The
The animals came in two by two - a cuttlefish couple at Dibba Rock.

SHTOP! NOBODY DIVE HERE! The words took us by surprise, especially as they came from a bulky hooded figure that had erupted from the sea so rapidly that we had seen its weightbelt. The Inchcape 1 is not here. It has gone!
My initial fleeting thoughts, of alien spacecraft and tractor beams, suggest that I should stop watching Dr Who.
The question was, how had a 22m-long wreck come to vanish so dramatically
We had been faffing around at the surface on the dive-boats bow-line for too long, waiting for a trio of barely dived-in British divers to get organised.
One had somehow lost a fin and gone back to the stern to find a replacement. Another had said he tended to get too excited to descend, and was struggling to stop himself hyper-ventilating.
The third, a self-confessed gas-guzzler, was saving his special moment for a little later. We had just been on the point of descending when Alex, a Russian built along the lines of Buster Bloodvessel, had made his dramatic appearance.
Alex had gone down early to get in some quality camera time on the missing wreck. Now, as his partner popped up alongside him, it dawned on us that it may not have been the Inchcape 1 but its buoy that had moved.
Line had parted company with wreck, and all Alex had found at the end of it had been some fishing net.
It was a setback - but this is what back-ups are for. Where theres an artificial reef called Inchcape 1, there just may be an Inchcape 2. Lacking the marks to find wreck 1, we set off to dive its twin, stopping only to drop an irate Alex back at the Al Boom dive centre.
He should have stayed with us. Where Inchcape 1 had been a five-minute boat ride north of Al Boom and a 30m-deep dive, Inchcape 2 is 20 minutes south but only 20m deep. Perhaps Alex had particularly wanted to see Fred, a giant honeycomb moray resident on 1, but I was happy enough to dive 2, which turned out to be a nice little wreck.

WE WERE DIVING IN FUJAIRAH. Where That had been the inevitable reaction when I had told people my destination.
Fujairah, I would reply confidently, having Googled it. Smallest, easternmost and newest of the United Arab Emirates, independent from Sharjah since 1952, population 130,000, almost totally mountainous...
The other person would have moved on by this time.
The point about Fujairah is that it is the one emirate that faces east onto the Gulf of Oman and northern Indian Ocean, rather than west onto the
Persian Gulf.
It divides the northern tip of Oman, the Musandam, from the southern part, and so is sometimes taken for part of Oman (which is not in the UAE).
The Persian Gulf is not renowned for its diving, particularly Dubai, where relentless construction work to turn it into the eighth wonder of the world has severely clouded its waters.
Dubai-based dive centres and keen expat divers working there and elsewhere in the UAE are more likely to head east to Fujairah or Musandam in their spare time. Its a two-hour drive on excellent roads, and thats how I had arrived from Dubai airport.
As we dropped Alex off on the beach,
I admired the view of Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort. Al Boom Divings PADI Gold Palm centre is attached to the hotel, which was where I was staying.
Im not exactly a fan of high-rise hotels, but I had to admit that this one, based by the architects on an eagles wings, stands out spectacularly against the coastline. It looks particularly good from its gardens at night.
I wasnt alone in finding the resort impressive, not only in its soaring design but in the quality of its spacious rooms with their panoramic sea-views - there are 218 of them - its outstanding restaurants and especially its levels of service and friendliness. Many of the guests I met during the week told me that they came back there, or planned to do so, because of its high standards, and because of the people who worked there.
Le Meridiens general manager, Patrick Antaki, is a keen diver. In fact he had been checking out Inchcape 1 the day before I arrived, so had been the last to see it at the end of its buoyline.
The two Inchcapes are 22m-long iron crewboats sunk some seven years ago and now well-colonised.
On Inchcape 2 we first looked for the seahorses that hang out on a line strung from the wreck.
We found one straight away, though as I settled to photograph it, the third Brit felt his weightbelt slipping and had to be restrained from going into fast-ascent mode.
The resulting panic sent clouds of sand swirling around the resigned member of the Hippocampus family.
Soupy as the water had been above the thermocline, down here in a 3mm suit it felt a bit chilly. We moved to the upright wreck, where a writhing ball of striped-eel catfish was putting on an eye-catching display.
Below on the seabed were numerous scorpionfish and lizardfish and the first of the many lionfish dotted around the wreck and inside the hull.
This wreck is awash with life. A bloated porcupinefish that lurks inside
is the biggest inhabitant, and there are many speckled morays, from tiny ones in the coral-filled tyres along the sides to bigger free-swimming examples on the rails. Hundreds of yellow snapper chase each others tails as pairs of bannerfish dip in and out of the metalwork.
The extravagant soft tree corals
here come in a daring range of
shocking purples, powder blues and bright oranges and reds, set off by yellow crinoids.
Little orange hogfish and speckled boxfish explore their fronds, and youre sure to spot several varieties of nudibranch.
I had been warned that there were a lot of jellyfish about at this time of year (early April), but in fact there were only a few small ones, and you could see
them coming.
We dived Inchcape 2 twice, as well as nearby Martini Rock, which has its own distinct appeal. My companion on these dives was Colin Wilson, a cheerful Brummie - think Ainsley Harriott but with even more enthusiasm.
Colin rolled up in the UAE for a break not so long ago, and couldnt believe that people actually made a living showing people round these reefs. He became an instructor and has worked here ever since. A more diligent guide would be hard to find.
Martini is a convoluted pinnacle. Start at the base and work your way up to your safety stop at the top. Like the wreck, its a riot of soft tree and whip corals, notable for tangled arrangements of stripy featherstars in complementary colour schemes - black and yellow, white and brown, tangerine and blue.
Also widespread at Martini is the red and yellow Dendronephthya thistle coral, with white mushroom-like stalk.
Colin was constantly indicating the various inhabitants of Martini Rock with his little pointer - many varieties of lionfish, numerous eels, anemonefish darting in and out of their protective tentacles, here a banded cleaner shrimp, there a nudibranch in West Ham colours, or an awkward-looking pipefish. And all around the snapper kept up their game of tag.

