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U.S. DIVE TRAVEL's PRIME GUIDE in OMAN:
Meet Rob Gardner from the northern UK, now of Muscat,
the key guide-service provider for scuba diving,
canyoning, caving, camping & fort tours.


By John Hessburg, General Mgr
U.S. Dive Travel Network


© Copyright U.S. Dive Travel. All rights reserved.




After diving Fahl Rock, our dive guide Rob Gardner
enjoys the rugged Omani coastline near Muscat.

© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


In some 40 years of adventure travel on 5 continents, Susan & I have been blessed to work with a good many capable tour operators, diving guides, & adventure guides. But few have made as favorable an impression as our new business partners in Oman. It is a rare pleasure to work with folks who are savvy without being pushy, & who are personable without trying too hard. Meet Rob Gardner, our skilled & respected adventure tour guide in Muscat, the capital city of Oman. He is organized, sure of himself, uncomplicated, & tells it like it is. In a travel industry where the Madison Avenue baloney machines grind out volumes of disingenuous hype almost daily, it is refreshing to work with straight-ahead people like Rob & his people.

I went to Oman some time ago to suss out their operation, meet the guides, check the dive shops & generally perform a white-glove reconnaissance on behalf of future clients, some of whom might be as skeptical as I was about vacationing in the Arab world. I was pretty relentless in my questions & fact checks, but they never sagged in their efforts to accommodate, & share information. Even the most die-hard jaded clients, who doubt the desert holds anything for them, will soon find out what I did -- that Oman is a land of gracious people & abundant natural beauty. And that Oman is safer, cleaner, less frantic & more hospitable than most urban sectors you can name in Europe, Japan, Latin America, East Asia or (especially) the urban USA.

When our business partners in a foreign locale treat our clients like family, it makes the experience remarkably stress-free for us. But there's something more important than the business side of things. These folks taught me about life in the Arabian desert, & how to wring the maximum enjoyment from this sere land of subtle colors & even subtler people. And now we would like to share some of those secrets with you.

The Oman travel network we have built together includes our primary contract allies -- the Radisson SAS Hotel in Muscat, the Al Bustan Palace Hotel (one of the world's unique 5-star luxury getaways), & the Oman Dive Center, one of the best-managed scuba operations we have examined anywhere in the world. We also offer a number of ancillary hotels & backup dive operations. Together we reviewed nearly every major hotel & dive operation in the northern half of the country. And we took all of the main back-country tours together that we intend to share with future clients, getting our eyes filled & our spirits lifted by the very same dive sites, desert campsites, caves & canyons we hope to share with you.

So if you want an Arabian desert adventure vacation, with diving, caving, camping & canyon trekking -- we have some fun in store for you -- pure & simple. Now I'd like to share a few recollections & images of Rob, with sincere hopes you will get to meet them some day soon, & enjoy the colorful world of adventure tours he has built from scratch in this sunny Sultanate of Oman.

ROBERT GARDNER:
About 40-something years young, Rob is a friendly, relaxed gent from the north of England with a dry sense of humor -- midway between Eric Idle & Michael Caine -- & a richly textured UK accent that reminds you of the early Beatles. Rob came to Oman several years ago with his father to found an engineering consulting firm, which has grown quite successful, allowing him more free time to pursue his keenest dreams -- diving, caving, canyoning & adventure guiding. This chap has got the dream job!

He has spent the last couple years honing his scuba skills with scores of varied dives along the reefs, wrecks & islands of Oman. Rob is PADI Rescue trained & has guided many foreign clients on Oman's classic scuba destinations. I've been out diving with him & he's strong, competent & cheerful onboard, just the kind of dive buddy most people appreciate.

Over the last two years he has also explored countless miles of wild desert canyons back in the high country of Oman's Hajar Mountains, prepping trek routes -- both manic & mellow -- for canyoners of all skill levels. Rob is an expert desert camper, a firm hand on the wheel of his hard-charging 4WD truck & one of the wittiest outdoor guides I have ever worked with, anywhere.

Rob is blessed with a fitness level of a 25-year-old marathoner. He trains assiduously, nearly every day, & has impressive cardio-vascular depth at every sport he touches, with a positive attitude to back it up. Rob & I went on a few training runs together & I felt like I was back in college track, with that level of intensity that only comes when a friend is pushing you to do your best. He knows how to make clients feel at home, how to encourage them without needling, & how to imbue the simplest events with good humor & the fun of discovery. We are destined to be adventure buddies for decades to come, until we're both too creaky in the knees to go canyon "swekking" & diving. Maybe that's about age 80, whattya say, mate?

