Tag Archives: coral

Days 7 & 8 – Coralation

Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 May 2022 – Reader, I offer you a respite from having to wade through dozens of photos, similar to the respite we’ve had over the last days from having to Do Stuff All The Time. This entry will be mercifully short.

For the week up to and including yesterday, my Garmin Vivosmart calculated that I had exerted myself for 762 minutes at moderate intensity and 138 at vigorous intensity. This has been the hardest week since September last year when, you’ll remember because you read these pages,  Jane and I were walking a couple of hundred miles around Menorca.  However, yesterday and today registered a big, fat 0 on the Garminmeter mainly because we’ve not done much.  Here is what we have done.

Before our departure from Wadi Rum at an entirely reasonable 9am, I took a few more snaps of the site, including the view through one of our bubble’s windows.

You’ll notice that the silver sun-deflecting coverings have been taken off the bubbles – they are put on during the day and staff remove them in the late afternoon.  The site has expanded over the last few years; Jane found a couple of aerial photos which show its growth from pre-pandemic

to now (I’ve ringed the one we slept in).


There are reviews from May 2019 which mention (OK, complain about) construction work being done, which gives a good idea of what’s been going on.  I guess it must have taken quite a lot of confidence to carry on the development during the pandemic and hope that the tourists would return.  I don’t think the site was anywhere near full, but one hopes that the owners have made the right call for the future.

We were transported back to the entrance in Rum Village and managed to find Saeed among the slightly shambolic goings-on that inevitably surround trying to reunite punters with drivers over a reasonably large parking area.  And then we were off to Aqaba.  The countryside we passed through was granite and striking.

Saeed gave us a quick driving tour of Aqaba, which is a small city, but busy because it was the weekend (the Arab weekend is Friday and Saturday, remember, so it’s chaos arriving on Thursday evening and leaving on Saturday evening or early Sunday). One thing we noted was the ubiquity of a wonderfully colourful tree by the roadsides.

Jane looked it up and confirmed her theory that it is called a “Flamboyant Tree”, for some reason or other.  We also noted an unfamiliar thing:

a bag of bread left hanging on a tree.  Saeed explained that people often hang their left-over bread like this for others to take if they need, for example to feed animals, which is rather lovely.

He then dropped us off some 16km further south, at the Mövenpick Tala Bay Resort, which is very substantial and very resortish.

We checked in and had the luxury not only of having nothing to do, but also of knowing we had a relaxed morning the next day.  So we headed almost immediately for the lobby bar and had a welcome injection of gin before stumbling about until we found a restaurant for a late lunch – it really is quite a large place – the walk from reception to our room is (according to Garmin) 0.16 miles – and we found it a bit confusing trying to locate the best route from A (where we were) to B (where lunch would be).  But we managed it because we’re triers and had another welcome injection of western food – steak and chips in my case.  I like Jordanian food and have enjoyed eating here.  But – steak and chips, you know?

The rest of yesterday was spent bringing this blog not quite up to date and we got a reasonably early night with, as I say, the comfort that comes from not having an alarm set for the morning.

A small diversion: please excuse the schoolboy ignorance in me that caused me an inward snigger when I  saw this at the breakfast buffet.

Today’s activity, agreed with Saeed on the way down from Wadi Rum, was a trip out on the Red Sea on a glass-bottomed boat to look at the coral for which the sea is renowned. Saeed has a friend with a boat.  Who’d have guessed, eh? So he took us to the harbour, just by the fish market,

where it became clear that glass-bottomed boat trips are definitely A Thing in Aqaba.

We met Omar and his boat

and headed out at a gentle pace, consistent with not tearing the glass bottom out of the boat which would have been regrettable. There is plenty of coral growing naturally along the coast here, but The Powers That Be have undertaken a rather unusual initiative to give the coral extra places to grow.  Because it grows well on steel, they have dumped various objects – ships, old military tanks, that kind of thing, so that coral can grow on them and also in some cases as targets for divers to visit (Aqaba is also a big diving centre on account of it being rather nearer the sea that almost anywhere else in Jordan).  So he headed out to the first one and told us to grab our cameras.  At this point, it became clear that all was not clear.

It was very difficult to take decent photos with my Nikon through the glass on the bottom of the boat.

In fact, it was easier to get an idea of the ship and its coral by, erm, looking over the side.

When we got to some coastal coral a bit further on, I tried also using my mobile phone, and this was the best I could do

so I tried some video which at least gives an impression, even if the quality is, frankly, poor.

We had lunch on the boat – Omar had brought fish and chips (Jordan style) for us all with him, and the fish was sea bass, which was delicious.  After that we headed back to Aqaba and I took one or two more snaps on the way:

this, for example, is Eilat, on the opposite shore of the finger of the Red Sea that reaches up to Aqaba.  To me and Google Maps, Eilat is in Israel, but Saeed and Omar described it as being in Palestine.  I offer no further comment, mainly because the sensitivities and complexities are beyond my ken.  From Aqaba, not only can you see Eilat, but you can see into Egypt on that side of the finger (marked by the big Hotel Taba); and the border into Saudi Arabia is only 25km south of the city.  This proximity to many nations has a great bearing on Jordan’s culture, as I’ve mentioned before.

Having had only Lipton’s Ice Tea as refreshment with lunch, we found the siren call of the lobby bar irresistible, and treated ourselves to a couple of drinks before heading back to our room.  There was one final point of interest en route – the Mövenpick Chocolate Hour, which was an opportunity to grab a couple of treats to have with the cup of tea that I am drinking as I type this. But because they were free, we could be reassured that they contained no calories at all. No, really.

