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Spotting Birds, Stars and Camels in the Omani Desert

2nd February 2015

Driving along some roads that were only built as few as two years ago, we were struck by the changing landscape as we made our way towards Wahiba Sands. Some of the roads were only dirt tracks a mere month ago, a testimony to the huge infrastructure development in the past forty years in this country. Along with an abundance of schools, new housing and port developments being built, it is a country growing fast. The drive brought views of beautiful ridges along the sand dunes and coastal scenes. Sightings of a variety of birds were a regular encounter, as we quickly checked them against one of our intrepid traveller's Middle Eastern bird book. Someone called out “Quick – there’s a bird” as the binoculars went up like lightening to identify the winged creature.

Today was also our first sighting of camels along the 10,000 km2 stretch that is the Wahiba Sands, home to the nomadic Bedouins – ‘Wahibas’. Amidst lots of bouncing up and down amongst the dunes and amazement that we hadn’t lost the firewood we had collected earlier in the day and tied on top of one of the jeeps, we arrived at our secluded desert location. Nestled against a beautiful steep dune we quickly disembarked from the jeeps and scrambled up the dune as fast as we could to get a view of the setting sun. Another bird sighted, alas it was only a raven – a telling sign that I am clearly not a true bird watcher!

Our first desert meal was eaten under the stars and we were fortunate enough to see the brightest and nearest shooting star I have yet to witness. The iPads came out to try to clarify some of the constellations, only for nature to respond with a lack of coverage (and a quick nudge as to why we were there in the first place!), leaving us to decipher and argue about which one was in fact Orion's Belt. Sleeping under the desert sky we were struck by how still and peaceful it was. Not a sound was echoed, but instead a quiet presence prevailed and the only sound we heard was the rise and fall of one's own breath.

The next day we continued our drive in this region. As we neared the coast a flock of flamingos flew alongside our jeeps as we drove beside the beautiful blue Arabian sea. We were also lucky enough to see falcons and sparrowhawks, as well as many other types of birds in an area deceivingly rich of life. We stopped to walk along the pink shell beach, where they have the tiniest pink shells I have ever seen. I picked some to add to my collection at home – and so began my shell addiction on this trip!

Driving through Khaluf, a small fishing village, on our way to the next camp we met local fisherman with their catch of the day and purchased some delicious creamy crabs for our starters. Ten years ago there was nothing here; I wonder what another ten years will bring? It was time to set up our tents and grab our swimwear for a welcome respite in the warm sea.

Tour leader Cally Savage recently led our Oman Desert Adventure group tour.

Cally Savage

Since learning to ride at the age of 7, Cally has grown up with a love of horses and travelling. She has worked in stables around Ireland as a groom, …

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