rays, mola molas and numerous critters. Two of the most popular dive sites, The Caves and Lima Rock, offer the chance to explore tunnels and underwater chambers, plus coral-encrusted walls. The Caves is a great place to search for resting sharks, while Lima Rock has large schools of tuna and jacks.
Details: Dives are suitable for all divers, from open water divers with no logged dives upwards.
When to go: April to June
Where is it: South of Muscat
What makes it special: If you’re looking for a remote and undiscovered dive destination in Oman, the Hallaniyat Islands fit the bill. These barren islands lie south of Muscat and are home to small fishing communities and great dive sites, only accessible by liveaboard. There are several wreck dives in the area. Additionally, marine life highlights include manta rays, pods of dolphins, humpback whales and even sperm whales.
Details: The diving in the remote Hallaniyat Islands is more suited to experienced divers. Be sure to take all the dive-gear spares you need, as you will struggle to find replacements on the islands.
When to go: September to May
Where is it: Southern Oman
What makes it special: Salalah is a great addition to your Oman diving itinerary before or after a liveaboard safari. It is harder to reach than other dive areas but is well worth the effort. Visit in summer and you can enjoy diving within seasonal kelp forests at Mirbat. These forests appear at the coral reef during this season only, due to cool upwellings, and die back by October each year.
Details: The dive sites of Salalah are mostly accessible via four-wheel-drive vehicles. There are some boat trips available to the area.
When to go: During the summer months
Divers and writers at LiveAboard.com contributed this article.