IF THESE SITES OFF KHOR FAKKAN were absorbing, even more so was the famous Dibba Rock further south - Dibba being the Oman border town.
Reef-lovers could spend days happily exploring this protected rock. A couple of dives here book-ended my visit, concentrating on the shallow sunlit fields of hard coral that are home to, among many other things, a colony of more than 50 green sea turtles.
Some sections of the shallow reef were reduced to rubble by last years Cyclone Gonu, but there are plenty of fish to feast on the remains.
At one point a free-for-all broke out involving hundreds of big parrotfish, ranks of opportunistic sergeant-majors and various other participants. What signalled the frenzy was unclear, but for a moment or so it was explosive.
The most striking hard corals are what Al Boom calls raspberry rice,
a good description of meadows of rounded staghorn bushes that stretch as far as the eye can see in a range of subtle pastel shades, broken here and there by brain and table corals.
Ranging over both areas are big turtles that have clearly reached a fair age. Green turtles are named after the colour of their fat, but those at Dibba Rock are just green, their carapaces covered in algae.
Another attraction here and at most of the sites in Fujairah are large cuttlefish, often patrolling in pairs.
Like the turtles, these intelligent molluscs show no concern about divers and will come right up to you as they forage through the coral, presumably supremely confident of their subtly shifting camouflage colours.
I have to tell them, theyre good but not that good!
Oversized batfish, large schools of foraging barracuda and jack and on the fringes the odd blacktip reef sharks and eagle ray - this is an exceptional site I would love to explore further.
But time was tight, and no visit to Fujairah would be complete without heading north to the sparsely populated Musandam.
This means a 45-minute minibus ride over the border into Oman, which involves only a cursory passport check, then less than an hours ride from Dibba in another Al Boom dive-boat to, in our case,
Leema Rock.
Inevitably whale sharks had been spotted there recently, mantas and dolphins too, but one look at the clear waters as we circled the rock suggested that wed be lucky to see anything built on such generous lines. Whale sharks go where the plankton is.

A LARGE TURTLE NEAR THE SURFACE seemed a good omen. I politely declined the chance to dive with John, the affable but air-munching Brit from the Inchcape dives, as I hoped to spend more than half an hour under water, and dived instead with Tom, already a diver for a third of his 18 years.
Also in the group was another Alex, a 12-year-old from England who hopes to be a marine biologist and had perfect conditions in which to complete his Advanced Open Water qualification, complete with camera.
So we all enjoyed a couple of gentle drifts around the rock, its walls covered in beautiful soft corals, predominantly blue, violet and and green.
Again the fish life was profuse, and there were painted spiny lobsters, the usual selection of brightly marked nudibranchs, cuttlefish and free-swimming eels. I also noticed a lot of plump cushionstars, each designed differently to the last.
The end of the second dive was marked by the biggest honeycomb moray Ive seen. These eels can reach 3m in length, and if Fred on Inchcape 1 was a bigun, this one must come close.
If Fujairah and Musandam sound good for divers who like a bit of life, they are, but there is a caveat - it isnt always like this.
The dive staff were candid. Had I come the previous week I wouldnt have seen that much, such was the visibility. John Bantin visited some years ago on his way back from the Maldives and had just this sort of blanked-out experience.
Go in summer and your chances of good water conditions are considerably higher - however, be prepared to tolerate scorching temperatures.
One other problem - on the skyline youll see the oil tankers that ply their trade up and down the gulf and put into the small port to the south of the resort.
Sometimes they leak, and the black stuff can reach the resort beaches.
There are moves underway to put an end to this abuse, but softly softly is, it seems, the way to effect such changes.
Fujairah seems keen to cultivate its tourism potential without resorting to glitzy excess, so lets hope the necessary steps are taken to improve the odds of a dive trip being successful. When its good, youll be glad you came.

The
The imposing Le Meridien Al Aqah resortin Fujairah.
Lionfish
Lionfish at Martini Rock.
Striped-eel
Striped-eel catfish
seahorse
seahorse at Inchcape 2
Hypselodoris
Hypselodoris dollfusi
and
and Chromodoris annulata nudibranchs
Fish
Fish swarm in a cleft
green
green turtle
Colin
Colin Wilson: the wreck has gone, you say
A
A riot of featherstars at Martini Rock.
Divernet
FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Flights to the hub at Dubai. Steve Weinman flew with Emirates, www.emirates.com
DIVING & ACCOMMODATION: l Boom Diving at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, which claims to be the UAEs leading dive operation, is a PADI Gold Palm centre with four dive boats. The 5* resort was one of the first in Fujairah, though others are now under construction, www.lemeridien-alaqah.com
: Hotel Dili, 00 670 3324 502 or Dive Timor Losrae. For other places to stay see www.easttimorgovernment.com/tourism
WHEN TO GO: October to March are the coolest and wettest months, with temperatures from 25-30°C, though in January water visibility effectively rules out diving. Summer gives the clearest water if you can take the heat.
MONEY: UAE dirham, credit cards.
PRICES: Flights from £350. Full-board accommodation at Le Meridien Al Aqah from £980 per week. A 10-dive package starts from around £150, or £210 with full kit (which could help bearing in mind baggage allowances). Transfers to and from Dubai are charged at local rates.
FURTHER INFORMATION: www.fujairah-tourism