Well known to fishing enthusiasts, the Hallaniyat Island group lies just off the magnificent Dhofar coast. The water is transparent, the pristine white beach is scattered with delicate pastel shells, and the hills look like chocolate layer cake. It was an idyllic place to drop the hook and catch our breath before the impending 1000 mile passage across the Arabian Sea.
Illustrating its draw for anglers, we caught a metre long dorado on the day we left.
Early Late autumn to early spring when vis in the Red Sea is at its best.
North of Salalah on the Dohfar coast.
How to get there:
Hire a local boat from the mainland, or beg, borrow or buy your own.
Lon: 056° 01.0E Lat: 17° 30.0N
Oman is the land of the muscle car, and in a tired and emotional state I agreed to go on a thousand kilometer-plus drive down to the Dhofari capital Salalah from Muscat one Thursday morning. You pass through the most extreme, silent, brutally hot, lunar landscape for eight hours, occasionally filling up at petrol stations manned by lonely South Indian attendants. Then (if you go during the Khareef, or monsoon season), you all of a sudden hit a thin film of rain, fog and brilliantly green hills. You battle for tarmac with camels in scenery that more resembles Switzerland than Arabia. It is a surreal, and demanding drive expedition, but well worth it.
Rent a car in Muscat and just drive south - there are plenty of affordable seaside hostels to stay in in Salalah.
Google map: bit.ly/ciyj8k
The Souk in Muscat sells many things you will find in similar places across the Middle East but comes into its own for those Omani specialties, Frankincense and Myrrh, together with beautiful silver burners.
The Souk is on the Corniche in Muttrah, close to the ancient heart of Muscat.
Google map: tinyurl.com/37qqa95
Though apparently it has something of a chequered past, post Cyclone Gonu, the turtle sanctuary in eastern Oman is, today, something very special indeed. It may be a bit of a trek to get there (we camped on the beach in Rass Al Hadd) but the guided tours to the protected beach around the coast are something special indeed, with a chance to watch green turtles lay and bury eggs and - if you're lucky - see hatchlings make their ridiculous, graceless march to sea.
About 10km from Ras Al Hadd, the most eastern village in Oman.
A few hours of sumptuous coastal driving south from Muscat, the sleepy town of Ras Al Hadd, once you get there, is pretty unremarkable. Twenty minutes away, however, is the Ras Al Jinz nature reserve. There for a small fee, guests can watch Green turtles arrive on the beach to give birth and hatchlings make a break for the big blue.
We were going to visit Oman and wanted to use four days for a snapshot of the country. Arriving in Muscat is a shock as frankly it’s so much cleaner than our cities. We visited the Sultan Qaboos Mosque on the way in and it is a jaw dropping experience – a mélange of different Islamic styles that perhaps because of the space do not overwhelm. However, that apart, for us the best was out of Muscat and our safari through the mountains and desert. They are so barren that each village seems as though it could be the only one – but no, around a corner there would be another one. Camping in the desert gave us the chance to lie back and drink in millions of stars above in an almost religious experience. It’s difficult to get used to so many shades of brown but in their own way, they are beautiful. A great visit for non-touristy experiences.
Totally unexpected – green in the heart of Arabia. We travelled at the start of October for casual birdwatching and a beach holiday. We got both but also a little part of Arabia that contradicts practically everything written about the Middle East. The mountains were covered in trees and coastal birdlife extraordinary. Our lasting memory was the bucolic surroundings and total contrast from the cities of Egypt and desert of Jordan.
Very friendly country where the people love children. We visited Nizwa and enjoyed the goats (through we didn’t let on what would happen to them), the Wahabi Sands and small villages and finally the Green Turtle place. We all enjoyed it immensely and it possibly is the most child-indulgent place we have been to in a while.
The company are into nature and cultural type holidays, we did a trip down the coast to Salalah in April. You need to except that there are no five-star hotels on the trip, only in the big towns, so we camped sometimes. The Omani guide was great, he cooked great meals and was a safe driver. We ate in some local restaurants and visited a true bedu family. The beaches were endless and had to dip our toes in on many an occasion.
When we arrived into Salalah it was a surprise to feel a difference in culture, it had a tropical African feel with some Yemen style thrown in. We liked it because it's still real.
www.holiday-in-oman.com, tel 00 968 24485663
Near to Radisson hotel in Al khwuair
A great destination for families, Muscat has everything and cheap at that. My tip is to make sure you leave your luxury hotel with private beach etc, to eat. Yes, you won't be able to drink alcohol in Omani restaurants but the selection of Arab food, seafood (lobster for £5 a head), Indian food and Persian (among others) are a delight, obscenely cheap compared with hotel fare, and served by friendly locals. The Mermaid on the beach just along from the Hyatt is a particular gem.
A newly established British-run ground operator in tourism.
We went on their glass bottom boat out to the Islands off Muscat for snorkelling.
It was awesome. The sea was so clear, there were dolphins everywhere and whales too.
The staff were really friendly and professional, and we even got snacks as we sailed!!!!
Perfect day on the Arabian Ocean.
Ok, so their desert tour is touristy, and cliche, but we thoroughly enjoyed it -- for $145 for two (including dinner), it was a value. The staff is outgoing, the dune driving somewhat scary, and the food is (suprisingly) good. Full description and photos at:
No website, but your concierge can book it for you.
This is where the cool kids stay! Sleek, sexy, modern. I only had a drink here, but fell in love with the place. Beautiful pools (one for adults, one for kids), a spectacular restaurant, etc., etc.
Full description and pictures at www.travelmusings.net
The festival takes place for about a month in January and February. There are lots of different festival events around the city but the best place to head is the Al Qurum National Park where the main events take place. It's a great place see local musicians, dancers and demonstrations of local culture. It's also a great place to see the local people letting their hair down.
This large mosque, completed in 2001, is a fabulous, stunning building. Non-Muslim visitors are allowed in between 8am-11am on any day except Friday and certain religious holidays. The earlier you go the better; it deserves to be savoured over a few hours. You'll feel slightly nervous standing under the chandelier in the men's prayer hall as it is huge!
All the taxi drivers will know
You need to get up early, but it's well worth it. Pods of dolphins congregate off the coast of Muscat, and the boats follow them for a good hour or so. The trips also go right around the bay, giving spectacular views of the coastline. If you're of a strong-ish constitution, you might want to investigate the nearby fish market, where local fisherman bring in their catches, including leopard sharks and reef sharks.
Zahara Tours will arrange boat tours and trips around the local markets;
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