Neil Murphy Bio
Arriving in Musandam Oman in late 2010 was a bit of a shock to me.
I had just finished a contract in Fiji and faced with oppressive heat, sand and dust and living in a tiny enclave of Oman really made me think about my decision to accept the offer I had received.
However, the Musandam is magical and quickly dispelled any ideas of diving in an underwater desert. I have dived in some of the most beautiful places on the planet and although the diving has been crystal clear water, colourful reefs and tropical climates, it all becomes a bit monotonous to me after awhile and the diving becomes pretty as opposed to the wow factor I started diving in those areas with. With over 900 species of identified marine life in the Musandam waters the biodiversity is amazing.
I have seen many underwater photos taken of beautiful reefs but I have always lamented the lack of fish in the photos. Wherever you look in the Musandam there are fish.
The Musandam is rugged, it challenges you every time you go diving in Musandam. The stark beauty of the Hajar mountains transform into exceptional diving when you submerge. Incredible soft coral variety and an abundance of marine life coupled with some amazing underwater topography truly makes the Musandam, in my opinion, the foremost place to dive if you are an avid diver residing in the UAE/Oman.
A dive site can be dived three times in a row and every dive will serve up something different. The currents in the Musandam can be unforgiving and dangerous but at the same time there is always the chance of seeing the big pelagics, for example Mola-Molas or Whalesharks.
I love diving in current and especially enjoy helping divers to understand them. I spent 9 years exploring almost every nook and cranny there is to offer in the Musandam. The Musandam is truly my mistress, as no dive area or region has ever challenged my skills as a diver and a dive guide as much as the Musandam does.
Freestyle Divers can open the Musandam to you in its entirety. In the far North, the dive sites world class, trust me! A purposefully built double story dive centre and affiliations to the Atana branded hotels up there allow you a stress free getaway from the UAE with beautiful and adventurous diving.
From Dibba, the entire east coast is opened up to you. Beautiful fjords and a combination of sunken reefs and wall dives that are only an hour and 30 minutes away from Dubai makes for the perfect day or weekend getaway. Speedboat trips on offer every weekend and during the week (dependent on bookings and number of divers) coupled with liveaboard trips allows divers of all levels to discover a different world of diving from that on offer in the UAE.
Why would you choose Freestyle Divers to go for for Musandam Discover Diving? The answer is the team.
We know the sites intimately, understand her weather systems and currents, and can take you to sites that very few people know about. Couple that with world class customer service, and you know you have made the right choice for your luxury diving holiday in The Musandam Peninsula
The Freestyle team looks forward to hosting you in our little corner of diving paradise and showing you the wonders that lie beneath the Musandams waters.
#1 Ras Lima
One of the most under rated sites for Musandam Diving.
This is a great dive site for all levels of diver with a sloping coral reef down to a sandy bottom located just outside the town of Lima and close to Lima Rock.
It’s a haven for both macro and wide-angle photography, where you can discover nudibranchs, whip gobys, hermit crabs and coral shrimps, through to cow tail rays, shoaling yellow snapper, yellow spotted trevally, turtles and geometric moray eels.
Stunning pinnacles with teeming marine life as you near the point of Ras Lima and an underwater ridge running towards Lima Rock once past the point.
Depth varies from 8m towards the western drop in point (closest to Lima village) and 25m on the pinnacles near the point. Also a great night dive option and a good sheltering area if a strong easterly wind is blowing.
Our fondest memories of Ras Lima include the difference between when we announced the dive site and people on the trip asking “do we really have to dive it?”, to the reaction once we surfaced – “that was amazing!”.
#2 Octopus Rock
Arguably the best site for Scuba Diving in Musandam .
Octopus Rock gets its name from the underwater ridges running off the main pinnacle that resemble tentacles.
Just over 50 minutes from Dibba, this dive site always serves up the best marine biodiversity on the east coast. Whale sharks, big-eye trevally, cobia (prodigal son), chevron barracuda, eagle rays, cow tail rays, round ribbon tail rays, batfish, sea-horse, nudibranchs, eels galore and fusiliers are just some of the critters that can be spotted on this dive. It has an array of beautiful soft and hard corals as well.
Once you have descended on the main pinnacle in 17m of water, you are faced with different ridges to work with with. Some of the ridges go down to 35m and the safety stop on this dive is fantastic on top of the ridges with the inquisitive batfish accompanying you.