And that’s about it for Aqaba, and the blog is up to date.  We have another relaxed start tomorrow (yay!) as we depart at 10 for our next adventure which will take place in the Dana Nature Reserve, about three hours northish of here. It’s supposed to be really great for hiking in, which is good news, since our itinerary specifies that we will undertake a hike there. We know that, like Wadi Rum, there will be no booze served with our meals over the next couple of days. What I’m not sure of is the amount of internet there is, so you may well find yourself having another short respite from my deathless prose. It’s Sunday now and I will definitely be back online on Wednesday; I hope you’ll join me then.

Oman Day 9 – and we thought the mountain roads were rough!

Friday March 1. A large chunk of the day was to be spent at the Daymaniyat Islands, a nature reserve off the coast by Seeb, near Muscat. Rashid had talked about a dhow being our transport, but in the event we travelled in a smallish motor boat just big enough to house the three of us, the skipper and his mate and two 300-horsepower outboard engines. We boarded at Al Mouj, a very posh community residential and business area which featured (luckily for us) a marina, and pottered out of the harbour before the skipper opened up the throttles and we headed out at 30mph.

The Daymaniyat Islands are just basically lumps of rock a short distance off the coast of Oman, but access is restricted – it is necessary to apply for a pass to go there, and such things as fishing are prohibited. There are a couple of beaches and snorkelling is a very popular activity, and that was what we were here for. We moored off one rock which the skipper called Turtle Island.

I don’t think that’s it’s real name, it’s just he thought we had the best chance of seeing turtles there.

My ambition was simply to try to get some decent underwater photos, as my record so far is dismal. I tried in the Galapagos, which was pretty much my first (and not really very enjoyable) experience of snorkelling (the lack of enjoyment was due to my own lack of experience and swiimming expertise); the photographic results were awful. There was not one single underwater picture worth sharing on that trip, sadly.

So, in we plunged and I was about to set off in the hope of finding some nice pictures when I tested my nice brand-new snorkelling tube to find that it let the water in, which was a bit on the disappointing side. Fortunately, the skipper could provide a substitute, so off I went. I got lots of very poor photos of fish and some reasonable pictures of the coral there

and a fairly sizeable sea urchin

but no turtles by the time I got out of the boat for a rest. Jane had found one and so we got back in and headed over to where she had seen it – and there it was; a green sea turtle! The only problem was that my mask had completely misted up so I could barely make the thing out, far less see what my (Olympus TG-5 Tough) camera was doing. Nonetheless, I managed a couple of decent snaps

by sheer freakish good fortune, and also – hallelujah! – some video!

We pottered over to another, different location

and had another dip. This time, athough my mask was clear, the photos and videos were still disappointing. Note to self – don’t try to zoom in too much, even if the camera has the function, as the results are unlikely to be worthwhile. So I’ve learnt something photographically worthwhile on this trip, eh?

Then, although it was still earlyish (about 1130) we took lunch as it looked like the weather would change. Rashid said that perhaps some rain was expected. Indeed, the wind was beginning to get up and actually before we’d had time to finish our picnic lunch, the skipper was looking anxious and so we told him to take us home.

Fuck me, what a journey!

The wind had got up to at least a force 6. If you read the official blurb to describe this, it calls it “strong breeze” and says that it features “large waves with foam crests and some spray”.

What it doesn’t tell you is that, in a small boat when trying to make way basically into the teeth of it, it involves you being thrown out of your seat unless you’re clutching on to something substantial whilst having bucketfuls of the contents of the Sea of Oman chucked over you at regular intervals of, say, every five seconds or so.

The skipper did his best to minimise the discomfort, but it was still a hideously uncomfortable journey made worse by my (a) worrying that sea water would find its way into my lovely new Nikon Z6 and all my lenses and (b) really, really, really needing a pee but understanding that trying to do that would almost certainly involve suffering serious injury. I used Endomondo to track our progress on the boat, which is how I know we were averaging about 30mph on the way out. Coming back, the best we could do was between 5 and 9 mph until we got very close to the coast and could speed up a bit. So it was a long, wet and very uncomfortable journey for us all. Under the circumstances, I hope you’ll forgive me for not having taken any photos on this return leg. Poor old Rashid looked a picture of misery even as he insisted he was OK standing and holding on to a stanchion and really didn’t need us to shift up so he could sit down. The sea water got to his phone, and it was dead by the time we made land, poor chap.

Thanks to the skills of the skipper, we made it back safely to the marina and I made it safely to the loo; then we hastily packed up our stuff so that Rashid could take us back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes to him at that point, but the situation made it a hastier and more muted farewell than perhaps it might have been in other circumstances. Rashid had done a fantastic job of looking after us for nine days, sharing his passion for Oman, his knowledge of the area and his love of guiding to make our time with him so interesting and enjoyable and we’re both hugely grateful to him for his energy, expertise and thoughtfulness.

The shower back at the hotel was a thing of joy. So was the large G&T immediately afterwards.

The rest of the day was spent recovering and relaxing and, in my case, writing the blog, for today would be the last day of Being A Tourist; the only thing the morrow had to offer was a day of relaxing, maybe a bit of photography around the hotel and packing to travel home, as we have a very early start on Sunday.

So, that’s it, really – it’s been a remarkable few days, with new experiences of a (for us) new country and its landscape, culture and people. We’ve been royally looked after by the fantastic team at Hud Hud Travels and the staff at the Chedi Muscat. We shall miss this place.

I might cobble together some final thoughts on the holiday and what we’ve learned, in which case, it will be in the next instalment of this blog, in case you’re interested to keep up. ‘Bye for now.