shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

Dimaniyat - Swimming with dolphins// Rescued Black Naped Oriole // Desecrating work of art rod/reel

More photos in Flickr folder 'Dimaniyat island/massacred rod/reel /rescued oriole '

It was on Thursday early morning (Oman's Saturday) that saw us at Sawadi Beach Resort. This was the jump off point to Dimaniyat island. We made our booking a few days before and was told to be there by 815 am.

Sawadi Beach Resort was 45 minutes drive away from where we lived in North Al Hail and we got there by 8 am.

You recalled other than for the wonderful snorkelling when we last went to see the turtles in Oct last year, the next 3 snorkelling trips we made were most forgettable. Not withstanding we heard nice things of Dimaniyat, my faith in Oman waters had been severely strained to the point I dismissed even the nice reports as probably overblown writeups.

We were going on the boat with 4 scuba divers and another snorkeller and of course, the divemaster and boat handler.

We had our optically corrected dive masks and only had to select fins that fitted us. The other scuba divers were selecting the rest of the equipment such as wet suits and BCD (Buoyancy Control Devices).

2 divers were from Italy on holiday and the other 2 were Omanis and the other snorkeller was from Italy. One of the Omani, Ibrahim, had this T shirt souvenir that he dived at Sharm el Sheikh at the Red Sea.

He was very friendly and enthusiatic on diving and came over to spoke to me. I told him I will only be snorkelling. He then waxed lyrical on the joys and the wonders of diving. That scuba diving is easier than just snorkelling. I told him I snorkel as my wife was snorkelling and I wished to accompany her. Ibrahim was a borned again advocate on scuba diving as I thought he might in wearing that T shirt. He went on that how easy scuba was and what I missed if I only snorkel. I deflected as best as I could for ten minutes. Then I thought my desire to be unassuming and unobtrusive was to be blamed.

I then told him I am a qualified Padi Rescue Diver, thats after Open Water Diver and Advanced Open Water Diver. That was almost at the grade of a Dive Master. He looked so crest fallen that I quickly added I had not dived for 4-5 years now and needed a refresher course to dive. Instead of being cheered up, he looked even more crestfallen saying he dived for 2 years and was Open Water Diver.

I then spoke of my dives that I got my Open Water at Vanuatu, South Pacific and told him of the degradation I saw at Great Barrier Reef off Australia the most beautiful stunning dives at Green Island off Taiwan and we became friends.

It was 45 minutes ride on the high speed boat to the Dimaniyat island.

The divers then went overboard on their dives down to 20 meters to follow the contour before rising slowly to 5 meters and decompression stop prior to surfacing. The boat then brought us to the other side of the island to more shallow 2-3 meters of water.

I had mentally prepared myself against bitter disappointment by expecting the worse not withstanding this area was supposed to be a protected marine park. I had been to enough 'Protected marine parks' to know protection is just in name, and no protection from the hundred thousands of clumsy divers who do not know control of buoyancy and thus touching and killing coral reefs to a stark desert. I had seen pristine corals dying year by year as 40-50 dive boats converged on the same areas off Koh Tao, Koh Phagnan disgorging hundreds of beginner divers stepping and killing corals not dead from the silt discharged from mountains stripped of forests in planting of coconut trees for coconuts for those divers, me included.

But the snorkelling off Dimaniyat was an incredible deva ju. Of the early days when I started snorkelling and diving in mid 1960s when hardly anyone dived in those days.

Visibility was a good 15 (45 feet) meters or more. In water of 2-3 meters, and water making distance look nearer, the corals appeared almost at hand in such visibility. Even more important, the corals were intact as hardly any divers come to Oman. Definately not in the army of 100,000 strong that go to the Red Sea.


Table corals, stag horn corals, brain corals, elkhorn corals and soft corals were all there underneath us in almost pristine conditions. They stretched on ahead and around us in cauliflower clumps, in brownish, in purplish, in pastel yellow, spotches of blue, patches of green with natural patches of powder white sand.

The current was very slight, about half knot drifting us down alongside of that island. There was this incessant grinding sound from the parrot fishes chewing at corals and discharging their poo in form of white powdery sand. Brilliant angel fishes in sunburst yellow orange, surgeon fishes, electric blue cleaner wrasses, parrot fishes, butterfly fishes, majestic Moorish Idols were darting about in and out of the coral heads as we slowly drifted above them. Large cuttle fishes with shimmering changes of colours were below with box fishes. Picasso triggers, with faces and shape right out of a Picasso painting with outlandish elongated mouth and jaws and protuding electric blue eyes looked back at us as we looked to them.

We hardly had to fin ourselves and we drifted with the current, only finning slightly now and then to position ourselves overhead the teeming fish life below.

