x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Divers across UAE beat the heat and explore underwater world

The UAE has become an increasingly popular destination for deepsea divers because of the array of marine life to be seen off its shores.

A diver does a back roll into the open water to begin her open water dive at Dibba Rock in Fujairah.
A diver does a back roll into the open water to begin her open water dive at Dibba Rock in Fujairah.

It is midday and the sun beats down. Not just any old heat, but a sweltering, searing, cloyingly humid heat.

The type of weather that drives most people inside to the comfort of air-conditioning.

But to some, the summer drives them to look elsewhere to continue their outdoor pursuits - all the way underwater.

"I will keep diving all summer," says Ralf Mueller, a dive instructor at Al Boom Diving, in Al Aqah, Fujairah.

The seasoned diver sports a deep tan, the result of many long hours spent outdoors as part of the close to 1,000 dives he has completed since moving to the UAE two years ago.

During the summer, although the temperature of the water - on the surface at least - can reach highs of 34°C, once you descend it is an altogether cooler experience.

"You will frequently see turtles, including Hawksbill, and huge stingrays," says Mr Mueller, gesturing to his office wall which is covered in colourful photos from past dives.

The array of marine life, boosted by an abundance of plankton, also includes cuttlefish, octopus, moray eels and lion fish, the last of which can give a nasty sting if you get too close.

Regardless, unpredictable visibility has an adverse affect on the popularity of UAE waters with divers.

But whether or not you can see two feet or 20 feet, once you are under water, you are in a whole other world.

With dives taking place twice a day during the week, and at an added frequency during the weekend, whether or not you find yourself swimming in conditions remiss of watery gravy or in clear waters, you will always find something noteworthy.

Although an expensive hobby, beginners can find themselves taking on a 12-metre dive with an instructor on their first day.

Anyone keen to take the hobby further must first qualify for their Padi (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) open water certificate, which allows them to swim to depths of 18 metres, before moving on to more advanced courses.

The UAE is home to some of the best dive sites in the world, says Bob Denton, who fitted in a dive during his four-day trip to Dubai.

This was his second visit to the country - and second time diving -but it will not be his last.

"The visibility was not good, but it was a fun dive. The fish were great."

A master diver who has completed almost 150 dives in locations around the world, his Dibba dive was notable for its abundance of eels, says Mr Denton.

"There were 15 eels - 15 of them - and the size of them!" he says. "There were moray eels, too, which was sweet."

Although unable to dive regularly in the UAE because of his work schedule, should he find himself back during the hot season, it will only be the water conditions, as opposed to the heat, that hold him back. "I'll definitely come back", he says, "and when I do I'll do some research beforehand so that I can optimise my trip."

Training for her dive master qualification, 33-year-old Ana Cezar, from Brazil, does not think people give the UAE enough credit as a diving location.

"I think it's better here than people think," says the business consultant, who dives as a hobby.

"Most of the people I know [who live here] have never tried diving but go to places like the Maldives."

If more is done to promote the country as a place to dive, more people will discover the underwater beauty the UAE has to offer, Ms Cezar says.

"We saw turtles and squid today. Not to say the UAE is one of the top 10 places in the world to dive, but it is very good."

As the summer peaks, the divers will continue to come, says Mr Mueller. Most will be guests staying at the nearby hotels, but there are regulars.

Back on land after their second, and last dive, of the day, watching the instructors as they hop, skip and jump over the hot tiles to put away the diving gear, Mr Denton promises to return soon.

"I've been diving in the Cayman Islands and the fish were good, but I prefer to come here. It was a real experience."



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