DAYS 117-119: No trip to Oman should be without a visit to the Sharqiya Sands (also known as the Wahiba Sands after the Bani Wahiba tribe). This large area is roughly 110 miles North to South, and 50 miles East to West, for an area of 4,800 square miles; about the same size as the State of Connecticut.
As easy two hours drive Southeast of Muscat, this is easily accessible for anyone spending a week or so in Oman and is a popular spot along a circular route connecting Sur (on the coast) to Sharqiya Sands to Nizwa back to Muscat.
Although in retrospect, most visitors at our camp seemed to spend only 1-2 nights there, we elected to spend 3 in order to slightly minimize our travel days. However, two nights would have been fine.
The lodge is set up like a Bedouin camp with a central eating area. The lodges were quite nice and remained cool even in the hotter parts of the day.
I was a little disappointed that there was only two “free” activities included in the room rate. The first was a drive up the adjacent dune right before the daily sunset. The second was a short camel ride within the camp perimeter. I think the ride lasted about 5 minutes and was only available in the mornings.
Of course, most folks don’t want to ride a camel more than 5 minutes anyways…
Other activities included a dune tour on ATV’s and of course the Bepkos needed to do this. Twice.
After the fun E & S had on their first experience with ATV’s in the Namib desert, I knew this would be a big hit. The kiddos liked this tour more because – while they weren’t able to max out the ATV speed on the straightaways of the Little Kalula trails – this was a more technical route and included driving up and down the sand dunes.
Needless to say, we all had fun driving in the desert. Looks like we will need to purchase a few of these vehicles when we return to Texas!
Next on our list was a trip to a nearby wadi. “Wadi” is an Arabic and Hebrew word for a valley. Some of the wadis were basically dry river beds and some contained large pools of fresh water. The one we visited was Wadi Bani Khalid, located about an hour from our camp. We could have driven to it ourselves (didn’t need a 4×4) but we didn’t know it at the time. Either way, it was nice have a local guide drive us there – made parking and walking to the wadi that much easier.
This place was absolutely beautiful. Imagine a desert oasis from one’s wildest dreams and then place it into a tight canyon. One look at the clear waters and we couldn’t wait to jump in. And jump in we did!
The water was the perfect temperature and visalibity was at least 10 feet deep.
There were several small fish which would nibble on your toes… these Doctor Fish (or garra rufa/red garra) are the types of fish found at spas in Turkey and the Far East. They nibble at the dead skin on your feet, hands and even occasionally on the legs and arms. It was a weird feeling to have these little buggers go to town. But they usually only bothered you when hanging out along the edge of the water and not while actually swimming in the center of the pool.
Swimming in this area, surrounded by crystal waters, date palms and the rocks, was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We highly recommend an experience like this for anyone visiting Oman. There are several other wadi’s scattered about the country – some of which require 4×4 vehicles in order to drive there.
And the best part of all – was that the wadi was free! Even though there were lifeguards around there was no entrance fee. Obviously in the USA, someone would have claimed this area and set up an entrance fee for access.
Our final day at the camp was the day for sand blasting/duning and some sand-boarding. The afternoon started off driving along – and sometimes straight down – the dunes. While fun, I had experienced better dune blasting fun during a Recs & Recreation tour during my Qatar deployment. However, the kiddos loved the thrill of 4×4’ing in the dunes.
The sand dunes really had the ability to make one seem quite small. Hard to comprehend all the sand that surrounded us…
After an hour or so driving around the dunes it was time for sand-boarding. It was much more difficult than I expected, but S picked it up really quickly. This is evident by the movie below…
The Bepkos had a great time in the desert. We probably could have gotten by with one less night here, but we also enjoyed lounging around the “tent” reading and getting caught up on school work (read E & S).
Our next stop was Nizwa – located at the foot of the Al Hajar Mountain range. More to come on our time there in a bit!