By Bonnie James/Deputy News Editor
Qatar has the potential to become a sought-after recreational diving destination during winter, with campaigns highlighting the country’s marine life, a professional marine consultant and diving instructor told Gulf Times.
“The number of divers, diving clubs and tourists coming for diving in Qatar has increased over the past couple of winters,” observed Khaled Zaki, who has been an active diving expert in the country for 13 years and certified more than 1,000 divers.
Qatar should also launch promotions at international annual diving shows in London and exhibitions such as the Dema (The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association) Show, organised in the US to support the recreational scuba diving industry in new destinations.
“The diving season in Qatar begins for Westerners from November and goes on until the end of April on account of the good weather,” explained the master instructor with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (Padi).
There are six sites on land by Mesaieed city and Khor Al Udeid (Inland Sea) with depth ranging from 6m to 20m and a number of sites offshore. The Old Club Reef, New Club Reef, Qafco Reef, The Barge, Othman (natural) Reef and Zeytuna are the sites at Khor Al Udeid, most of them accessible with a 4x4.
“The dive sites offshore include boat wrecks such as M/O Wreck, Macadeen, Barclays and Jezan, with an average depth between 14m and 30m,” according to Zaki, who has to his credit a long experience in the region and the Red Sea.
There are also some sunken oil rigs in the Qatari waters apart from some very nice dive sites at Al Khor, Balhambar wreck (close to Al Khor) and Tech El Dan wreck (a big boat that sunk near Ruwais).
“There has been a dramatic spurt in the number of Qatar residents taking to diving over the past six years or so,” said the expert while pointing out that Qataris and expatriates equally shared a passion for diving during weekends.
“Qataris have a historic connection to the sea, dating back to the pearl diving days, and these days you will find in many Qatari houses a jet ski, boat, fishing lines and diving/free diving equipment,” Zaki said.
There are many expatriates who indulge in recreational diving during winter weekends, considering it as an ideal option to soak away all the stress accumulated over the week.
“If you dive in Qatar, you will see the blue angel fish, some natural corals and some artificial reefs, stingrays mostly on sandy bottoms, barracudas, groupers, banner fish, king fish and lots and lots of little fish,” the veteran diver said.
Diving is not only a recreational activity, but also a good sport, passion and a lifestyle in itself which makes the practitioners more responsible for the environment and safety, according to Zaki, recently honoured by Padi for completing 18 years as a professional with the world’s leading scuba diving training organisation.
Since diving is all about safety, the habits learned and nurtured from diving lessons will enhance an individual’s ability for risk management manifold, said Zaki who also goes diving in the Mediterranean, the UAE, Oman and the Philippines.
Being able to swim in water too deep to stand is the basic requirement to learn diving. Practically anyone between six and 65 can learn to dive once they master swimming and have reasonable fitness.
“A doctor’s report is important some times, but usually the fitness level could be ascertained by trying whether one could climb two flights of stairs without any problems,” Zaki added. Page 20
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