Shortly after I returned to Dubai, Husband and I went on a two-day cruise to The Mussandam on the East Coast of Oman. It was one of those trips we’d always talked about, so we were delighted when Fitz and Belle organised the trip. At least they semi-organised it: there were only eight of us on a boat that slept twelve.
We set off from Dibba in the evening and lay out on deck watching the shooting stars. The Middle East lays on a spectacular night sky. We spent two fabulous days snorkelling, kayaking, reading, sunbathing and chilling. It is the most incredible area, although shamefully there are signs of pollution. Many of the tiny bays we came upon were littered with plastic bags, bottles, glass, tissues and rusted cans.
On the second day, we were on deck when we spotted a pod of dolphins. There were about ten of them, fins lazily louping across the surface of the water.
“Where are you going?” called Husband as I charged down the steps to the dive platform.
“Swimming! With dolphins!”
I dived into the deep blue. As I struck off towards the last sighting, I envisioned myself as: Dolphin Rider! – Similar in concept to Whale Rider, but with more skill involved and kinda edgier.
Husband followed me in a kayak which, 500 metres away from the boat, felt like a much better idea. Every time we lost track of the dolphins, we would float around until we spotted them again:-
“Quick! Can’t you swim any faster?”
I thought dolphins are supposed to be naturally curious, friendly and sociable creatures, but this lot were rather surly. Still, it was all great fun. Until I saw a single fin coming at me, dark spike stabbing out of the water.
It’s the first time I’ve ever had a plankton-eye view of a fin cutting towards me, and I have to say it made me realise that, prior to that moment, I had had no real concept of the meaning of Fear.
“Er, Hus-band,” I said, treading water uncertainly. “Did you see that fin? Over there. Looked like it was heading straight for me. Did you notice whether it soared through the water as if attached to a playful mammal? Or did it submerge stealthily, as if targeted on its prey?”
Speaking more rapidly than usual, Husband said: “Do you want to stay in the water and think it over, or get in the kayak RIGHT NOW?”
“What, you serious?” I said, eyeing the ripples left by the submerged fin. “I mean, it’s pretty unlikely to be a shark, surely? And even if it is, there’s such variety of fish around that it’s bound to be well fed. And anyway, sharks in these waters are supposed to be small. So I’d be in no real danger even if it were a small to medium sized well-fed shark – which it probably isn’t. Right? Right?”
“Niamhie-” said Husband, using The Tone. I looked up at his face, and realised that he was frowning – which for Husband suggests severe inner turmoil. I swarmed into the kayak, yelping as imaginary jaws with four rows of razor sharp inverted barbed teeth snapped closed on me.
“Did it get me?” I said, glaring around wildly. “Have I got all my legs?”
“Well, I can count two – did you have more? Niamhie- I can’t paddle with you on top of me-“
“Is that better?”
“No – get OFF!”
Back on the boat I was much braver, to the extent that the story assumed legendary proportions wherein Husband and I fought off a shiver of sharks with a paddle and a pair of speedos.
Much later, the Captain informed us we’d been chasing after a shoal of tuna