What can be better than diving at one of the best spots in UAE? Pearl diving on Sir Bani Yas island is definitely the answer. Everything from staying on the old wooden boats watching the sailors to actually immersing myself underwater and searching for oysters on the sea bottom was truly surreal.
But let me start from the beginning. Sir Bani Yas is a desert island located on the west coast of UAE. It is famous among adventurers and nature lovers for many activities and excursions it offers. I visited it a few years ago for a safari in the resort yet this time it was all about the water fun. Knowing how stunning the island is, the mermaid inside of me was truly excited anticipating a very special weekend.
The team of Al Mahara dive centre had organized a very busy day which started with a light and healthy breakfast and then continued with meeting Major Ali, the founder of the Emirates Marine Environment Group who introduced us to the art of pearl diving thanks to his extensive expertise and experience. He started diving in the seventies and now leads the Al Serdal pearl diving group and shares his knowledge with the visitors of the island.
In the 18th and 19th century pearl diving was the pillar of economy in the United Arab Emirates. It was also an important aspect of the Emarati lifestyle, with many families depening on the income from it. It was a whole culture that emerged around it with unique songs, celebrations and traditions.So what was it like for divers in the old days?
Divers then did not have the equipment that we enjoy today and had to face many dive related risks to make a living. They would dive as deep as 40 metres and collect as many oysters as
they could just on one breath. Later, oysters would be opened under the careful supervision of the captain, and that moment of truth would determine the success of a trip. Every diver would get a share of the money made from sales, the boat owner getting the bigger share.
Naturally, I could not wait to try pearl diving myself. Major Ali has shown me how to do it step by step – hold the rope with weights and give the signal to the man on boat when i was ready to go down. Then i just had to release the rope and try to stay underwater as long as i could exploring the sea bottom.
Spotting brown in colour oysters was harder than it seemed as they camouflaged themselves between rocks and sand. I had to dive a few times to collect a handful of oysters that were gathered along with others to be opened later.
Major Ali shared that experienced pearl divers can predict if the shell has a pearl inside just by looking at it. Apparently, just like trees, oysters have rings on them that tell their age and since it takes more than a year for a pearl to be created, the older ones have a higher chance to make the diver happy.
I was extremely excited to watch the experienced diver open shell after shell and hit cloud nine when two beautiful pearls were found. One was a common white pearl in its unique shape and the other had a more rare rose tint. “One for Mommy and one for me” i thought right way, contemplating necklace designs to boast the little sea treasure afterwards.
To book your own pearl diving experience at Sir Bani Yas island, contact Al Mahara dive centre
To see other fun activities on Sir Bani Yas Island, visit their website