To The Mountains
Oman boasts some of the most spectacular mountain ranges around, so we decided to go check out Jebel Al Akhdar. The drive up to the top of the mountain range was pretty exciting itself with having to switch to 4WD just to cope with the steep ascent. Well let’s just say that we didn’t realise how high up we were going and how cold it was going to be at the top! Be warned and take some warm gear. We decided to go for one of the self-guided village walks that took you through some villages along the valley, we opted for W18b ‘Al Aqr to Seeq’. The views from the get go were stunning as you gaze down the valley overlooking numerous villages that hug the mountainside. What was surprising were the accompanying terraced fields that would be more associated with Vietnam than Oman. These terraces are used to grow roses for the perfume trade that the villages live off. We walked through the picturesque villages and down along some of the terraces as we were lead down some stone steps that had ocean fossils embedded in them, showing the geological history of these mountains. A really fantastic trek and highly recommended.
We headed up to Jebel Shams which is not only the highest point in Oman but is also considered the Grand Canyon of Oman. We drove up a winding dirt road that lead up the mountain past villages and young Bedouin girls selling trinkets on the side of the road. Jebel Shams most definitely did not disappoint with its impressive ravine and accompanied stealth mountain goats that happily clambered up and down the cliffsides. We caught site of the ‘Balcony Walk’ we had considered doing but were relieved that we decided against it, more like ‘Deadly Cliff Walk’!
To the Valley
From here we went to explore our first Wadi; Wadi Bani Awf. We drove from the top all the way down, seeing some amazing views as we maneuvered the narrow road cut into the side of the mountain. What was amazing were the villages tucked away in this hard to reach valley and even more amazing was the brand new football field we came across half way down the wadi! We stopped at Snake River Canyon to go for a short walk that took us along a dry riverbed full off massive boulders that we had to climb over, around and under. I loved that we came across 2 Omanis sitting on a rock having some coffee who even invited us to join and ended up guiding us out of the Wadi and to the nearest hotel! An example of just how friendly the people of Oman can be.
Our second Wadi adventure was on foot when we went to the famous Wadi Shab which I can without a doubt say is definitely worth all the hype. The walk up the wadi begins with a boat ride to get to the path, you then walk through a small date plantation and up through the valley along the riverside. Now a word of advice is to stop when you get to the calm pools of water, do not cross over to continue on the path. This is the point where you can then swim along the pools to get to the cave and waterfall, which unfortunately we missed out on because we continued on the path. The trek was definitely worth the extra effort but is not for the faint hearted, no safety rails and deathly drops to the side. But some truly gorgeous scenery without a soul in sight, apart from 2 lost French girls also searching for the famous cave and waterfall. We turned back and managed a quick swim in the pools before heading back.
To The Desert
Now if you’re looking for the Arabian Desert experience then you have to go to Wahiba Sands. As you approach the desert, the sand dunes seem to just come out of nowhere. We stopped on the edge of the sands to deflate the tires a bit and were subsequently swarmed by Bedouin children who clambered all over the car and even tried to get into the car! We stayed in a camp in the middle of the desert that offered some great desert activities; sandboarding, camel rides, horse rides and dune bashing. Sandboarding was harder than it looked, be prepared to find sand everywhere when you inevitably fall. It was remote enough to clamber up a dune and find a spot to watch the sunset where it can feel like you are the only person in the world. The dune bashing was a bit tame but fun with our local driver who entertained us along the way and took us to a great photo opp stop. It was deadly hot in the day and pretty chilly in the evenings so bring some layers!
To The Sea
Our final stop on the Oman adventure was Raz Al Jinz down by the coast to go see the nesting turtles at the research centre. Since we were staying at the centre we had the opportunity to see the turtles at night and again in the early morning. We were warned that we may not see many turtles since it was full moon and they tended to avoid coming onto the beaches when its too bright. Luckily we saw 3 turtles coming up onto the beach to dig their nests and lay their eggs. I really appreciated how knowledgeable and strict the guides were in terms of ensuring that the turtles were not disturbed. We had to just stand back and observe from a distance until the turtles were heading back into the ocean. It was truly a humbling site to see these magnificent creatures and the effort they go through to protect their eggs. The early morning visit was definitely more spectacular as we got to see the sunrise while a turtle made its way back into the ocean.