x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Travelling with kids: All at sea off Oman, and loving it

A two-night dhow cruise along the Musandam Peninsula means that the children spend every waking moment in the water.

Forty eight hours at sea on a not-very-big dhow with four children, five adults and four crew members. I absorb this information and exchange an alarmed glance with my husband who, it turns out, is more worried about getting seasick.

It's 6pm, we've just arrived at the port in Dibba (on the Omani side; a four-hour drive from Abu Dhabi) and are waiting in the office of the dive specialists Al Marsa. Our 11-year-old son has already made friends with the three Emirati girls (ages 6 to 13) who are on the trip with their father. The other two passengers, a Swede and a South African, are busy checking their diving equipment.

Then Rico, our guide and diving instructor, herds us together for a quick briefing, ending with the promise of two days of fun on the Musandam seas. After reassuring my husband that the boat is stocked with seasickness pills, he leads us to the "Blue Dhow", one of Al Marsa's fleet of five.

I immediately fall in love with the boat. The bottom deck contains the cabins, with comfortable bunks, and tiny bathrooms with shower, toilet and hot and cold water. The upper deck is home to the air-conditioned, glass-walled "living area", opening on to the dhow's bow, where the kitchen is. The back doors lead to a daybed, perfect for lounging around and napping. The top deck is where our meals are served, all freshly prepared by Bibin, the shy chef.

The dhow finally sets off for the Musandam Peninsula, the mountains on our left and, to our right, the open sea, flat as a pancake and glowing turquoise. We sail right through the night and wake up the next morning to the sound of Babu, our stocky, taciturn captain, shouting instructions to his deputy while edging the boat into a perfectly still bay.

The children are on the upper deck in a trice, sleepy-eyed but shouting: "Kayaks! We want the kayaks!"

And Rico makes good on his promise: we spend two days in a fug of happiness, fishing, kayaking around rocks, exploring caves, and gaping at nudibranch, lobsters, eels and crabs while snorkelling in the shallows.

The divers and Rico head off in search of deep waters in the motor boat (that is tied to the back of the dhow when not in use), waving cheery goodbyes and returning with images of wonderful underwater creatures on their cameras.

The children practically live in the water, talking at the top of their voices, the echoes bouncing off the cliffs above us. Twice we stop at unbelievably white beaches with only seagulls and goats for company; the silence is immense, except for the waves crashing on the rocks.

It's a quiet party that returns to Dibba two days later, the kids sulky at having to return home, the adults barely in a better mood, staring out at the waters that are a fiery orange from the setting sun – and thinking that 48 hours at sea on a not-very-big dhow are not quite enough, after all.

• Prices for an overnight cruise with Al Marsa (www.almarsamusandam.com; 00968 26836550), full board, including snorkelling and kayaking equipment, start from Dh750 per adult and Dh375 per child (5 to 10 years of age). Diving costs extra.


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