HOTEL | Al Sawadi Beach Resort
This hotel has been around for quite some time. It is designed and constructed in typical resort style. There are four or five clusters of rooms built in long rows. Most rooms are at ground level, although one building towards the rear has two levels. The architecture is not particularly characterful, but each room has a large terrace or a balcony. Rooms at the rear look over pretty, well designed gardens with tropical flowers and palm trees. Some rooms face the sea – you can see it, but it is about 200 metres away and the intervening space is barren sand.
Inside, the rooms are large and again quite barren. At the time of our visit the bathrooms had been smartly redecorated and the rooms repainted. New furniture was due to arrive in May 2011 and decent reading lights have been added since then. A few more nice touches and these spacious rooms should come to life.
The rest of the resort includes a spa (which we didn't use), large pool with hot tub, a large children’s playground, the dive centre (see below), a couple of bars and a couple of restaurants. The main restaurant was very good. As breakfast and dinner was included for most guests these are buffet style and mostly impressive. Starters reflected the region, mains were varied but what was completely outstanding was the dessert buffet. Fortunately, all 20 or so each night were served in small portions so you could indulge in several and not feel bad.
According to Omani law, the bars close early in the afternoon. This is a little disappointing as the dive boat rarely returns before 3pm so it is not possible to have a drink with buddies unless you use the mini-bar in your room. However, this was reasonably priced and the main bar reopens shortly before dinner.
DIVE CENTRE | Extra Divers
Extra Divers moved into the hotel in late 2010, taking over management of the hotel as well as the diving centre. The operation they inherited needs a bit of reorganizing but – to quote the new manager – is already being run with their usual German efficiency.
The existing facilities are substantial, with a large storage area for dive equipment, freshwater showers, huge rinse tanks, shop, and office and an outside seating area for relaxing. However, there wasn't a specific camera area, storage or specific camera rinse tanks, but it's not far back to the rooms. Rental equipment was fairly new and appeared to be in good condition.
All diving is by day boat. These sometimes launch from the beach at the front of the hotel, but depending on tides, sometimes from the public beach a five-minute drive away. Although everything is well organized by the staff, this involves a lot of carrying and moving about of equipment, which was time consuming and meant there are only ever two dives a day. There are currently three boats – two larger ones and a small boat. Only the larger ones have a toilet but all three have shade canopies.
Depending on the day and the planned dive site, divers are moved around between boats (a great shame as you kept missing your buddies from the previous day) and some days the boats were very crowded. Distances to sites vary between 30 minutes and close to two hours, depending on which boat you are on.
It depends on your experience whether you will find this next comment a pro or a con. The boats mostly go out with one dive guide and one crew member. While that gave experienced divers like us a lot of freedom, less experienced and single divers mentioned it was a worry as they rarely had the same buddy or divemaster due to the frequent rearrangements.
The crew at Extra Divers is highly multinational. There are a couple of Omanis and others were from Sri Lanka, Italy and Germany. We found them all to be friendly, professional and attentive so our compliments to Roshan, Suliman, Said, Dennise and Mauro.
OPINION | We visited Al Sawadi shortly after Extra Divers took over the hotel and dive centre. They are working on upgrading and improving the entire operation.