Monthly Archives: August 2012

Latin Dance Muscat – New Classes from September 2012

I sometimes hear expats complain that there’s “nothing to do in Muscat”. Au contraire! There is always plenty going on if you have various interests, time and money.  For those of you into dance or have thought of learning how to dance, Latin Dance Muscat is starting up some new classes.

Class start on 1st September.
Phone: +968-9814-6842 or +968-9614-8863

More Details:
Or Download More Details:

Getting PADI Qualified in Oman

Several people have asked me about getting PADI qualified in Oman since I decided to give it a try recently.  I thought I’d share this info with you all in case any of you have considered going scuba-diving but weren’t sure about how to go about doing so.  There are 5 steps (3 actually-the first 2 are optional) which I think you should consider when thinking of getting your Open Water Diver Certification.

1)  Do Your Homework about the dive-centres in your area.  Which ones are more professional and take safety seriously?  Have any friends who got PADI qualified in Oman? If so, where? How was their experience? For most people, the most crucial question seems to be, “How much will it cost?”  There are plenty of dive centres in Oman which quote different prices, (anywhere between 150 and 200 rials) but several of the “lower range” prices have hidden costs that come out only after you have applied and paid for some of the course. (Course manuals and “certification costs” as 2 quick examples)  Dive centers offering the PADI Open Waters divers course include: (click on link to reach the respective website)

  • Omanta Scuba (at the Beach House at the Intercontinental Hotel) Tel:+968-2469-3223 (I’m biased towards these guys as that’s where I got certified!)
  • Eurodivers (Capital Area Yahct Club in Sidab & Barr Al Jissah Resort) Tel: +968 9503 6040
  • Dimaniyat Diving (in Jahawarat Mall in Shatti)
  • Bluezone Diving (located at Marina Bander Al Rowdha)                                   Tel: +968-2473-7293
  • Global Scuba (at Civil Aviation Club, 18th Nov. St., Athaibah)                       Tel: +968-9931-7518
  • Muscat Diving & Adventure Center, Al Azaiba                                                      Tel: +968-244 85663
  • (If you know of others let me know so I can add their websites and phone number to the list!)

I recommend calling and checking out all the differing prices as sometimes the quoted price can change depending on who you’re talking to!

2) Consider Doing a DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) which will make you more prepared for doing the course as well as taking away a lot of nervousness you may otherwise have. (Click here for my DSD experience – Part I and Part II)

3) The Educational Segment of the Course requires a bit of study.

 You can do it in about 8 hours at a dive centre but best to get the PADI Open Water Diver Manual to study on your own before going into the centre for more detailed instruction.  There are 5 modules or chapters in the book and the first 3 are quite commonsensical but chapters 4 and 5 require more help from instructors.  Some dive centres lend you 2 DVDs (with a total of 5 videos) that you should watch to reinforce the material in the manual while others have you watch them in the dive centre.  I recommend buying the DVDs (around 10 OR) so you can have a copy to review over and over if need be.                                 

This is Stan Berlin, instructor and part-owner of Omanta Scuba (another Canuck from Vancouver!) pictured marking my final exam! (94% – not too bad!)  Stan was great teaching the course as he’s a great storyteller and knows how to explain difficult scuba-diving concepts well to the uninitiated.

There is always the option of doing the education part online at and then bring the printed final exam results with you into any dive centre.  It should be around $130 US cheaper with that part of the course out of the way.

4) Confined Dives-(Learning all Essentials from the 5 modules) This part of the course is normally held in a swimming pool or body of water such as a cove with “swimming pool like conditions” (not too deep or rough).  I was not able to get any photos as they obviously want you to focus during training and don’t want you to be distracted by cameras.  We did this segment from 8:30am to about 3pm in one of the Intercon pools.  2 tests which were administered at the end of a tiring day required us to swim 200 meters without mask, snorkel or fins (you can also do this test with mask, snorkel and fins over 300 meters) and then to tread water on the surface of the pool for 10 minutes.  If you cannot do these 2 tasks, it would probably be best to take swimming lessons before thinking of taking the Open Water Course.

5) Open Water Dives – going over all material and practises learnt in the confined dives.  We did 2 dives at Bandar Al Khiran and a final dive at Jissah near the Sea-Arch.

Me and my instructor, Keith Fernandes, in Mermaid Cove at Bandar Al Khiran on the last day of my PADI qualification.  The first dive was at a depth of 12.4 metres for 43 minutes with a visibility of 6 metres.  The 2nd dive was at a depth of 7 metres for 25 minutes (after a surface time of 27 minutes). 

Scuba diving is a serious thing especially when it comes to safety, but it’s also great fun and most PADI instructors are sociable and know to have a lot of fun.  A pic of 2 Omanta Scuba instructors,Keith and Jez, having a good laugh while Maneer, another driver for Omanta Scuba, leads us onto the 2nd divesite for the day – Jissah.

As you can probably make out from this photo, the last day of my qualification was cloudy one and the sea was quite rough. As we waited at Marina Bandar Al Rowdha at 8:30am, it wasn’t sure at first whether we would call it off or not due to the rough waters.  What you don’t see in this post unfortunately are the beautiful schools of baby barricuda, moray eels, butterfly and angel fish, groupers and clown fish, just to name a few of the amazing sea creatures we saw in the Barr al Jissah area. This dive was at 16 metres for 30 minutes with a visibility of 5 metres.