This is an advanced dive site and a Nitrox certification will provide increased safety and more time to explore its wonders (you can obtain the required certification with Freestyle Divers). You can easily do 2 dives on this site in a day and rave about both the dives on the boat afterwards.
Our favourite memory on this site was a Tiger shark that appeared out of nowhere.
If this dive is being advertised for the forthcoming weekend, then do yourself a favour and book it asap!
#3 Mother of Mouse/ Umm Al Fayarin
Now we start getting into the heart of the Musandam.
Mother of Mouse is an island located east (about a 10 minute boat ride) from Khor Habelyn (the largest fjord in the Musandam).
A favourite amongst the those in the Musandam scuba diving community. Macro and wide-angle photography enthusiasts will marvel at what Mother of Mouse will serve up.
We drop into 5m of water on the south side of the island and swim in a westerly direction until we get to the ridge that runs in a southerly direction down to 42m. The ridge is clothed in green soft coral. The ridge has an array of schooling fish from barracudas, trevally, sheri and parrot fish and spending a few minutes here just watching the spectacle is already highly rewarding.
Continuing north we start to enter the macro zone and there is just too much variety for the eye to take in. Ending the dive in 5m of water (look out for the turtles) is a safety stop to remember.
Nudibranchs, eels, cow tail rays, eagle rays, whale shark, black tip shark, round ribbon tail rays, torpedo rays, mola-mola (sunfish) are commonly spotted on this site.
Our favourite memory on this site: four mola-mola on the 38m coral bommie.
#4 Ras Bashin
Located at the northern entrance or exit of Shaboos bay, Ras Bashin is a very special dive.
From a beautiful wall covered in soft coral, to a gradual sloping coral reef littered in beautiful green and purple soft corals. Depth in the area ranges from 6m down to 35m. Barracuda, trevally, mobular rays, sheri, turtles, eagle rays and all the normal reef suspects can be found here.
As always when diving in Musandam, care must be taken when the current is running and an SMB and reel are mandatory on this dive.
Our favourite memory on this site: a school of over 50 mobular rays flying past in formation.
#5: Ras Khayser (Outside or Southern)
Located at the southerly point of Sheesa Bay.
There is a lovely sloping coral reef and short walls on this dive with depths ranging from 5m to 36m.
Another site that both macro and wide-angle photography enthusiasts will enjoy. Starting the dive on the western side of the point and diving towards the point is the best route. Watch out for the currents on the point and it is adviseable to carry an SMB and reel on this dive.
Best dived in the morning due to the sun angle, this dive site has too many great memories to only put one down. We’ve had hundreds of mobular rays covering the reef and 3 dolphins swimming past within touching distance on a single dive, with Mola-mola spotted on at least 4 different occasions as well as visits from whale sharks! This is where we found the only gas flamed nudibranch that we’ve spotted in the Musandam as well.
This site is already in the teeth of the Musandam and being nitrox certified for these trips is highly recommended.
#6: White Rock
This dive is reserved for experienced divers who are comfortable diving in currents!
Located just outside of Sheesa Bay, this small rock looks a bit like the Sydney Opera House.
Often exposed to strong currents with a dangerous down current on the western point. Dropping in on the north east side of the rock into 12m and working your way in a westerly direction will give you the best results. Here it is imperative that you have a guide who understands the hazards of this site.
It is not a big dive site and must be dived slowly but there is plenty to see. Queen fish, barracuda, schooling moorish idols, huge marble rays, big honeycomb eels, giant trevally and cobia are seen on this dive. The macro photographers will not enjoy this one, it is most definitely a wide-angle photography dive!
It is possible to circumvent the rock but only on a slack tide. Staying at around the 20-25m mark is the norm here unless you are certified as a technical diver and are able to dive deeper down to the fish bowl in 45-50m of water.
There is a ridge at 60m that also links up with Ras Khayser. Depending on the target depth, either trimix or a low nitrox mix of 26% is best, and an SMB and reel, and reef hook are highly recommended on this site. Make sure you are watching your guide constantly.
Our favourite memory was two whale sharks on this site.
#7: Ras Musandam
This is Neil’s personal favourite!
This site is challenging and we pre-screen divers to ensure they have the required experience to be able to dive it safely.