Water temperature was warm, maybe about 26 C. There were a few instances of coral bleaching. Unlike the desert I saw in Great Barrier reefs where the corals were badly weaked by run offs of pesticide and silt just a slight increase of water temperature was the final straw that killed them off leaving thick slimy coatings of brown algae there.

In Dimaniyat, the fishes appeared to be off a Jacques Cousteau documentary and they were there in all sizes and schools of unidentifiable tiny fish frys.

There were no sea anemones and their associate clown fishes. Perhaps the water was too warm and they might be there deeper down and beyond snorkelling depth.


You see the bottom 2-3 meters down clearly with the corals

Oman has the money, and the power, and the intention of fully protecting her environment. What I saw in those water was such a heartening display of what it was like and what other countries might be able to do to protect their marine parks.

But most of all, there were not the 100,000 divers that descended into Oman waters the way they did in other countries. Taiwan was the other country I knew with incredible dive areas, with visibilty of 50 meters and water so clear it was blue in color. Taiwan, being the pariah country unrecognised by many countries because of Beijing, also had not the 100,000 divers that would otherwise descend on it turning paradise into hellish desert.

The boat then came to pick us up and went on to recover the other divers.


You can see how clear the water is as the divers were recovered


The Italian divers were on holiday in Oman and they told us just the day before, they saw 2 whale sharks in those waters. I believed them as at that moment with the boat cruising slowly, I saw the shadowy shape of a gigantic ray 2 meters fin tip to fin tip moving below us. I shouted for my wife to take her camera but she was too late to shoot the ray.

Dimaniyat island is not just one island. It is a group of islands. The divers were doing two dives. For safety, they needed an hour before they could do the next dive. So the boat was going very slowly over deep waters to yet another island in this chain.

The earlier snorkelling that we did was more than enough for me to feel amply rewarded and to reaffirmed to me the pristine conditions I expected of a country without 100,000 divers.

Yet that was only the beginning.

As we slowly boated, we came across a group of fishing boats of locals with hand lines in a big circle. In the middle of that circle were pods of dolphins breaking the water now and then. I could hardly believe my eyes when one of them did an exuberant leap and jumped up at least 5 body lengths out of the water spinning before re-entering the water. He must have friends with him as they then followed him even if their jumps were not as spectacular. The boat slowed to a stop as we all watched. The pods came nearer and nearer us. Then the Italian man said something to the divemaster. I saw the DM nodded his head and the next moment that Italian was over the boat in mask and fins.


I needed no other cue. I quickly wore my fins, grapped my mask and was into the water as well.

When I was in Brisbane, I went to the Tangalooma Resort at Moreton Island where you could feed wild dolphins. You qued up in the hundreds on the beach to be given a few seconds to feed the dolphines in the water guided and controlled by the staff of the resort. One of the dolphins was Tinkerbell. I wanted to feed her so much I went there twice but twice was in the wrong que. Even so, I thought that was magical.

But in this case, it was the huge ocean we were in. Clear as the water was, it was too deep to see the bottom.

The dolphins were 50 meters or more away and moving. I churned the water finning for my life as I tried angle myself to reach a pod. Now and then, I looked on the surface looking for the dolphins. I outdistanced those divers who went in earlier than me. I then saw my wife had jumped off the boat and finning to me far behind me.

I saw the pod I was going to just 20 meters ahead of me visible on surface and out of visibility under water. I wanted so much to fin on to them. Fear for my wife way behind me made me stopped for that few seconds.

I then saw there were yellowish ropey substances that I was swimming through. I wondered what could that be. When it hit me, I was going to laugh not that it was possible as my snorkel mouthpiece was in my mouth. I was swimming through dolphin poo. I luxuriate in that. If I had a ziploc bag to take some back, I would have done so.

That few seconds I slowed down was telling. The dolphins swam out of range while my wife slowly swam to me. Then we saw at the edge of visibility almost like ghosts in the water column a huge shoal of 2 meters long yellow fin tunas that the fishermen above were fishing for. Like torpedoes, they moved in unison about 10 meters away before disappearing in the twilight of the water.

We then swam slowly back to the boat. I was more conscious of that entire experience of being in the water with the dolphins even if I did not reach near enough to see them underwater. I felt closer to them then I did when I hand fed the dolphin in Tangalooma.

Unlike the other boat trips to see dolphins where a dozen boats with dozens of people on each boat, it was only our boat with other fishermen boats.

I might have disturbed the dolphins, but I could not imagined the 4 of us stressed them at all.

It was a magical moment the serendipitously came into being and I was lucky to be in. That I write about now sharing with others who might never even come close to.

That was not all.