My instructor signing the first official entries in my Diver’s Log.

My new Diver’s Log and Training Record. Never leave home without it!

I can’t believe I’ve actually finished my PADI Open Water Diver Course!  This has always been on my list of must-dos and I’m so glad that I finally decided to just do it!  A big thanks to everyone at Omanta Scuba  and especially my instructor, Keith Fernandes!

Our Stay at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa

We are big fans of the Shangri-La just outside Muscat at Barr Al Jissah.  We’ve enjoyed several restaurants there including Shahrazard (Moroccan Restaurant), the new Asia restaurant and feasted like kings and queens at the Al Tanoor seafood buffet as well as Samba’s international buffet.  We jumped at this summer’s opportunity for residents to stay at this fine hotel for only 60 OR which included all taxes and buffet breakfast.

Because we came with kids, we stayed at Al Waha Hotel pictured here. There are actually 3 hotels at the Shangri-La: Al Waha (mostly for families with kids), Al Bandar and Al Husn (which is an adults only luxury hotel).

All guests get this nice resort map which comes in very handy as there is plenty to see and do!

My wife got a quick pic of me swimming (on the right) as the sun was setting.

This is very shallow pool that our son enjoyed a lot during our stay.  Al Waha is a parents paradise as there is so much for the kids to do here, including the SplashPad and Adventure Zone.  They also have babysitting services (for a small fee) if you want to enjoy a romantic evening at one of their fine restaurants.

Of course there’s nothing like enjoying room service at the Shangri-La!

You can always get a beverage from Assira Bar when hanging out by the pool. (orange juice was 2.5 rials…) Like the Al Bustan Palace Ritz Carlton Hotel, they provide ice cold bottled water in a small cooler for all guests lounging at the pool!

The pools at the Shangri-La are fantastic! And as I blogged about already, the Lazy River is also a lot of fun and a definite must-do at the Shangri-La.

There are plenty of recreational activities for every member of the family, including: kayaking, camel and horse ride, “turtle talk” tour for the kids, table tennis, badminton, billiards and snooker, water polo, beach volleyball, triathlon fun and mini-golf.  The Recreational Activity timetable is provided in the room brochure.  The hotel even provides free shuttle service to Muttrah Souk and to Qurum City Centre (with a stop at Bait al Zubair Museum available on request).

Giant sized game of chess, anyone? 😉

Some great family memories were had here!

Just to confirm – No, we did not climb into a time machine and enjoy our stay 90 years from now in the year 2102. Our stay was in fact in the year 2012. 🙂

Shangri-La remains our favorite hotel/resort in the Sultanate for so many reasons.  Any other great fans of Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa out there?  If so, what do you enjoy most about the resort?  Reservations can be made at their website, or through email at  (Tel: (968) 2477-6666

Adventure Zone @ Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa

One of the friendly employees at Shangri-La, Amylia, welcoming us to Adventure Zone!  “Adventure Zone is an exciting family entertainment venue for all thrill seekers with a variety of modular play areas from over-under hurdles, tumble tower, and swing-over net to a climbing wall, soft play areas and daily Nintendo wii sports challenges.  The highlights are the three drop slides providing fun and adventure for all.  Go for the ultimate rush on the 6.5 metre demon drop slide – a must for all adrenalin lovers!”

Adventure Zone is inside Al Mazaar Souk at the Shangri-La.

This is the entrance where they will check to make sure that your kid is wearing a long-sleeve shirt and socks for safety reasons.  If not, you can buy an Adventure Zone shirt for 4 rials (they’re cute!) and socks for 1 rial.

Cute artwork on all the walls with an underwater theme.  This part of the wall looks like a mini wall-climbing area.

Our son loved the ball-pit!

They have this smaller slide if your kid is too scared to try the main drop slides.

This is the computer area which wasn’t being used at all during our visit.

There is plenty of space for parents to chill out while your kids run around (if they’re old enough to play without supervision).

I thought the signs with all the rules were quite funny!  Some are posted here for your entertainment.

I was surprised that my son really wanted to go down the main slide.  He actually cried and insisted to go down it before we left.  I wouldn’ve thought that he would be afraid of such a drop but it seems his old man hesitated more than he did, haha!

It’s nice to know that they are quite strict with the rules so don’t think of just dropping your kids off here like some kind of babysitting centre.

Shops are slowly starting to open up at Al Mazaar Souq at the Shangri-La.  It’s well worth a visit while taking the kids out for fun.  They also have “Game Z” which is a games centre where you can play darts, air hockey, snooker, billiards, table football and ice hockey.

Next to the Omani Heritage Village, the souk houses shops that present beachwear, accessories, Kashmir products and carpets.  Oman Arab Bank is in place to cater to your everyday needs.”

They also have mini golf (9 holes) in the same area.

Adventure Zone is open daily from 10am to 10pm.  It’s supposed to be a great place to celebrate your kid’s birthday.

Anyone taken their kids to the Adventure Zone? If so, what do you think of the place? Our son loved it and we plan on bringing him again soon.   Tel: 24776666

Wadi Shab, Oman to Witness Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2012, September 27th

Looks like a great event to attend in beautiful Wadi Shab on September 27th if you’re not busy.  Wadi Shab is such an awesome spot.  My favorite part is the Wadi Shab Cave which I didn’t get a chance to photograph or videotape yet, but here’s a decent video from someone who’s been there: