Reef corals are one of the simplest multicellular life forms, but they provide some of the most distinctive and beautiful structures to be found in nature. By their growth and reproduction, corals form the building blocks of one of nature's most beautiful and diverse environments, the coral reef.

     In Oman's shallow, nearshore waters, reef corals occur in those areas where hard surfaces provide a base for their attachment and growth. The corals found in the Sultanate of Oman are part of the coral community that lives in the great Indo-Pacific region, which stretches across half the world from the east coast of Africa and the Red Sea to the west coast of South and Central America. In this region over a thousand species or types of coral occur, with the highest numbers located in the central area around the Philippines and the South China sea. The Sultanate of Oman, lying near the western fringe of this region has only approximately 75 species, with the greatest number of species and highest coral coverage occurring in the Muscat area and the Dimaniyat Islands, near the major population center of the country.

    Interest and concern in Oman's marine environment is increasing rapidly among both residents of Oman and visitors. Corals and the reefs that they form by their growth are probably the most visually impressive and beautiful shallow water communities that a snorkeler or diver will encounter. The numbers of snorkelers and trained SCUBA divers frequenting Oman's waters are increasing rapidly; and this trend will rise with both increasing tourism and a level of prosperity in the country that will promote learning of snorkelling and SCUBA diving by Omanis.

    This book describes and illustrates most of the common hard and soft corals found in the waters of the Sultanateof Oman and provides a resource for identifying corals at least to genus and in most cases to species. For those less concerned with biological terms, common English names are given, and a narrative for each type provides information about the usual habitat where the coral is found, unique features of this type of coral, and important environmental information especially relevant for corals of Oman. Basic information is also presented about the biology and geology of corals and how the coral communities of Oman relate to those elsewhere in the Indianand Pacific Oceans.

    I hope that the information contained in this book will stimulate interest in Oman's corals and coral reefs and will enable a basic understanding of the biological processes of these beautiful animals and of the geological structures that they form. In an era when coral reefs in much of the world are under continual and apparently mounting stress from both natural and man-related forces, hopefully this book will help to promote concern in studying and preserving this important resource for Oman's future generations.