Wahiba Sands, Oman (09.10.14)
The spectacular 12,500 sq km Omani desert region of Wahiba Sands is without doubt one of today’s most exciting, safe and easily accessible of Middle Eastern natural phenomena.
Initially flagged up by the Royal Geographic Society as an area of scientific interest in 1986, the surprisingly diverse array of local flora and fauna is dramatically set off by the beauty and grandeur of the desert landscape.
I first visited this brightly coloured desert region, named after the local Wahiba tribe, in 2008 when we at Nomadic Thoughts expanded our programme to cover the whole of Oman, including outer regions. I was immediately impressed with the shifting landscape, dominated by dunes, with its myriad mountains and valleys, all divided between the upper and lower Wahiba areas. Travelling with my family and one of our most knowledgeable guides, we were thrilled to explore the differing desert regions at all times of day and night.
My favourite time of day was the pre-dawn period when the bracingly cold, coal-black night started to give way to the dewy dawns that are unique to Wahiba Sands. Unique in that, being so close to the Arabian Sea, Wahiba enjoys a strong blast of moisture which often culminates in misty mornings and centimetre-thick layers of dew across the highest and most spectacular of sand dunes.
Certainly we, at Nomadic Thoughts, always encourage our clients to embrace this most spell-binding of desert landscapes. The contrasts are spectacular, from bright starry nights and full moon, shadowy horizons, to flame-red twilight dawns and furnace hot mid-days. I urge you to visit, as you cannot fail to be impressed.
In addition there are some terrific desert camps from which you can fully embrace the surrounding scenery, while learning about some of the 200 wildlife species, 150 species of native flora as well as some of the 16,000 invertebrates. Local knowledge is never far away; any Omani who has travelled through Wahiba Sands will proudly regale you with their first impressions and exciting local Bedouin culture. It’s an excitement that stays with any desert traveller nowadays, even if today’s visitors focus less on feeding their camels, and more on flattening their 4×4 tyres in preparation for the thrilling high sand-dune wadi-bashing ahead.
Oman really is a jewel in the crown of present day Middle East tourism, with Wahiba Sands being one of Arabia’s most accessible of deserts. With the continual 24/7 Middle Eastern news bulletins getting ever grimmer, it is fabulous to support such an exciting and welcoming Arabian Sea destination.
Over the years I have been fortunate in my travels throughout the region, with particularly strong and happy memories of my times in The Yemen and Syria – destinations which are presently so off limits for international tourists.
Oman, and Wahiba Sands especially, have in contrast been one of our most successful and popular family destinations in 2014, with clients enjoying not only the impressive beaches but also Musandam Peninsular, World Heritage forts and falajs, majestic marine life, the cultural centre of Nizwa, Jebal Sharm and spectacular seasonal sights of southern Salalah – to name but a few.