25th Aug 2016 - 26th Aug 2016 - Oman
Muscat, Wadi Shab, Ras al-Hadd
Most people when I mentioned I was heading to Oman, asked if there was anything there aside from desert. It turns out that, especially if you don’t head too far inland, there’s plenty there. If you take the main road out of the capital Muscat, towards the south-east, you reach the small town of Ras al-Hadd, where the Oman Sea meets the Arabian Sea. On the way you pass a number of amazing natural features before ending up at a fantastic spot for a wildlife encounter. With just 5 days in Oman, we were using our time wisely and had booked some tours before leaving home. The first was to take us down this particular road.
We arrived in Muscat on time and made a speedy exit off the plane, bought our visas and cleared immigration. Before we knew it, we’d arrived at our hotel, been upgraded and were sat on our balcony overlooking the pool slowly toasting in 46 degree heat! The afternoon was split between the hotel’s private beach and the pool/pool bar before heading to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Bizarrely, it was set in the “jungle”, in the middle of the city, surrounded by dinosaurs!
The next morning, we were up early to meet our guide Juma at 8.00am. He arrived sporting the local clothing of a dish-dash and kuma (informal hat). We drove for an hour and a half before arriving at our first spot – Wadi Shab. A wadi is a valley, sometimes dry, sometimes with water, sometimes both depending on the season. Due to the water, the banks of wadi’s are often surrounded by green plants and bushes. Wadi Shab was no exception, with turquoise water surrounded by lush vegetation backed by steep cliff walls. We took a short boat ride across the water to the hiking path, from where we followed the edge of the water scrambling over boulders and avoiding thorny branches.
After 40 mins, we reached the end of the path but this was not the end of the adventure. We then switched to the water, being careful on the very slippery rocks and part walked, part swam further down the valley. At the end, we entered a submerged cave, lit by a few holes in the roof. After 30 mins in the pool, we retraced our steps back to the car. The whole excursion taking approximately 3 hours.
We had lunch in a local restaurant in the nearby town of Tiwi before continuing our journey on to Ras al-Hadd. This is home to a turtle colony who come ashore in the evening to lay their eggs. We would be using the facilities of a house belonging to Juma’s friend Salam, but spending the night sleeping on the beach. Firstly, Salam took us out on his boat, in an attempt to catch dinner but sadly Christina and my fishing skills were limited to we had to ask another fishing boat nicely if we could have one of their fish! We then switched from the choppier Arabian Sea into the calmer Oman Sea where we could see lots of turtles and Christina was even able to snorkel with them.
The evening was spent cooking the fish for dinner under the Milky Way before heading to the water edge to see if any turtles were ashore. None were but we got to see, and dance in, fluorescent plankton at the water’s edge. In an attempt to find turtles, we headed a short drive up to Ras al-Jinz, where there is a large turtle colony. On the drive into the colony we had to stop the car as there were a number of babies on the path, heading in the wrong direction as they follow bright lights. We rescued a large number of babies and deposited them in a bowl of water at the entrance. On the beach itself, we found many large holes complete with turtles laying eggs, holes being dug by expectant turtles and track marks from where the turtles had dragged themselves up and down out of the water. It was amazing to witness but eventually we had to leave and return to our beach to get some rest.