Home Gulf Tour 2009 Four beaches in a day!
Four beaches in a day!
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Saturday, 04 April 2009 23:28
Standing on top of the world (or a camel at least) at Wahiba Sands

Camping in the desert is an adventure not to be missed in Oman, if only to experience the peace and tranquility of a moonlit, starry night where the stillness and silence is only punctuated by the swish of the wind.  

I’ll admit to finding the night in my tent a little short, what with being woken at midnight by moonlight pouring through its walls and again at 5am when a watery sun filtered in. 

But, that aside, for me it was one of the highlights of our journey across Oman so far; to see a camel train strolling by at breakfast was slightly surreal.  And, what on earth was that camel driver doing on top of his camel, as mother and off-spring sauntered across the dunes?  Something akin to a circus-act but for me a far superior mode of transport in the desert than the roaring 4x4s in full-on “dune bashing” session this morning; boys and their toys!  

Special thanks must go to tour guide Anis who was a great help in hooking us up to the internet at the camp to make our nightly report.

Camel train at Wahiba Sands

Our drive out of Wahiba Sands and on to Sur took us from desert through rocky, mostly flat terrain to the beach, and all in the space of a couple of hours.  Entering Sur, we immediately encountered the by now ubiquitous fort perched on top of a rocky outcrop looking out to sea, protecting the town from seaborne intruders.  We then headed for the corniche where we got our second sight of the sea (after soggy Muscat) and spent a while watching white topped waves crashing onto the shore before finding our way to the boat building yard.  Sur was once the ancient boat building capital of Oman and was famous throughout Arabia in the 19th and 20th centuries.  

Boat building yard in Sur

Today, the town no longer produces boats in the quantities it once did, but it is still an important industry and we were able to see first hand how dhows are constructed (largely from memory and without plans) by craftsmen at Juma Hasoon Juma al Ariami Boat Factory.

Next stop on our trip today was Ras al Hadd.  Hadd roughly translates as ‘edge’ and it refers to the town’s location at the edge of a headland where the coastline of Oman does a 90 degree turn from easterly to southerly direction.  Here the waves crash to the shore against black, orange and yellow coloured rocks.  As the tide recedes, numerous rock pools are left with all manner of wriggling and scampering aquatic animals and I spent a happy half an hour reliving childhood memories clambering across the rocks until, you guessed it, the time-out signal came all too soon and I was scurrying back to the car.

Beach at Ras al Hadd

I was thankful I tore myself away from Ras al Hadd because the shoreline at Ras al Jinz, about 15km further on, surpassed it in terms of beauty.  Ras al Jinz is THE place to come and see turtles in Oman.  Located at the headland of the Arabian Peninsula, it is the site of one of the largest nesting areas for green turtles in the Indian Ocean; an average of 30,000 turtles nest only at the beaches of Ras al Jinz.

Turtle beach at Ras Al Jinz

The recently opened Scientific and Visitors Centre which strives to manage and monitor the site in the most ecologically friendly manner holds nightly and pre-dawn tours of the nesting grounds.  Sadly, time did not permit us to take a tour.  However, Mr Elie Sleiman, Manager of the Centre (which also houses a 13 room hotel, museum, restaurant and research/exhibition centre) permitted us to explore the beach where the turtles come ashore.  Now managed sustainably under eco-sensitive tourism principles, the beach was marvellous.  

We were told that the best time to visit is June to September and I have a feeling I’ll be back soon to see the turtles for myself, experience the sunrise which is reputed to be awesome and enjoy the more temperate climate; it’s 10 to 15 degrees cooler here than in Muscat. For those who have an interest in archeology, Mr Elie told us that a dhow fishing boat has been found which is thought to be the oldest in the Arab world, another reason for visiting this special place.

We rounded off our day at Al Ashkharah where we’re staying at the Youth Hostel.  It’s unlike any hostel I’ve ever stayed at in Europe, with spacious apartment accommodation and as it’s a stone’s throw from the beach so at first light we’re sure to be out exploring!

The team at the corniche in Sur