The Whale Shark Issue

One would be forgiven for thinking that every morning at the moment we are waking up to paradise. Fog rests over the Hajar mountains and the temperature while enjoying the first cup of java for the day is in the high 20`s. Then we open the gate and are greeted by the goats eating cement packets and other trash and you realise that mutton is off the menu for that evening.

September has been a cracking month for diving. The seas are so flat we are convinced that Neptune has been making frequent visits to Jamaica and rolling some rather large blunts. A group of divers that have been diving with us forever and a day planned an expeditionary trip to the top of the Musandam and specifically to try and get onto a site called Ennerdale Rock which was named after a ship that sunk there many years ago. Now on a calm day the currents here can rip your mask off your face and before you all ask us when are we going there, we are not! It takes a year of planning at the minimum and you have to sit on it and wait for slack tide. However, it is possibly the best site that the Middle East has to offer. Eagle rays, marble rays were a few animals sighted and this all from only one side of the rock as everyone was sheltering from the current (we have posted a video of the site on our FB page).

The sharing trips allow us a chance to connect with friends and new divers alike and we welcomed a few new souls to the infamous Sheesa sharing trips. They certainly added value! Being Islamic new year we were able to get away a little earlier than we normally do and thus enjoy the scenery on the way up whist sipping on “Coco-Colas”. The water was like a milk pond as we decided that with the experience levels on-board, we would head for Salamah (Great Quion Island). People talk of a gut instinct and this time we were rewarded with going on it. We were about to pass Ras Musandam when that gut instinct took over and said “there is something here”. Ras Musandam was behaving as usual with a fast drift from west to east but eerily there were no fish. I started thinking of all the excuses in the book as to why the dive site had nought to offer when suddenly, a familiar shape loomed in the distance @ 20m underwater. Wally had saved the day!

We spent 15 minutes with Wally as he/she posed for various cameras, disappeared and re-appeared again for a 2nd run with us. Needless to say if we had dived the rest of the trip on a sandy bottom only with nothing to see, there would have been no complaints. Our 2nd dive on Abu Rashid was more sedate but the soft corals on the site are pure splendour. A leopard shark posed for us on Ras Khayser, Pete scared the bejesus out of a turtle (they did not see each other till the last moment) and we topped it off with a night dive on Al Maqta in Habelyn. A couple more “Coco-Colas” ended the day.

We are at pains to explain the emergence of a pink flamingo that was spotted swimming around Red Island this last weekend. In fact word has it was so tame that it ended swanning oops I mean swimming and cavorting with the guests on-board. As always photographic proof is required (otherwise you just did not see it) and it was duly obtained as well.

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Please dont forget to follow your favourite and bestest dive centres social media sites for pics of the trips, blogs, updates etc. We can be found at these sites:

Face Book – Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises – Dive & Discover

Instagram – sheesabeachdhow

Our blog is available monthly on our web page @ http://www.sheesabeach.com and click on the wordpress icon located on the upper right=-hand corner of our homepage.

We look forward to hosting you for another bumper season filled with great dives, amazing sightings, pink flamingos, plenty of laughs and delicious food.

From the nuthouse, see you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have we failed you and have you failed yourselves?

A question I get asked quite often is “what`s the temperature like or what`s the visibility like”? There have been numerous times when we answer the question but with mutterings of hostile intentions.

After making a decision recently to change my current in-date training agency to another and starting the theory for the crossover I came across a simple, innocuous question which got me thinking about the heading for this blog!

The question was simply about choosing a wetsuit. You choose the wetsuit according to the temperature at the bottom of the area you dive in and not the surface temperature. Simple yes! But a simple question that gets answered incorrectly and leads to a diver having insufficient exposure protection which in turn leads to potential hypothermia and therefore a decompression sickness risk and thus no longer avails themselves to your services or anyone else.

Years ago when I was a young training leadership candidate, the dive sites were always full. Weekend after weekend there were divers in the water both new and regular divers. Admittedly there were less adventure sports available then for people to spread their time around but the reason I keep coming back to, is quality of training was a lot better then. Evening classes over weeks, weekends spent honing skills in the pool made us confident, comfortable and want to dive because of the very factors I have just mentioned. We had made an investment and boy were we going to cash in on it.

It was an age ago and times have changed, technology reared its head, globalization took over and we no longer have the time to do a 6 week open water class. However, most of the divers I did those classes with are still actively diving today as my peers in the industry or those that now do it purely as a form of escape from the world of one atmosphere. I can name quite a few of our clients that dive every monthly sharing trip and sometimes weekly on the fast boats. The common denominator still being quality of training. They still dive, ride bikes, jump out of perfectly good aircraft and have time to carry on with their lives so where are we missing the boat and thus why did you miss the boat!

We got caught up in the world going crazy, learn to dive now, courses completed in 2 days and a host of advertising gimmicks designed to get you into the dive centre and in reality straight out again as you do not feel confident and peer pressure takes its toll because your dive guide spent 20 minutes with you on the surface to get you down while everyone waited. We became and are “cash cows”. Spend more time on payment details than on the reason we got involved in the 1st place – to share our love of the underwater world with others.

Doing courses is not a way to part you with your money (ok it is) but it is a very important reminder to us as to why we wanted to learn. It took a very simple question to bring me back and I hope some of what is written here will help you do the same!

Pelagic Soup

We hope you are all surviving Ramadan and this leads us into the new blog.

April and May saw some incredible diving in our tiny piece of paradise. The water stayed quite cool well into May but delivered some amazing encounters. We were greeted by large pods of Dolphins on every trip out and a few lucky divers got to witness the unique spectacle of killer whales/Orcas in the Musandam. Underwater delivered Mola-Mola (sunfish), massive shoals of trevally, barracuda and tuna to name a few.

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It was great to welcome back the warm water divers (or as we would term it – ageing gracefully 😊). The shenanigans continued. If you have never been on a sharing safari and keep hearing about the shenanigans, then you need to witness it personally. Lots of heckling each other, sundowners, cheese and crackers in the evenings and loading up on bacon etc for breakfast.

Although we have a schedule to keep and all our divers buy into the schedule, we do keep it as informal and relaxed as possible. Depending on the groups we also like to push further into the lesser known sites and the rewards are often to be talked about over a sundowner in the evening.

For a number of years we have not pushed the courses here at Sheesa and if you are wondering why, it is because we walk a fine line between being a service provider to dive centres as well as being a dive centre ourselves. What we did concentrate on was the diver who wanted to continue diving after they had qualified and Jumeirah open beach did not quite do it for them anymore. There are excellent dive sites on the east coast in the UAE and some great operators to boot. The Musandam however cannot and will not be beaten by anything the UAE can throw up.

So learning to dive here is unique. We combine our live aboard trips with courses thus giving the diver the skills to survive at sea and live aboard experience. Let`s be frank, live aboard diving is the ultimate !dive holiday. The courses are also unique in that we differ quite a lot to others. Over the years and through experience in varying conditions we have thought out of the box and do not blindly follow what is written on a slate. Yes we adhere to the standards that follow but we add in more. More time is spent on buoyancy, understanding your body and the water column surrounding you and making you a bit more responsible as a diver. This not only benefits you but it definitely benefits the guides both locally and internationally.

The sheesa staff would like to thank all of you for your continued support of us and the culture we have tried to create for our clients. Book and let us do the rest! Keep an eye out for our newsletters in your inbox, the FB and Instagram posts ot pop along to our youtube channel to see the latest shenanigans we have cooked up

You v’s Us

This issue will be very different to the humour and tongue-in-cheek approach we are known for. Simple reason is to try and find another topic as the weather did us in over March and very few trips made it out.

The topic this issue is you v’s us. Who do we target as customers and who do you choose as your service provider?  If we took Maslow`s hierarchy of needs and converted into entry level divers that will do one or two dives a year as the foundation of the pyramid. Divers who have completed two or three courses, invested in low cost dive equipment, and dive purely on vacations or the odd weekend in the second tier. Divers who have made diving a serious hobby and own more expensive gear and actively seek out diving opportunities when they are able making up the third tier and then the top tier is those that have made diving a lifestyle choice and invested heavily both financially and personally.