This is a site where we actively look for the current!
Starting a fair way inside the point on the south side of Ras Musandam, which is a combination of sloping reef and walls, we drop into a sloping reef covered with purple soft coral. Diving in an easterly direction, we usually feel little to no current, however 10-15 minutes into the dive you will start to feel a gradual pull on you and that pull gets stronger and stronger. Advanced mastery of buoyancy and experience of diving in variable currents are a must.
Here we deal with three different types of underwater current. Namely, down-currents, up-currents as well as the classic horizontal currents, each of which have their own challenges and require a cool head and solid dive skills to manage.
Giant trevally, barracuda, black tip and zebra sharks, whale sharks, eagle rays, mobular rays and tarpons are found here. Best dived early in the morning or around 4pm.
This is a dive site where the briefing is distinctly more safety orientated as opposed to environmentally orientated, be sure to listen attentively! You’ll need to be careful as you near the point, with a careful swim around the corner hugging the 12m ridge which is slightly undercut and protects you from the down currents. There is often a ‘washing machine’ area just off the point where the currents are a little crazy, but once you are around the corner the current slacks off for a calmer end to the dive.
Our best experience here: on the way to dive another site Neil had a hunch about changing the site to Ras Musandam. After being in the water for 20 minutes and not seeing a single fish (which gave him some time to come up with suitable excuses for when the group surfaced), a whale shark swam into view and hung around us for another 20 minutes.
This is a site where we have surfaced from a dive, changed tanks and the group has begged us to jump back in and do it again.
#8: South Eastern Ridge of Salamah or Great Quoin Island
Certainly not for the faint hearted, this is a site where the standing joke is “do you have an Iranian tourist visa?” which gives you an idea of how close to Iranian waters we actually are on this site. Welcome to the Straits of Hormuz!
Either done via speedboat from our centre in Khasab or on a minimum of a 2 day/2 night liveaboard safari out of Dibba port.
Salamah is the largest of the three islands in the straits and marks the exit from the Gulf of Oman.
Neil always chuckles at the beginning of this dive, as the first 5 minutes are on sand only and the divers are thinking “where in the blazes is he taking us?” A small ridge will appear and it gradually develops into a beautiful soft coral covered ridge that disappears into the Straits in an easterly direction.
This is a big dive as there is almost always current present but the marine life is astounding. Zebra sharks, whale sharks, great barracuda, giant trevally, eagle rays, mobular rays, round ribbon tail rays the size of a car, and a mass of schooling fish everywhere.
Every person who dives here has to have a computer, have their own SMB and reel and be very comfortable with fast moving water.
There are only 2 or 3 guides who know this site well, and to be honest, Neil has dived it a lot more than the others.
Our favourite memory: the 1st time Neil took a group up here after exploring it on his own, he took a really great group of divers there who were super happy to see 6 zebra sharks and over 35 different rays. An amazing and little visited site.
The middle and smallest island out in the Straits of Hormuz.
We would normally do this dive as the second dive after Salamah, or as an alternative to Salamah if the current is running fast, as it does offer a bit of protection from the current due to its topography.
The site is characterised by a sloping coral reef down to 18m and then a sloping sandy floor littered with beautiful whip corals. Zebra sharks, eagle rays, barracuda, whip gobys, spanish dancer nudibranch and green turtles are to be found here.
As you near the northern point, there are beautiful rock formations and an abundance of soft corals with the green turtles hanging out at around 6m.
Our favourite memory is two zebra sharks mating and finding two spanish dancer nudibranchs.
#10: Ras Morovi
This site is one for the macro photography enthusiasts.
This is a great dive to end a liveaboard weekend or as a day trip out of Dibba by speedboat.
It has a lovely drop point inside a protected bay and is a macro photographer’s dream with pipe fish, nudibranchs, shrimps, flounders, cleaning stations, hermit crabs and possibly the best coral gardens in Musandam & Oman for scuba diving.
Average depth is 14m and reaching 19m on the point. The coral garden runs from 2m until 12m with amazing reef fish life to be found. There is also a small cave (not big enough to swim through) where we often find a round ribbon tail hiding out. Resident green turtles and mobular rays can also be spotted.
Our favourite dive memory here was being tailed by a zebra shark that used to be a resident a few years ago.