Adventures in Musandam – taking part in marine conservation projects

A whale shark

A few months back I decided to explore my opportunities as a volunteer. I’d heard a lot about volunteer vacations and working holidays from friends and loved the idea of getting to see a new and exciting part of the world while giving something back to the world. There are many opportunities for helping out abroad for everyone.

A whale shark

Diving in the Gulf of oman

As a fully qualified diver I had swam in many different waters around the world, but this time I wanted a challenge, as well as helping in the fight to preserve some of the wildlife I enjoy so much when diving. My choice fell on one of the marine conservation projects in the Gulf of Oman – somewhere definitely considered to be ‘off the beaten track’. The Musandam peninsula in Oman has an interesting landscape. The sharp and rocky mountains cut straight into the gently waving waters and the landscape was intriguing and completely different from the island paradises of the Maldives and the Galapagos Islands where I’ve dived previously.

Deep diving

In some places the water appeared to change colour to being nearly black as the water was deeper. Diving into these areas was really exciting as you could not tell what was awaiting you underneath the surface – something than unnerved some of the participants on the expedition but excited me. We swam with little headlights attached to avoid banging our heads or getting completely disorientated.

Work too

Off course it wasn’t all tourism and this slight glimmer of light from the headlamps allowed us to perform our tasks such as measuring the corals that were clinging to the side of the mountains and were running deeper down into the water than we could dive. All this information would later be collated to help the local conservation organisations to gain better insights into the area.

As we got back on board the boat we could not wait to look at the images that we had taken as we had seen no fish or other creatures whilst diving due to the darkness. However, in the images there were swarms of fish swimming past us. The biologists that were guiding our expeditions were very existed to see these images as the Musandam waters have not been extensively researched and there is increasing interest to what is living in the darkness of the rocky caves and corals. Every day they find out something new and understand more about the Musamdam environment.

In the shallow waters

In the lighter, slightly turquoise coloured water found in the shallower end of the bays it was much easier to see the corals and fish before diving in, a real contrast to the pitch black of earlier in the day. We dived in pairs and recorded details such as length of corals, the different types and took pictures for the biologists to analyse. The expedition leaders were really friendly and helpful, and took part in nearly as much of the work that we did so there was a real sense of everyone working together.

A new side to holidaying

As an experienced diver it was interesting to see a different side to diving that the leisurely and often selfish diving trips I had been on before were I had taken little concern for what was around me. Being trained by experienced and highly educated biologists about the wildlife in the oceans was interesting and gave me a new perspective on how important it is to actively preserve the sights I love so much and what is the whole reason why I started diving in the first place.

Being a volunteer is something I will remember forever and I cannot wait to plan my next expedition to take part in more scuba diving volunteer opportunities. I cannot highly recommend it enough to any diving enthusiasts out there.

What say you?