The dive industry is cut-throat and to survive in it, you need to have a very clever strategic plan. Let us take a scenario that happens all the time. Joe/Joelene Bubbles is looking for a course and is walking along narcosis boulevard checking prices at dive centres in that street. Inevitably he/she will choose the cheapest one. Maybe he/she does a dive or two once finished his course and discontinues diving and takes up collecting coke bottle tops instead. I can almost guarantee that the reason he/she discontinued diving (why would you want to – it`s awesome) is confidence in their own abilities. Cheap is not always good. Maybe they did not like it and that is fine. These days people do not have time to spend on courses like I did. Quick is better for them and then back to checking their smartphone or family life.

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So good old Joe Bubbles remains in the bottom tier and is lost to us forever! Providing quality education and an enthusiasm derived from the instructor to student to continue is paramount to us all surviving. Without the third tier of divers, there is no industry. We as dive centres/resorts need to acknowledge this and spend more time targeting these individuals. We need to provide quality and confidence to new divers to get them into this group. Discover Scuba experiences are great for a short-term approach but the shop doors need to be open in five years’ time.

There a very few consummate professionals out in this industry who will spend time with you chatting about subjects pertinent to diving, having the skill set to enact and instruct what is being said and have a beer with you in the evenings while reviewing the above. If you reading this now ask yourself the question of “where am I on the pyramid”. The second question to ask is “who would the guides on my trip be more comfortable getting into the water with?” From our perspective, that choice is easy but we also love taking someone out of the bottom tier and getting them up the ladder.

The next time you ask for Ras Musandam and end up on Red Island instead, then we have answered your question for you and the rest is up to you. We will certainly help you on your journey.

Hello and Goodbye

January and February have traditionally always been a slow period and it has been no different this year.  However, we did have a Dive master intern to train which has kept us busy.  Please join us in welcoming James to the Sheesa family.  Contrary to the perception you may have from his mug shot, he hasn’t come to us straight out of the slammer.  He was just a bit nervous, having met some of our regulars 🙂

The rule of thumb when it comes to training is once a diver has progressed to the rescue diver and dive master programs then all gloves come off.  Young James suffered the same fate many of us did whilst we eagerly lapped up our instructors` sage advice and spent time doing slave labour that would put the young mining kids in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) to shame.

There is method in the madness philosophy as they learn to handle pressure as well as making difficult decisions that are needed to be made when the proverbial pooh hits the fan. The internship we offer is vastly different to the same old DM programs that are rolled out by certain training agencies and conducted by dive centres that basically teach someone to kneel at a bottom of a swimming pool and become a brainwashed zombie with no lateral thinking.  We spent time on time management, cooking skills, dealing with difficult clients (we know who you are and you know who you are), troubleshooting techniques at sea, guiding in currents, office administration, guiding small and large groups, rope work, personal budgets, and life skills to name a few. James is now able to plan and execute his own itineraries, cook for himself, make his own bed and wipe his own posterior. I think his parents are going to get more out of this program than James.

On the diving scene, we have just finished our monthly sharing live aboard and it was great to see the new faces on board. We do know that we had new faces because the old faces are too freaking scared of cold water to join us the latest Antarctica expedition to Sheesa. It was cold. So cold in fact that we are certain on at least 2 occasions a polar bear was seen swimming around in a dry suit.  The visibility on the other hand …. Wow! It was beyond clean. Devil rays, queen fish, barracuda, cow tail rays, scorpionfish, pipefish, trevally, turtles (and a bus of one at that), were all seen (and photographed) by the great Julian Palmer and Brigitte Chemla. The night dive was averted by the dive guide by having a GnT readily available upon his return after the 3rd dive and thus the no diving and drinking rule was applied and strictly enforced. A certain gentleman who goes by the initial JP was keen for an early morning dive at stupid o clock and found a willing buddy in GP and then followed by LW.  NM however was really impressed with their skill levels and thus they were able to brave the frigid waters on their own while the brave dive guide kept an eye on the safety of the dhow that lay gently at rest in a secluded and sheltered bay.

