Saturday, 31 October 2015

Diving in Oman

One of the reasons for our recent trip to Oman was to go scuba diving, as we'd heard good things about the the diving there. We dived at two locations: the Damaniyat Islands and at Qantab.

The former are about 18 km/an hour's boat ride north of Muscat, the capital, and we did two dives each day on two consecutive days there. The area is a protected nature reserve composed of 9 islands and covering about 100 hectares. 

sea star

me, surrounded by teeming fish

crown-of-thorns - deadly for the coral reef


honeycomb moray eel

large nudibranch

a zebra shark 


large mating cuttlefish 



swimming moray eel

another nudibranch


After leaving Muscat we headed to Qantab on the north-east coast, where we did another day's diving, this time with Extra Divers. The diving was pleasant, but the visibility was not as good, and we saw fewer things.



snake eel

moray eel

What was most surprising about the diving in Oman was the tremendous temperature difference between the air/land temperature and the sea. Air temperatures were low to mid 30s°C, but the water temperature was up to 10° or 12°C cooler!

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Monday, 26 October 2015

Oman: inland

We headed inland to the historic town of Nizwa, our base for the next few days, making a brief incursion into Wahiba (aka Sharqiya) Sands, a desert region covering 12,500 square kilometres.

Wahiba Sands

The next day we headed into the Al Hajar Mountains, which separate the low coastal plain of Oman from the high desert plateau and are home to Jebel Shams, the highest mountain of the country at 3009m.

if you look closely you can see the old abandoned houses
in the Hajar mountain range

in the Hajar mountain range

Jebel Shams has two summits: North (3009m) and South (2997m). The North Summit is occupied by a military base and is a restricted area.

Jebel Shams, Oman's highest mountain (3009m)

Alongside Jebel Shams is Wadi Ghul, Oman's spectacularly deep answer to the Grand Canyon.

Wadi Ghul

goat standing near the edge of Wadi Ghul

goat in a tree

On our way back we headed to Misfat, a picturesque mountain village.


traditional irrigation system ('aflaj') in Misfat

in this photo you can see the old and new villages of Misfat

Misfat is unusual in that the date trees are planted on terraces.

terraced date palms

Misfat as the sun starts to set

The next day we visited Bahla Fort, one of four historic fortresses situated at the foot of the Djebel Akhdar highlands in Oman.

Bahla Fort

The Fort has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1987. The ruins of the fort are a remarkable example of this type of fortification, and attest to the power of the Banu Nebhan, the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century.
Bahla Fort

The walls and towers are made of unbaked brick and the foundations are of stone. 

Bahla Fort

Bahla Fort

Bahla Fort

Bahla Fort is also home to lots of bats

We then headed to the plateau of Jebel Akhdar, at 2000m above sea level.

Jebel Akhdar

In the village of Al Ayn they grow roses and make rosewater.

Al Ayn

In the village of Ar Rus, which only has 13 houses, we were very hospitably offered dates and qahwa (local coffee).

Ar Rus

feral donkey (one of many in Oman)

sunset at Jebel Akdar

To return to the coast and Muscat, we took the mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf. 

mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf

This is a spectacular if somewhat hair-raising drive and we were the only people driving our own car - all the other tourists we saw had drivers!

mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf

The mountain part of the drive is only about 70km long, but it can take several hours to drive, and a 4WD is essential.

mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf

Nakhal Fort

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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Oman: east coast, turtles, tigers and camels

After tasting some local halwa (a delicacy made of eggs, sugar, corn flour, saffron and puréed dates), we filled our hire car up with petrol and left Muscat to head along and down the east coast for some more diving.

Omani halwa

petrol priced at the equivalent of €0.27 per litre

near Qantab

view from the Shangri-La Hotel Al Husn

Quriyat, a fishing village an hour's drive from Muscat

at Qurayat

at Wadi Tiwi

at Wadi Tiwi

sea arch, Bandar Al Jissah

We arrived at Ras al-Jinz, the easternmost point of the Arabian Peninsula, and an important nesting site for an estimated 20,000 green turtles each year that migrate from as far as the Red Sea and the East African coast. Turtles can be seen virtually year round, but especially between September and November.

a dhow at Ras Al Hadd, near Ras al-Jinz

The Ras al-Jinz Turtle Reserve offers visits at night and dawn, but you can only take photos during the early morning visit as the turtles risk returning to the site without laying if they are disturbed by camera flashes at night. So although it meant a very early rise, we chose a dawn visit, starting at 5am.

a turtle hatchling
A limited number of visitors is allowed per viewing.

Turtle finishing egg-laying

Turtle heaving herself out of the sand after laying eggs

Turtle tracks

Turtle heading back into the sea at sunrise after laying eggs

Turtle heading back into the sea after laying eggs

On the road between the city of Sur and "Turtle Beach" (Ras al Hadd) a tiger has been painted the side of the roadside cliff as some locals felt it was shaped like a tiger.


When we left Ras al Jinz and started to head inland we saw the following sign:

Beware of the camels!

 Effectively, we started seeing more and more camels everywhere.

camels bred for camel racing, Wahiba Sands

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