A while after that, we saw the churning of water at the surface. A huge bait ball of fishes were swimming about, perhaps driven there by even bigger fishes below. Perhaps the same bait ball that attracted the tunas and the dolphins earlier. Birds circled above diving into the water.

The bait ball came to within 10 meters of the boat. I dived off the boat and finned my way right into the heart of the bait ball. And found myself in midst of herring size fishes of silver and yellow strips. The fishes were moving in unison as if choreographed to the split second. I was the only one and alone in that ball of fishes. Then the ball moved away. I was floating on the surface and the strong sun gave shimmering rays of light that shot pass me deep into the water.

Imagine you see rays of light emerging from a dark cloud in the sky. Now imagine you at that center of that rays of light. That was what I saw and felt. I saw below me the rays of light going in parallel to each other down to the ocean floor making an outline of myself as a dark shape edged with beams of light. I stretched my arms and the shadow stretched it arms with flickering beams of light. I drew my knees to my chest and that shadow became a ball. I could have gone on and on with that display of rays of light. But I was conscious the others were waiting patiently in the boat. And I had to swim back and get up to the boat.

We then went to the other island for the divers to dive. And for us to snorkel in 2-3 meters of water. This snorkelling was like the first snorkel. With the exception that this big pair of Emperor Angelfish was playing below us. I have this soft spot of Emperor Angelfish from the days I kept a marine aquarium. Emperor Angelfish with their bands of electic blue and brilliant yellow stripes had been one of my favourite fish. To see them in their natural state was another incredible experience for me.


Then the day was over and we all returned to Sawadi at about 2 pm.

This trip determined for me that I will scuba dive the next time. And if the Tao is with me, I will swim with the dolphins and the whale sharks in a future report.

I paid the price for that swimming with the dolphins in two different ways.

I knew the first price that I got to pay even as I was churning my way to them. That I would be a walking wounded for a couple of days. On Friday, we changed our plans to be at Jebel Akbar to stay at home instead. Both of us were walking wounded and we could only limp about at home and at our neighbourhood walk with our beasties.

The swim with the dolphins left me with an afterglow, and the experience with an almost pristine marine environment as well. I have been a supporter of Gerald Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust for a long time now with funds from time to time. That swim with dolphins was catalyst to my next step with them

It is not good just moaning about the damage to our environment or planet. Either we act giving our time and energy, or we support with $$$ those giving their time and energy. In this time of economic crisis where fundings are drying up, it became even more urgent to get $$$ to them. Recoveries are fragile, and if the programmes are not sustained, what we recovered might be irretrievably lost.

So on Friday, 7 Aug, I went into

I signed and paid for a lifetime membership to support them in the work that they are doing. They brought back several creatures from the brink of extinction.

If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.

or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice

We know where we will be the next weekend. We had wanted to go to see the turtles again at Raz Al Jinz. See report 'Turtle watching at Raz Al Jinz and Riamfada independence' written in Nov 09 2008.

For those interested in turtles of Oman, 'United States and Oman renew marine turtle conservation ties' will be a fascinating read.

Kathleen expressed a desire to do that last week. It was so easy to agree to do that the next weekend and the bookings were made. This time, Riamfada will join us too. Even if she cannot joined us underwater, perhaps she might be with us on the beach in moonlight looking at the nesting turtles. The way Tinkerbell joined us in the past to look at stars and fireflies in the forests of Taiwan in the night.

More photos in Flickr folder 'Dimaniyat island/massacred rod/reel /rescued oriole '


Rescued Black Naped Oriole

Cyrus Medora that I referred to as CM is an old friend almost from childhood days. He was instrumental and the catalyst in the coming of Tinkerbell into my life. I wrote of that, and had his photos in where we both fed Johnny Walker Black Label to his dad African Grey to forget the colorful words I taught that grey when we were in our early teens.

Cyrus had wanted a bird very much but his wife Lily was dead against birds thinking it was cruel to keep them in cage. I then came along with Tinkerbell , Yingshiong and now Riamfada so she knew of different ways. But still no birds for them.

Cy had this knack on coming across birds needing rescue. In 2005, it was Cyrus who rescued that Blue Wing Pitta and got me to take over the work as chronicled with Yingshiong in Blue Wing Pitta in 2005 Dec 02.

This saga started on 22 June when he wrote to me

--- On Mon, 6/22/09, Cyrus Medora <> wrote:

From:Cyrus Medora <>
Subject: Balck Naped Oriole
To: "shan lung" <>
Date: Monday, June 22, 2009, 4:50 PM

Hello Bird maestro.

Was driving down along East Coast side road and saw this yellow little bird on the other side of the road, almost being run down by the cars zooming past. Did a hasty u-turn put on the hazard lights and went to the rescue.