On a sad note, whilst we welcome James on board, we bid farewell to Chucky and Nedy.  Please join us in wishing them both the best of luck with their new endeavours (freelance photographer, Canadian resident).  They will sorely be missed.

  

Don’t worry though, you will shortly be seeing new faces at Sheesa and we trust you will give them the warm welcome that we all have received from you, our valued clients (there is absolutely no tongue in cheek in that statement), when we first arrived.

With that, all that is left to say, is to brush off those 3mm`s, as the water will start to warm up soon and we will soon be heralding the arrival of the 3 day trips.

A New Year, A New Look

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Ok, ok, we know it’s already half way through January, but we wanted to take the record for the most delayed New Years greeting ever. So, now we have explained ourselves, we`d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2017. Hopefully we will see lots more of you all this year, as you join us on the many Dhow and Fast Boat trips which are scheduled to run.

You will have noticed that we have been a bit quiet on the blog and web pages over the last few months. We do sincerely apologise for this, however we hope you will agree that it was all in a good cause. Wondering what we are on about now? Read on……….

We took the decision in 2016 to rebrand the company to best reflect our services. Our previous logo was very clever and for those of you who studied it, you would have noticed a dhow, an anchor and a sting ray in the design, with the sea part of the logo meaning Sheesa Beach in Arabic. However, at first glance, it did not speak to us (nor I suspect many of you) about who we are.

After getting our heads together with some seriously amazing branding guru’s (who just happen to be avid divers too), we came to the conclusion that a change to our website and logo, along with smarter use of social media was the way to go. We also felt it was important to differentiate between Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises and Sheesa Beach Dive Centre (which we felt had, up to now been confusing). Hopefully you will agree that it is now clear that the Company is Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises and with the addition of the slogan ‘Dive and Discover’ on the new logo and website, newcomers will quickly ‘get what we do’.

After a lot of hard work by a lot of people, we are extremely proud to launch the new website which, is fast, crisp and provides key information at the click of your mouse. Our social media has also expanded a bit by adding in an Instagram account (sheesabeachdhow) and changing our Face Book page to Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises – Dive and Discover. On the homepage of the website, you will find easily accessible icons to all our social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and of course our blog, Sheesa Shenanigans.

Actually, talking about our social media brings us to a point that we feel is important to talk about. Those of you who follow the blog may have noticed the humorous content that we infused into the articles. This isn’t difficult as the humour and fun emanating from the blog is, we believe, reflective of the experience that we feel many of our customers enjoy on our trips. We can however be serious, and at times it is important to be so. Diving is a dangerous sport and it is essential that we sometimes remind ourselves of this. On that note, we would like to talk about a slightly more serious side of the relationship between diving and social media.

I recently read an article on how social media can cause death on dive trips. A shocking view point maybe, however it rings very true. We are continually bombarded with fantastic underwater images of dive sites, live aboards, resorts, divers personal experiences and so forth. We fail to understand that many of those fantastic images were the result of 100 dives done in some really testing conditions, before the perfect snap was loaded onto the world-wide web. We also age! This unfortunately means we cannot do some of those great current dives with big pelagics anymore due to our aging cardio-vascular system. Those pics however paint a false or at least, a deceiving truth.

This also brings us (as dive guides) to the very painful truth of “No, you cannot always have it your own way.” When a diver books a dive trip with us, they are booking in a personal capacity and as such, the focus of their dives are the same – for personal gain. We as guides take a different view, as we choose a site based on the weakest (not a word I prefer to use, however we are being realistic now) diver in the group. We dive for a group and you dive as an individual. Those of you who have done numerous trips with us will know this and happily, most of our regular customers are happy with this approach. Particularly as we strive hard to ensure that the sites we choose have options to suit all levels. Thus, when we do place restrictions for safety reasons, be it weather, capability of the wider group, etc., our guests, are on the whole, extremely understanding.