Oh & did I mention, Rob is a full-on member of the worldwide Hash House Harriers, a loosely-run club of irreverent cross-country athletes from ages 20 to 60, whose idea of a good time is to run pell-mell through pitch darkness at midnight in the Omani desert, up & down hellacious dunes & through boulder-strewn canyons without flashlights, navigating by moonlight, their way marked by poofs of flour tossed on the sand. The two races I joined with these guys were probably the wildest sporting events I have enjoyed since three-legged bag races back at church camp. Never a dull moment with Rob, especially not since he married his sweetheart Brigitte in the winter of 1999-2000. And that brings us to the "better half" of our Omani partnership.


Family helper, Jenny, a good gal.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


Rob's local understudy in Muscat, Talib.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION or RESERVATIONS:

Contact -- Susan & John Hessburg, Mgrs
U.S. DIVE TRAVEL Network
PMB 307 / Suite # 116
15050 Cedar Ave. S.
St. Paul, MN, USA   55124-7047

Voice Mail: 952-953-4124
E-mail: divetrip@bitstream.net

Website: www.usdivetravel.com

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IMPORTANT NOTE about PRICES & TARIFFS:

First things first for your Oman scuba diving holiday. Please remember that you will need to secure a formal visa from the Omani Consulate closest to your hometown, before you will be allowed entry into Oman. Visas for most U.S., Canadian & European citizens are very easy to secure, & take only a couple weeks. In many cases, you will be able to get your entry visa right after you arrive at the Muscat International Airport. The Oman Embassy staffers in Washington, DC are exceptionally gracious & helpful. They are geared up to encourage eco-responsible tourism; this is quite evident. Visa fees are nominal & paid via cashier's check to the Omani Embassy or Consul General nearest to you. Make sure you prepare well for your Oman scuba diving trip.

OMAN VISA PROCESS -- Passport & visa required for all tourists, & for all Oman vacations. Tourist/business visas for multiple-entry issued for stays up to 6 months & valid for 2 years. Both business or tourist visas require a special official application form & cholera immunization if arriving from infected area & a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of passport by mail. For transit & road travel, please check with the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman, 2535 Belmont Rd., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008 (202/387-1980, -1981 or -1982).

All package prices listed here for Oman diving holidays are subject to possible change in this steadily evolving travel market. Land prices are traditionally stable, while air prices may fluctuate for Oman vacations. Until air tickets are issued, all airlines reserve the right to change airfares without notice -- a longtime industry standard, per FAA rules. We at U.S. Dive Travel will price-protect you to the utmost of our professional ability; & that has been our pledge for one decade now. We normally secure excellent discount air tickets. Remember please, the federal government has deregulated airlines, so only they control their pricing -- not any travel professionals. But our lodging & Oman diving contracts are set for one year at a time, & therefore are rock solid nearly all seasons.

Unless specifically noted, these above packages are prices for only the land-based or vessel-based portion of your Oman scuba diving vacation, in most cases reflecting double-occupancy rooms. At most vacation resorts there will be no triple-occupancy rooms offered. Some exceptions may be noted. International air tickets & commuter "island-hopper" airfares are always extra above these land costs. Nominal service fees are also extra for air tickets & the lodging + diving components of all Oman vacations. The baseline tariffs for all clients start at $35 per person for the land portion + $20 pp for published-fare air tickets. Late-booking clients may receive slightly higher tariffs on the lodging + diving. Solo clients will always pay a single supplement to secure a private room on their Oman diving holidays -- normally 35% to 50% more -- & possibly a doubling of the standard double-occupancy rate at some resorts.

For our U.S. or Canadian clients, the preferred payment mode for all lodging, diving & side tours is by cashier's check or wire transfer in U.S. dollars. All clients living outside the USA or Canada will need to pay only via direct wire transfer in U.S. dollars -- no exceptions please. No personal checks or credit cards will be accepted for the lodging or land-tour portions of any Oman dive vacations, please. Thank you for your gracious understanding. Our service level is the highest & our prices the lowest in this industry, & thus we need to preserve a reasonable margin to keep the Ship of State afloat, thereby ensuring that your Oman diving holidays will be brilliant & affordable.

For published-fare air ticket bookings on your Oman dive vacations, USDT always accepts Visa & Mastercard, even from non-U.S. clients. For discount wholesale air tickets, however, USDT accepts only cashier's checks or wire transfers, please, since we are giving you exceptionally low net rates, below the lowest published discount fares available.

Remember, all clients to all foreign destinations will be asked by local officials overseas, upon departing the airport on your final day, to pay a nominal government departure tax, usually between USD $25 - $45 per client. USDT cannot collect this tax beforehand, so you simply pay it down there, in your host country. Be sure to stash away a little cash for this final moment at the airport, so you'll get your exit visa stamped quickly with no fuss; & away you go. Best of luck with your travel plans. We hope your Oman dive vacation is a safe & satisfying adventure. Blessings & best wishes.

Best fishes too!

>////*> <*\\\\<

John Hessburg, General Manager
Susan Hessburg, Operations Manager
Founding Partners of the U.S. Dive Travel Network.


© Copyright U.S. Dive Travel. All rights reserved.


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