Wild but save camping
When the muezzin calls for the evening prayer, the stars have already risen in the sky: Big Bear, Cassiopeia, Andromeda Nebula et al. The evening program on the beach has started: waves are rolling, a gentle breeze is blowing away the heat of the day, and milky way is shining above the horizon. Just imagine lying on mattresses in the white sand and looking up. One will fall asleep, peacefully, out in the open air without being afraid of cold, rain, bad guys or wild animals. Leaving all the hotels behind and instead camp wild in an Arab country. Welcome to Oman!
Oman was and is still an insider tip for yuppies and tourists. Maybe it is because some things are really expensive here, like rental cars and especially accommodation. If you do not plan and book beforehand, you quickly spend 200 euros a night for a rather average room. The solution is called camping. There are hardly any regular campsites in Oman but you can camp wild almost anywhere in the country. Some people say that young Omanis have created the trend but it seems natural to camp in Oman and not just another Yuppie trend. Camping follows the nature of nomad cultures which is a part of Oman´s history. On top, crime rate is low, the weather is always warm and sunny; and there is a lot to discover. If it´s on the beach, on the edge of a canyon or in the Wadi, Yuppies On Tour takes you to the most beautiful camping spots in Oman.
Top 1: Canyon camping - on the top of the Jabal Shams
Tour guides and travel books call it the "Grand Canyon of Arabia" the Wadi Nakhar at the bottom of the 3,000 meter high Jabal Shams which means something like "mountain of the sun". The canyon is nowhere near as long and not quite as deep as the big brother in the USA, but it´s not less adventurous. It rises almost a thousand meters vertically.
A hike offers views into the canyon, which leads from the village of Al Khitaym at 1.900 meters to a ghost town. The marked old donkey path runs along the edge of the canyon. The most frequented spot for wild camping is just a short drive from Al Khitaym: a rocky top on the edge of the canyon. In the immediate vicinity you can also spend the night in the tents of the Jabal Shams Resort.
How to get there
Coming from Muscat, take route 15 South to Nizwa, then drive towards Al-Hamra at Bahla, always heading towards the mountains. You cannot miss them. Arriving at the bottom of the mountains, it goes up steeply, sometimes on gravel roads. A 4WD is definetly recommended but they are some locals who made it up with normal cars - no clue how´s that possible. Just follow the signs to Jabal Shams Resort. The camping spots are a few bends in front of the resort on the left near a small village.
What to expect
Solid sand, hard rocks and stones in between. It is too cold for the Omani and as a consequence, there are almost only Yuppies and the bravest tourists spend the night right on the edge of the canyon. For visitors without any food supplies the restaurant of the Jabal Shams Resort can be an alternative - give it a try, if it is open. Special feature of this place are the goats which like to chill and eat in the tress directly and sometimes they even come by at night. If you are interest in goats and / or World Heritages, please check out the other blog post about the Oman area.
You´re up at almost 2.000 meters above sea level and yes, even in Oman it can get really chilly and windy during night. A warm sleeping bag and a solid tent will help to master this adventure, as does a hammer for anchoring the tent which was unfortunately left behind in our home country back then. Remember: Those who camp too close to the edge of the canyon risk their lives!
Top 2: Beach Camping - "White Beach" at Fins and exploring Wadi shab
The sand of the "White Beach" is so bright that it dazzles one. The sea appears a little more azure than usual on Oman's east coast. And on days with little swell, snorkelers can marvel at a magnificent underwater world near the rocks at the left and right end of the beach: corals, small fish of all colors, barracudas - and with a bit of luck even one or the other sting ray.
In addition to the beach another gem on the list awaits: Wadi Shab - Oman's perhaps most beautiful riverbed is less than ten minutes away by car and accessible without a 4WD. Next to the river there is a lot to explore. After a short boat trip across the cenery river and a bit of hiking, you will find a number of freshwater pools uphill where you can take swim. A narrow passage leads from the fourth pool into a natural cave, a waterfall becomes a shower.
How to get there
From the capital Muscat, take route 17, about 140 kilometers until Fins exit. Go directly through the village of Fins and after leaving the village behind, continue straight ahead on the gravel road along the coast leaving the sea to the left. After a couple of kilometers there is a path to the left of the beach.
What to expect
A very soft and white sandy beach with most likely some leftover wood of past bonfires and parties. Groups of young Omani people camp and celebrate here on weekends and festive days otherwise the few Yuppies and tourists are usually among themselves.
Fresh water for drinking and washing. In Fins, you can only buy the basic essentials if the shops are open.
Top 3: Pool camping - Wadi Bani Khalid
Oman is famous for its Wadis. Wadis are oases in dry river beds with wonderfully warm natural swimming pools. Wadi Bani Khalid is definetly one of the greenest and prettiest. Less than a five-minute walk behind the entrance to the Wadi you come across a turquoise pool roughly two meters deep, full of fish and larger than the most artificial pool landscapes of luxury hotels. At the weekends Omani families often come here to relax.
If you keep going a little further uphill you will find a pool to the right and some more lonely, cooler pools. Ultimately you will end up at the small Muqhal cave which can be explored with a flashlight but it is very narrow and muddy.
You can either pitch your tent near these pools down in the Wadi or go up a street to behind the village and enjoy a view on Wadi Bank Khalid from the top.
How to get there
From Muscat take route 15 in Southern direction towards Nizwa then turn South-East on route 23 towards Ibra. Turn left about twelve kilometers after Bidiyah up the mountain, follow the signs "Muqhal" or "Wadi Bani Khalid". The street ends at a parking lot. 4WD is not required to get there but if you want to go up camping at the top it is advisable to have one.
What to expect
Partly rock, partly gravel. In the evenings during the week the Wadi is more calm as soon as the day visitors have disappeared. Young Omani men sometimes camp here on weekends; there is always enough space for everyone. In the villages on the way to the Wadi you will find some kind of grocery stores and occasionally restaurants. The morning call at sunrise will be an amazing donkey "HEE HAW" concert in the Wadi.
Bug spray!!! And again a hammer for attaching the pegs will come in handy. If there is a small risk of rain do not camp in the Wadi. Unpredictable spring tides can quickly occur there dangering your life.
Bonus: Camping in the desert
Dunes, camels, scorpions and traces of vipers in the sand - where else in the world is it as easy to get into a picture-perfect desert as in the North of the Wahiba Sands?
How to get there From Muscat take route 15 south to Nizwa and continue South on route 23 towards Ibra. From there continue to Bidiyah the starting point for the Wahiba and meeting point with your tour operators in case you decided for the option of a led tour through the desert. Nothing works in the desert without 4WD. Some operators even allow to "bring your own 4WD" for an extra charge.
What to expect Generally speaking you can explore the desert by yourself and at own risks but if you fear vicious animals and getting stuck with the car in the sand then a safe bet is to go with a tour operator from one of almost a dozen camps located there. We skipped camping there since we did camping in the desert in Jordan but there are a bunch of great operators with decent prices and good quality available. They can also arrange pick up services and desert tours in a SUV for several hours. The camps mostly consists of roughly a dozen solid tents some even provide kind of a shower. Other operators also include more luxurious amenities.
Water, water, water! This applies even more if you go on your own. Double up water and also count in water for the car.
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