by Paul Flandinette and Michel Claereboudt
240 pages, £36.85
Secret Seas is a beautiful book which not only has gorgeous pictures but is awash with information on Oman, its seas and underwater life. Even the most experienced divers will learn from this book and all will be enchanted by the superb photography.
Whale shark in blue water
As the authors' explain, the diving in Oman is truly unique. Nowhere else do you have kelp forests and coral gardens co-exisiting in the same spot. The seasonal coldwater upwellings in the south of Oman bring nutrients and ideal conditions for temperate giant seaweeds. By the end of August diving here would resemble diving in the UK or Norway, if it wasnít for the presence of tropical fish and coral communities Ė many, like the Dhofar parrotfish, only found here. By the end of September though, the sea temperature rises and the algae start to disappear, once more revealing a tropical coral reef.
Omani clownfish on carpet anenome, amongst the growing seaweed
Oman is home to over 1600 species of fish and almost 200 species of coral. Four out of seven species of turtle nest here. The upwellings have led to many endemic species - which are found nowhere else in the world.
The book opens with a discussion of Oman and its history. It quickly progresses to the diving in the different parts of the country and in its different seas - the Arabian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Whereas the early sections contain much detail, from now on the fabulous photos take centre stage. These are annotated with bite-size titbits of fascinating details on behaviour or peculiarities. Each section of the book now focuses on one aspect of the underwater world, such as Nudibranchs, Sharks and Rays, Cephalopods, Blue Water, Under the Rainbow and Threats to the Oceans.
The teira batfish (Platax teira) is often seen in schools, swimming near the surface above sunken reefs or pinnacles.
The reef section for example features stunning close ups of soft corals. Colours are shown both well lit by the flash and also as they would be originally seen by a diver, changing a magenta to a bright blue. Some of the photos are of species not yet described by scientists.
This colonial sea anemone is a parasite of whip corals.
Paul Flandinette has been an underwater photographer for about 20 years and has wanted to produce a professional quality underwater photographic book for as long as he can remember. In 2014 he received an underwater photography commission from Omanís Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth (as it was then known). Spread over six months this project gave him a detailed insight into the beauty and biodiversity of Oman's underwater world. Paul says "It didnít take me long to learn there was no photographic book on Omanís underwater world. Itís rare to find any project thatís never been done before so, always up for a challenge, I began this journey which was to last over 7 years."
He continued "For my co-author Michel and me it's not just about creating a beautiful and informative book. We hope that being part of the effort to promote Omanís underwater world Secret Seas will help increase awareness of the need to conserve and protect this very special marine environment."
The lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) can grow up to three metres. They are found in shallow tropical waters and are known to return to specific nursery sites to breed
This really is a beautiful book. Absolutely essential if you plan to dive in Oman, but also really interesting and informative for any diver, regardless of their location. Whilst many of us cannot travel to dive, an inspiring book which helps us better understand the underwater world. This book is good both for experienced divers with a deep knowledge of marine life, and people just at the start of their diving adventure. Highly recommended.
A hardcover book with 240 pages, the authors include 195 photographs and cover 160 species. Measuring 24 cm by 30 cm, it has been printed on 170gsm matt art paper using sustainably sourced papers.
The gulf blenny, Ecsenius pulcher, is not easy to spot when it hides within small holes in the corals. This species is endemic to the region and can reach ten centimetres
Secret Seas is available from the author - Paul Flandinette. It costs £36.85. Postage is £6.50 to the UK, £16.95 to the rest of Europe and £31.95 to the rest of the world.
Michel Claereboudt is Professor of Marine Ecology at the Department of Marine Sciences and Fisheries at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. He is an internationally recognised authority on corals and echinoderms and continues to research the ecology and biology of corals and other reef invertebrates.
Michel has been living in Oman since 1997 where he has made thousands of dives and has an intimate knowledge of Oman's underwater world that few can equal. He is also an underwater photographer.