Desert Diving – underwater filming in Qatar

During a March 2010 shoot for the Rock Wallaby production company, Scubazoo Cameraman Simon Enderby had the honour of becoming one of the first underwater cameramen to film in the waters off the oil-rich emirate, Qatar. Simon spent two weeks filming underwater scenes for a show that will highlight this fascinating, and relatively unexplored region.

The Khor Al Aidad, or “Inland Sea”, was the first location. A real privilege given that boats have been banned from this area for several years. Temperatures were seasonally chilly at around 20ºC, and there were some interesting encounters with marine wildlife. “The main object of my filming for this area was to capture images of the Hammour , or Grouper as it’s commonly known” said Simon. “This fish is a much-prized delicacy in Qatar, but turned out to be rather camera shy.” Patience, patience and more patience was required by Simon, as he lay silently in the cold water waiting for the Hammour to become habituated to his presence. Bubbles from Simon’s SCUBA gear seemed to especially disturb the fish and he later learned that spear fishing is a popular sport among Qatari’s. The Hammour had obviously learned the hard way to steer clear of bubble blowers! Eventually perseverance paid off and Simon was able to get close enough to film this shy Serranid.

Shipwrecks are always fascinating subjects for cinematography, and with that in mind Simon and his local support team made the ‘MO’ wreck their next target. Otherwise known as the ‘Iranian wreck’, this boat had been purposely sunk by authorities after being found abandoned, and drifting aimlessly in Qatari waters, closely shadowed by an Iranian Navy vessel. The 300ft ship now lies on the seabed, 100KM from Doha. With great visibility, and mirror-like sea conditions, Simon quicky grew to love this artificial reef.” It was an underwater cameraman’s dream” recalled Simon “shrouded in shimmering shoals of snapper, and inhabited by bigger animals such as marble and butterfly stingrays, it was a real pleasure to film. The smaller fish had brought in some predators such as Kingfish and trevallies, plus there were some beautiful white and orange nudibranchs which I’d never seen before. I was grinning like a little boy at Christmas after every dive”

The best, however, was yet to come. During the last few days of the shoot, special permission was obtained from Qatar Petroleum and the Ministry of the Environment, for Simon to film around the restricted shores of Haloul island. Protected for years, this de-facto marine sanctuary offered up highlights such as cuttlefish laying eggs, cow-tail stingrays, hawksbill turtles, black-tip reef sharks and huge 8ft Milk fish. The pristine reef and huge table corals gave plenty of hiding places for the iconic Hammour and other marine life. “All-in-all it was an amazing experience” said Simon, beaming, “I’d like to thank the whole team, Essa, Fallah, Saud, Mohammed, Abdullah, Sallah and Salleh as well as Lyndal, Chantelle, Morné and the rest of the Rock Wallaby Crew.  I look forward to working with you all again – Insha’Allah!”

Simon’s footage will be featured on programmes produced by Rock Wallaby, for broadcast during Qatar’s national day celebrations.

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