It was interesting the other evening as a few of us (yes, we have a social life here) sat around having a couple of toots, discussing this very topic. There was one group who were very pro letting the client select an alternative dive, after a dive site had been briefed and selected. Such as “we dived this site last week and want to go there instead.” Now this isn’t always possible, however, it can be done within reason:-

Do the conditions allow?
Is everyone in agreement?
How much of a deviation from the original dive plan is it?
Is everyone equipped/configured to do the dive?

Ultimately however, whether we stick to the original site or go with the alternative suggestion, the golden rule is plan your dive and dive your plan. Even if the plan is slightly newer than the original one.

We are as always, happy to be flexible, striving to ensure you get the best experience, best service and most enjoyable time from your weekend as our guest. However, do please always bear in mind that we are there for your safety, not just your enjoyment. So, whilst we are more than happy to consider a suggestion or request to deviate, we will sometimes, politely but firmly say no. And when we do, it is always with good reason which, (if you are interested) we are happy to share.

For all of us, another days diving is another day diving education, no matter how experienced we already are. That’s what makes our sport so refreshing and exciting. We hope you agree!

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Full to the Brim and then some….

We thought the June sharing Dhow would be a little quiet, what with most people clearing out for the summer and all that.  Contrary to popular opinion however, it seems that our clients are very sensible people, very sensible indeed, choosing to escape the Sandpit for the majestic Musandam!  So, with a full boat (so full that yours truly was left behind and had to swop a bed on the Dhow for a bed in the Al Aqah Beach Resort), the weekend commenced.

With the sea state being a little bumpy as compared to what is usually preferred, the Dhow kept relatively South of the sites visited in recent months.  However this did not impact at all on the variety of marine life spotted or the enjoyment of the weekend!

Those on board were issued strict instructions to NOT see anything exciting.  These instructions were clearly ignored however, as my loyal spies were very happy (far too happy in my opinion) to update me on their return of the amazing weekend had by all.

So, in no particular order, this weekends fish soup consisted of a 10m whale shark, which cruised by on a mission to somewhere rather than cooperatively posing for photos and videos as is the preference, plus another whale shark spotted by our ever amazing boat cover Shameem (although not spotted by any divers).  A multitude of rays including devil rays, eagle rays, etc., etc., etc., turtles, barracuda……..  In fact, one barracuda in particular was considered worthy of note, with our very own loveable elf exclaiming it was easily as big as her.  That would be most Barracuda then D???

Contrary to popular opinion, the scooter boys and girls didn’t chase everything off.  In fact, more likely corralled them in for the more traditional divers of the group to see too.  At least, that is their story and they are sticking to it!

Topside was not without its excitement either!  Although to be fair, when is it ever boring on with the usual Sheesa Shenanigans going on?

Fishing between dives and on an evening is a favourite pastime for some of our regulars, either because they are doing the fishing, or they are watching (and subsequently enjoying) the catch.  As with most weekends, tiddlers get thrown back in, whilst the larger fish are quickly incorporated into a delish dish for dinner.  Sustainable fishing all the way with Sheesa;  if you can’t eat it, don’t keep it.  So, with this in mind, one of the more unusual catches of the weekend had a lucky escape from Rajesh’s cooking pot –  the Eagle Ray (yes, you read that correctly), caught and landed by our youngest regular weekender, Jad.

So, I am sure you get the picture- a very nice picture too, and a very clear one if you were actually there.

As nice as the Al Aqah Beach Resort (with upgrade to a suite) was, your’s truly missed the fun on board. So, if you missed out this month too, then not only do you need to dust off your imaginations, but you also need to get your a*** into gear to get booked on the July and August Dhows.   Our sharing trips are the perfect way to escape the heat.  Well, not exactly escape the heat, as its pretty hot in the Musandam too, however at least it’s not as far to jump overboard and cool off.

Look forward to seeing you next month or sooner if you are signed up for one of our one day cruises.