Oman was never destination from my ‘must-see’ list. But I have always associated it with beautiful mountain and desert landscapes and hospitable people so after listening several reviews and watching inspiring videos on Youtube we decided to check by ourselves. Ultimately, it`s a neighboring country of Saudi Arabia, a little bit more than an hour flight so the ideal destination for a long weekend.
On is also known as the ideal place for camping in the wild. Especially that hotel prices are not the lowest. Camping is allowed everywhere, only making the fire is prohibited in the nature reserves becouse of egg-lying turtles. So we decided: we are going to rent the car, buying a tent and the rest will happen on the place.
We booked the airline tickets for 4 days and the hotel for the first night because we landed quite late. Before the trip we made the initial list of what we want to see, because 4 days is not enough for that big country and we didn`t want to spent most of the time driving the car.
Map of the places we visited (those “jumping points” are places of our camping):
The assumed initial plan was practically turned upside down on the first day. Our plan was verified by early sunsets so couple of things we had to postpone till the next day. It`s good to provide yourself with an accurate road maps before the trip – standard navigation and gogle maps on the phone did not work (we could see the map and the route but not navigate to the point) especially that some places are really diffcult to find because they are not properly tagged and the roads are not included in the google maps.
Renting a car
We decided to rent a big 4×4 car. Although from safety reasons we excluded the desert trip from our plans (expedition to the desert as a single car is always a bad idea) we assumed that instead of a tent we will sleep in the car and travel by local roads. As it turned out sleeping in the car wouldn`t work because the rear seats in our Mitsubishi Outlander were not able to fold till the end. We rented the car from the airport with one night free discount from Europecar so it`s worth to bargain. The cost is about $ 200 for 4 days.
We made our shopping on the second day of our stay in Muscat. The local Carrefour is fully equipped with all the things needed for basic camping.
EXACT LIST WHAT TO TAKE TO THE CAMPING IN OMAN YOU WILL FIND HERE
4-person tent cost approx. 25$, sleeping mats 10$.
WADI BANI KHALID
As we assumed that we would like to spend most of the time away from the city we decided to go first to Wadi Bani Khalid. “Wadi” is partially dried up river valley which creates a natural complex of pools, waterfalls and often underground caves. Wadi Bani Khalid is a quite popular place for picnics and all day campings for locals because getting to the pools do not require too much effort. The road is fairly easy to cross. It begins with a large lake where there are places for camping and a restaurant. Then the trail becomes rocky, leading along the pools with turquoise water, small waterfalls and streams and at the end (approx. 15-20 min of slow trekking) there is a cave (Muqal Cave). The popularity of this place can indicate the fact that apart from the restaurant there are also employed lifeguards. As I read earlier on the other blogs which they strongly discouraged from a trip during the weekend so we had mixed feelings about going there but we probably had a luck because the place was not so much crowded.
We got there quite late, about one hour before sunset. We decided just to check whether if there is a chance somewhere to do a camping and make a short walk. Actually there is a place by the lake where you can pitch a tent but the peaople around and distance to be covered from the parking to begining of valley with all of equipment amd food (around 10 min walking) convinced us to look for another place where we can do our camping next to the car. We found it in the small valley about 15 min driving away from the Wadi, next to the road, however rarely used at night. The place seemed to be ideal, especially the street lights gave the feeling of security but still our camp was isolated from the road due to its location in the valley. It was clear as well that this is not a popular place for camping because very quickly we were able to find a huge tree limb needed for a bonfire.
