We were warned more than once that there was a 10% chance that we would not see any dolphins and for a while it seemed our trip was destined to be part of that minority of boats that return with disappointed passengers.
Despite the caution our guide seemed optimistic as we set out from the harbour. The talk was of encountering our first dolphin(s) within 10 minutes – the trip was scheduled to last two hours. As we bounced across the waves everyone on the boat was scanning the sea and ignoring the rugged beauty of the Oman coast. In the distance could be seen the occasional small one person fishing boat and on the horizon cargo vessels and oil tankers.
The shout went up from one of the passengers and the boat was swiftly turned in the direction of the outstretched arm. The excitement rapidly dissipated as people realised the call had be a false alarm. Turning once more our boat sped across the water.
For another fifteen minutes we criss-crossed the choppy sea but with no sign of our quarry our guide pulled the boat up alongside one of the small fishing vessels and asked about sightings. It was clear that the fisherman had not recently seen dolphins in the area and as we once again began our search the guide turned to his mobile phone and began to contact other boats of sightings.
As we reached the hour mark things did not look good. Conversation with another fishing boat and additional calls on the mobile phone had failed to help us find our elusive quarry. Many of my fellow passengers had abandoned the vigil and I was beginning to share the growing mood on the boat, we were not going to see anything on this particular trip.
Suddenly the guide swung the boat around with purpose, there in the distance was another tourist boat, a fishing boat, gulls and most importantly the sea around them seemed to have a different pattern. Within moments our boat was rolling quietly on the waves whilst all around us were a pod of around 50 dolphins hunting (I’m definitively guessing on the number as the action was so fast it made counting difficult).
The next 30 minutes were wonderful. The chance to observe these magnificent mammals in their natural environment, it was an event will stay with me. Northern Oman has many sights and experience that make a visit worthwhile but its seas also offer much for the visitor.
On our way back we passed our holiday resort and also had a chance to take in the landscape of the coastline.