25th April 2017
Our Middle East specialist Dan has just returned from a recce trip to Oman, where he spent time discovering some of the highlights of this Middle Eastern gem. Below Dan ventures from the port of Sur to Wadi Bani Khalid and onwards to Wahiba Sands...
After a very late evening spent under the stars, on a wild beach watching green turtles lay their eggs I was up early to move onwards to the desert.
After a short drive along the Gulf of Oman with its turquoise blue waters and incredible beaches we arrived at the port of Sur. Sur is, and historically was, one of the most important trading and fishing ports on the Gulf. A ring of crumbling forts on the hills surrounding the town and the prominent lighthouse at the end of the magnificent beach littered with fishing boats bears testament to this. The town is a really interesting place to wander around, in particular the dhow construction yard located in the estuary next to the town. You can see these historic boats being lovingly constructed by the skilled craftsmen; the wokrmanship and materials used (traditionally with no nails, but I think they cut corners now) means that they are only really affordable by the Gulf’s elite fisherman opting for fibreglass alternatives. This is the only place in the Arabic nations where they are still constructed.
After Sur we headed into the interior of Oman to what can only be described as a little slice of heaven, Wadi Bani Khalid. The Wadi is the picture perfect recreation of what I imagine an oasis should look like, but with toilet facilities and a restaurant serving curry. Crystal clear water in various shades of blue and green, little fish, dragon and butterflies, date palms and mango trees – it's magical. You can swim in the main lagoon or you can engage in a little bit of canyoning and swim and climb your way across lagoons, caves, waterfalls and cliffs about for 30 minutes up the river that feeds the lagoon. It's immense fun and moderately challenging (for me anyway!) If you don't want to do any canyoning there is a cliff path which follows the river and you can visit most of the same pools and beauty spots this way. I highly recommend a visit!
Thinking the day couldn't get any better we left Wadi Bani Khalid and drove further inland to Wahiba Sands. As you leave the last vestiges of civilisation behind, the landscapes give way to mile upon mile of massive golden hued dunes, some reaching as high as 100m tall. It is spectacular. For the first few miles you’ll see small Bedouin communities and then there’s nothing; just you, your guide and vehicle in a sea of sand. As the sun began to set the wind picked up and the sand began to blow gently – it’s quite an ethereal experience to watch the fine particles of sand wash up and down the dunes like gravity defying water. A truly memorable day.