In the morning we were awakened by a herd of mountain goats that apparently came for breakfast. We packed our tent and returned to Wadi Bani Khalid. In the morning the valley was almost empty. We walked the entire route to the cave, with the intention of going at least a few meters into. Before entering the cave we met only one man who seemed to be a local but it turned out he was from Bangladesh. The entrance is very narrow so you have to crawl through it, then you have to continiue crowling for some time. It`s necessary to have a flashlight which we of course forgot so we supported ourselves by the phones. While going down it turned out that Mr. Local is following us which was actually good news because at least he could guide us a little bit. But it was a mistake. It was getting hotter because of the underground hot springs. Bats, cockroaches and the rest of my common sense began to prompt me that it’s better to turn back. But our guide insisted we should go further. At some point the conversation began to be more nervous. I understood only few words because I do not speak Arabic but it turned out that our guide “forgot” the way back. Me almost completely panicked, I started to pull the man‘s hand and ask him to turn back, feeling hot and sick, thinking he may have mercy for us. In the end after some time we have chosen a good path (no, not our guide), and somehow we managed to get out at the same time swearing at the guy mercilessly. Fortunately for us the situation ended up well but we will remember this lesson forever: do not trust anyone and do not come into dangerous holes without preparation. The guy probably wanted to earn some extra money from stupid tourists, explaining himself that he forgotten the road when I started to panic and harass him to return, otherwise it could end up much worse. For “bye bye” I managed to take a picture of him:
After this adventure, the rest of the afternoon was spent by the pools relaxing and swimming in the pleasant turquoise water.
Practical information: How to get to Wadi Bani Khalid
Coming from Muscat towards Sur city by road number 17 just before the town turn to Al Kamil (road No. 23). Passing through Al Kamil stick to the same road (turning right) and go straight ahead until you see a small complex of buildings labeled Oriental Nights Rest House on the right and a small sign on the road to Wadi Bani Khalid. Next crossroad to the right then straight on a winding road through the mountains until we reach a small town called Sabt. Already at its beginning, follow the signs to Wadi by turning left. After 15 minutes you will reach the parking. From the parking area to the the first lake and restaurant you will get in approx. 5-10 min of walking.
What to bring?
Snacks and water, towels, diving mask, swimming shoes and a flashlight if you want to enter the cave.
Sur is a very pleasant, small and climatic town, famous for its boat building. We decided to hang around there a little and eat lunch. We ended up in the hotel restaurant, near the roundabout and bridge. Although the food is not really recommendable (poorly cooked Arabic cuisine), the view from the terrace to the bay and sunset compensate the displeasure.
Camping near the town of Fins
I`ve read on some blogs that while being near the Wadi is nice to do camping on the beach near the town of Fins. Places are many from small bays to wide and popular beaches (the most famous is the beach commonly called “White Beach Fins”). Getting there especially after dark is quite difficult, because the beach is not tagged and you have to turn to a small sandy road before Fins. Is hard to get to some of the beaches by car due to the very steep descent. Definitely our Outlander proved itself well and we were able to drive up to the beach, joining the group of people who also came to this place to camp for a few hours. The morning welcomed us with amazing view of the mountains and endless sea.
Wadi Shab is probably the most popular Wadi among foreign tourists. Not without reason, the views are breathtaking. The best way to reach the place is from small town Tiwi, where road signs lead us straight to the parking. Than we have to cross the river by boat (cost approx. 2.5$ for both ways, last boats leave around 5pm). Supposedly a few meters away, where the water is shallow you can cross the river by yourself but we chose“dry” version. Getting to beginning of the pools takes approx. 40 minutes of pleasant trekking. To get to the end of the pools there are two options – following rocky trail (at some point we turned back) or leaving stuff somewhere and walking in the water. Definitely the second option is worth recommending. Along the way we passed small waterfalls, larger and deeper pools and small streams. At the end there is a waterfall. To get to it you have to pass through a narrow gap after that we will see amazing half-open cave.
It is called one of the most incredible and natural holes in the ground. Certainly it was before it became too much “commercialized”. The area around the sinkhole converted into a large park / playground and a crowd made me feel that is not my favorite place on the map of Oman. One of the few advantages that the lake is full of small fish called Garra Rufa which are commonly known as fish spa so we tried for free famous pedicure. It is only worth a visit for half an hour if it is on your way or if you’re already bored by Muskat because it is not that far away.
We left capital for the end of our trip. Our plan was to relax and eat something on Cornish (street along the coast) and do some shopping at the souk.