Drysuits, bacon rolls and rain – life back in the world of UK diving!

James in the UAE

James rocking a DLL hoodie in the UAE.

For those who don’t know me my name is James and I am a PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer – and I am spending the summer once again at DLL.

So after qualifying as an instructor last October I decided to leave for warmer climes days before a really busy weekend at DLL and to really drop Alex in it I only gave a few days notice! But it appears I have been forgiven and Im back once again.

I spent the last 7 months in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) working as an Instructor and had an amazing time and learnt alot about myself as a new Instructor and also about a different type of diving and a different face of the dive industry. I thought I would give a little insight into life in this little corner of the world and the diving too….

So the UAE is basically a small but powerful nation on the Arabian penninsular nestled between Saudi Arabia and Oman with coasts both on the Persian Gulf and The Gulf of Oman which in itself is part of the Indian Ocean.

Predominantly I was based on the east coast on the Indian ocean as this is where the best diving is. Unfortunately due to the massive development on the west coast (Dubai) the diving there is pretty awful. The projects such as the world famous Palm Jumairah (a large palm tree shaped island which is 5km by 5km) and the world islands (a group of islands in the shape of a world map) have led to huge reef destruction and endless dredging means very poor visibility sometimes less than a metre.

As a result each weekend the large ex-pat diving community get into their white Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols with blacked out windows and drive at 200kph (no exagguration) over to the east coast to get their fix. Although the conditions are generally less reliable than favourites such as the red sea the diving is of similar fare being dominated by reefs and the endless search for the large pelagics such as the whale sharks and dolphins etc. Being more a wrecky myself there was little to keep me occupied but I did enjoy being able to simply drop in wearing only boardies and a rashie and to cruise about looking at pretty fish and the almost guaranteed turtle and reef shark sightings.

Water temperature varies between 23 degrees in the depths of winter all the way up to 32 degrees in late summer/autumn. If you happen to find yourself in the area then I highly recommend finding a trip up into the Musandam. This is technically part of Oman and is a barren, mountainous pennisular that offers incredible diving. Unlike many places in the world, the sheer remoteness and harsh terrain mean it is not really suitable for development and as a result is in almost pristine condition. However a relative lack of legal protection means it is not unusual to come across small amounts of litter and old fishing nets and lines and often local fisherman can give you a hard time.

I wouldn’t really class the UAE and Oman as a competitive dive destination unless you are already in the area in which case I highly recommend getting some dives done. However if you are looking for an outright diving holiday then you would do better to look elsewhere, the red sea is a shorter flight away and offers better and more varied diving and is much more catered to the discerning holidaying diver.

The centre I worked for are a brilliant team who I very much enjoyed working for and it would be criminal to not give them a mention. (www.freestyledivers.com – give them a shout if you are ever that way in the world).

However in the millionaires playground it did seem everyone was after a bargain and like alex did previously we did an experiment offering group-on vouchers ranging from snorkelling, to try-dives all the way through to full specialities including deep and wreck. I thought I would share an insight what these vouchers actually mean for a dive operation – clearly I cannot speak on behalf of all but I hope you will have a smirk at the challenges we faced as well meaning dive professionals who faced the balance between good customer service and resisting the urge to slap ourselves in the face and run away to become an accountant.

My particular favourites include the family who turned up for an all day snorkelling trip who couldnt actually swim and then demanded why we hadnt specified that needing to swim was a pre-requisite of a snorkelling trip on the voucher terms and conditions. Also the gentleman who turned up to do the wreck specialty and again demanded to know why we hadn’t mentioned that not only was holding a SCUBA diving licence required but indeed why it wasnt made more clear that this was a diving course full stop. I personally thought the name ‘wreck diver specialty’ was fairly clear but still….

I am truely excited to back in the UK dive scene…for those who may not have travelled with their diving i promise you that the UK dive scene can be one of the friendliest and most enjoyable i have experienced. The banter is like no other and the average club night reinforces the community spirit and you are never without a buddy to dive with or a buddy to have a cheeky half with.

For those warm water only divers then I encourage you to at least try a little UK diving just so you know – otherwise there is of course Croatia, Mexico and Egypt all up and coming on the events calendar!

I look forward to seeing old friends again and meeting those of you who have come along in my absence and please feel free to come say hello!

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