CALL OF THE SEA

Have you ever con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity of scuba div­ing in Qatar's sea wa­ters? If you love the life un­der wa­ter you should surely in­ves­ti­gate this new hobby that you can en­joy right here.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY ANEY MATHEW

Have you ever con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity of scuba div­ing in Qatar's sea wa­ters? If you love the life un­der wa­ter you should surely in­ves­ti­gate on this new hobby that you can pur­sue right here.

“Scuba div­ing takes you to a dif­fer­ent world; all of a sud­den you are sur­rounded by fish, and strange sea creatures you've never seen be­fore; the colours look bril­liant; the corals and the amaz­ing va­ri­ety of wildlife are fas­ci­nat­ing – be­yond any­thing you can imag­ine. The way things move and sound un­der­wa­ter are very dif­fer­ent from any­thing you nor­mally ex­pe­ri­ence: the feel­ing of be­ing weight­less is ex­cep­tional; it's al­to­gether sur­real and ex­cep­tional”, says Mo­hammed Ali Hu­maid, a pas­sion­ate scuba diver.

Mo­hammed Ali Hu­maid, the As­sis­tant Man­ager for Qatar Pe­tro­leum's Off­shore Fields, has been div­ing for nearly 13 years. Hu­maid is so ded­i­cated to his hobby, that he is not just a diver but also a scuba div­ing in­struc­tor. As a mat­ter of fact, he's the only Qatari who is cer­ti­fied to be an Open Wa­ter In­struc­tor with Bri­tish Sub Aqua Club (BSAC). “I was deeply in­spired by Qatar's his­tory of pearl div­ing. Grow­ing up in this land sur­rounded by wa­ters, I de­vel­oped a nat­u­ral love for the sea. When I look back at my first open wa­ter div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, I can just sum it up in one word – awe­some!”

“It was like I had de­vel­oped gills; it felt so nat­u­ral. I felt like a fish, mov­ing with such free­dom un­der wa­ter for the first time. You need to ex­pe­ri­ence it to un­der­stand”, he says. With more than 1,200 dives be­hind him, Hu­maid is com­pletely hooked to ex­plor­ing the won­ders of the sea and has trav­elled to sev­eral coun­tries just for the plea­sure of scuba div­ing. Nat­u­rally, Hu­maid has sev­eral cap­ti­vat­ing fish tales to tell. “An un­for­get­table in­ci­dent oc­curred while scuba div­ing here in Qatar. I found my­self swim­ming be­side a gi­gan­tic whale shark that seemed to have a never-end­ing body. I could ac­tu­ally feel time go by, as I swam along­side it; it just wouldn't end. It was like stand­ing some­where and hav­ing a long train pass you by. It was an in­de­scrib­able mo­ment of awe.”

“Then there was the time when I had an un­ex­pected face-to-face en­counter with a gi­gan­tic hamour. I had strayed into its ter­ri­tory un­awares and there it was – star­ing at me, as if chal­leng­ing me for en­croach­ing into its space. Ini­tially I moved for­ward a bit just to tease it, but soon re­treated as I didn't want to taunt it,” he re­lates.

Hu­maid's in­trigu­ing un­der­wa­ter en­coun­ters ex­tend far be­yond the re­gional wa­ters. “I re­mem­ber the time in Bali when I ac­ci­dently stum­bled into the path of a large school of pipe fish. It was an ex­tra­or­di­nary mo­ment that I didn't want to spoil; so I stayed per­fectly still. It was as if the all fish stopped mid-track too – or mid-wa­ter so to speak – try­ing to fig­ure out whether I was part of the en­vi­ron­ment or an alien they needed to flee from. As I con­tin­ued to re­main still and mo­tion­less, some of the bolder ones ac­tu­ally came right up to me, try­ing to nib­ble at me as if to check me out. It was a fan­tas­tic mo­ment while it lasted!” he says, adding, “You've got to ex­pe­ri­ence these en­coun­ters to un­der­stand them.”

Scuba div­ing is a much en­joyed sport in Qatar and it might come as a sur­prise to many, to find that there are some good div­ing ar­eas and quite a few colour­ful co­ral reefs here. The north­ern part of the Qatar Sea has now be­come the place for the largest whale shark gath­er­ing in the world. As for dol­phins, you can see quite a few of them in the Dolphin Reef in Dukhan (a re­stricted div­ing area).

“Div­ing in Qatar is quite safe and you will rarely en­counter prob­lems with sharks or poi­sonous fish. There's an in­cred­i­bly huge va­ri­ety of un­der­wa­ter life to be ex­plored in this re­gion; from schools of small colour­ful reef fish to large soli­tary fish, in­clud­ing play­ful dol­phins and fun, slow tur­tles. There are also the fas­ci­nat­ing ones like the clown fish, nudi­branchs, an­gel fish, lion fish and of course sea horses.”

“I love div­ing in Qatari wa­ters! You can dive the whole year round, as the tem­per­a­ture does not drop too much. Summer of­fers fab­u­lous dives in Qatar, although the wa­ter can be murky. Win­ter-div­ing on the other hand is great, as vis­i­bil­ity is bet­ter,” sums up Hu­maid.

With the summer hav­ing firmly set in, the call of the sea can be ir­re­sistible. The time seems ideal to dive into a ‘cool' hobby. Ex­plor­ing the Qatari wa­ters should take week­ends to a whole new level and com­pletely cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion.

Scuba div­ing any­one?

Into the Deep in Qatar and the GCC

Ac­cord­ing to Hu­maid, “There are two main div­ing schools in Qatar, that peo­ple can choose from: the Amer­i­can school PADI and the Bri­tish Sub Aqua Club (BSAC).”

“Qatar has both nat­u­ral and man-made reefs, with land as well as off­shore dive sites. The pop­u­lar ones are the Old Club reef, the M.O. wreck, New Club Reef, the Barge, In­land Sea, Khor Al-Udeid Beach Reef, Bal-ham­bar Reef etc.

“The Old Club Reef just be­fore Sealine Beach Re­sort, is the most fre­quented as it has a large va­ri­ety of fish, crus­taceans and corals. The Khor Al-Udeid Beach Reef has the best co­ral reef among the non re­stricted dive sites. Halul Is­land has the best co­ral reef you will get to see in Qatar and it is un­dam­aged too; but is a re­stricted site.

“There are many dive sites in the GCC wa­ters. You will par­tic­u­larly en­joy div­ing in Oman as dol­phins can be seen in their hun­dreds fol­low­ing tuna. Fu­jairah in the UAE is also a great spot. The best place for div­ing is of course Jeddah with its long coast line on the Red Sea. Be­cause the area is so re­stricted, the dive sites are pris­tine; the colour­ful co­ral reefs and the va­ri­ety of beau­ti­ful fish here are said to be most fas­ci­nat­ing.”

Ex­plor­ing the amaz­ing un­der­wa­ter en­vi­ron­ment: Hu­maid trav­els around the world, for the plea­sure of scuba div­ing.

“I was deeply in­spired by Qatar's his­tory of pearl div­ing. Grow­ing up in this land sur­rounded by wa­ters, I de­vel­oped a nat­u­ral love for the sea. When I look back at my first open wa­ter div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, I can just sum it up in one word – awe­some!” MO­HAMMED ALI HU­MAID As­sis­tant Man­ager Qatar Pe­tro­leum, Off­shore Fields

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