It is a baby Oriole - already reached the stage that it could just fly, but was just sat on the road. so picked it up and looked around for the nest or mother. couldn't see either, so reluctantly took it home. last night Lily and the maid discovered that it may have a broken wing. It is eating a bit - mainly papaya coated with baby bird food. It helps itself, but sometimes when we go near it opens its mouth to be fed, which we try and do.

Can broken wings mend? any online forum that could help with the wing?

we don't want to imprison him/her, but it also cannot fend for itself. made a 6ft x 4ft cage open at the bottom, and have put him on the lawn. hoping he will try and fly when he heals.


I then wrote to him urging him to take over


It is karma.
You are his best chance for life.

Do not think in terms of imprisonment, you are protecting him in his hour of need.
If he is eating (and that is so important as you realised), he can recover.

Perhaps the wing break is not severe and can heal. Giving him to anyone else in Singapore is a death sentence as you know well enough.


We kept in touch but I did not ask of that oriole again as I feared it died and if so, I did not wish to know the sadness.

I had a wonderful surprise when Cyrus wrote to me yesterday with this letter.

--- On Fri, 8/7/09, Cyrus Medora <> wrote:

From: Cyrus Medora <>
To: "shan lung" <>
Date: Friday, August 7, 2009, 1:35 PM

Peeing into the wind in Holland - the windiest country, no brainer.

Update on the Black Naped Oriole.

From a little baby bird, he has grown into a handsome young adolescent. We have been feeding him fruits, worms and crickets. He loves them, and grew up quickly. Laura, our domestic help, communicates with him with her particular whistle and it works well. He responds immediately. I had printed out your clicker training for her, but her whistle seems to do the trick.

We had built a 6ft x 4ft chicken coop like cage to keep him. We placed sticks at different levels in the cage to make the lazy bird fly and hop, and once he got used to him he became an expert. But Last week Laura decided to let him loose, as he was agitating to get out. And his constant cries for food and attention was driving everyone crazy. We feared for the worst as he did not know how to feed himself nor to defend himself. But his survival instincts kicked in. He never flew far, perching in the tree above our pond. He loved it, fly to a rambutan tree about 300m away, and watching the house from there. He gets to the top of the pine tree too.It was been over a week now, and laura and him have developed a strong bond - driven by food and security! When he is hungry, he gives off this particular cry and comes perch in the tree over the pond. We then call him down by a whistle and he clumsily descends onto the sticks we placed on top of a makeshift smaller cage for him. Despite his macho behaviour, he still puts on his baby act when it comes to feeding time. He shivers all over making baby bird noises. When satisfied he goes off again. He has been coming back every night to sleep in the cage, and takes off in the mornings again. He has flown a little way with some other Oriole, but they seem to be individual birds with their own territory, which they stake out with tehir beautiful call.

We haven't got a name for him yet. We were hoping that he would make it back into the wild, so we tried not to get him too used to us, but the rascal appears to have figured out how to get the best of both worlds. We are his slaves, and we love it! WE are hoping he will hang around as long as he wants and only if he wants. He is now known to all the neighbours too - with his irritating call for food too.

Cheers, Cyrus


That email came with 2 photos



I was absolutely delighted with his letter and the photos of his obvious success. I wrote and called him and had his agreement to show you our correspondence and photos on his lovely new bird that had him and family as his personal slaves.

He agreed provided I help him with a name for that oriole as his biggest problem is a name for him as it seemed that oriole decided to stay with his slaves. You read his earlier reluctance to give that oriole a name. Just as I did not give names to my two little kitties when I was in Riyadh and knew I would not stay on there.

I came up with 'Birdie NumNum' that he was not pleased with. So if you folks have a better name, do write that in comment here to help out Cyrus


Desecrating work of art rod/reel

I wrote earlier how I broke the spindle of the first rod/reel with my chevalier treatment and dropping that over a dozen times on the floor. I would be back and tossed that to the sofa and it bounced onto the floor.

So I had to use that work of work bamboo rod/reel.

To refresh your memory how beautiful that was, here is a photo as it was.


However, the rod/reel must also act as a comfortable perch for Riamfada, thick enough and with grip for her. So thick cotton ropes were placed for bulk and twine wrapped around the rod.




Nice shoelaces were bought from Amsterdam to be made into Tinkerbell harness


Smiley faces as the main head loop. The body strap consist of a loop of 3mm thick Dyneema twine, breaking strength of 400kg.


Rainbow hues as main head loop.

More photos in Flickr folder 'Dimaniyat island/massacred rod/reel /rescued oriole '


If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

I am a life member of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Do join us to do
whatever we can for the wildlife that shared our planet.

or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice

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