Thursday, June 13, 2019

Oman - Beach

On to the final part of our adventure in Oman (we've been in Muscat, mountains, and desert so far), we head to the coast/beach. We arrived in Ras al Hadd (just southeast of Sur) mid-afternoon - some partook in wifi after being deprived for 36 hours in the desert. I went for a walk on the beach....because (surprise) this was my favorite part of the trip! To give you an idea of how much of the country we were able to see, I've included this map from We started in Muscat, drove through the Hajar Mountains, stayed in Nizwa, then drove to the Wahiba Sands, the last leg we headed onto Sur (stayed at the end of the next red line on the turning point of where the coast heads south), before returning to Muscat.

I was able to stick my toes in the Indian Ocean (Arabian Sea is a section of the Indian Ocean)!

While looking for shells (it makes my heart happy to find treasures!). I came across this relatively large pufferfish on the sand. I also happened upon some giant cuttlefish bones.

After dropping my shells in our room, I wandered around the rocky cliffs at the end of the peninsula.

It was crazy how close people drive up to the shoreline. Just around the corner from the beach the seas were much rougher!

I thought these rocks/boulders looked like a camel sitting in the water.

Seaside bougainvillea!

Cool rock composition/colors.

Richard and I found some neat critters in the tide pools.

Crabs and chiton.

The sun started setting behind some of the rocks.

Some birds flying past the setting sun.

Fishermen heading out to sea.

After dinner, we met up with Nasser and headed to the highlight of this portion of the trip. We went to Turtle sanctuary at Ras Al Jinz for a chance to see the endangered green turtle (Cheloniamydas). Since we had a driver and were thinking of South Carolina sea turtle events, we did not bring our wallets/any cash and they had a whole museum/visitor center with a gift shop...sigh! It would have been cool to get some t-shirts.

A big benefit of having a driver/tour company plan the trip/details was we already had our tickets to head out to the beach. Once they started taking groups back, we were in group number 3! The reserve will scout the beach and actually found two groups of nesting turtles and would alternate which tour went out to each group of turtles, to lessen the impact on the sea turtles. Nasser also said that at the height of nesting season, when the most are coming ashore, it is so hot there are very few tourists as most are in the mountains escaping the heat. Once we made it out to the beach, we were super lucky! We saw a lone hatchling heading out to sea.

We saw one momma done laying her eggs and making her way back to sea (the white wave is the sea and the turtle is right in front of that).

We saw two mommas still laying their eggs.

What are the chances we would be that lucky at the beginning of nesting season (apparently at the height of nesting season there will be hundreds of turtles on the beach laying eggs)! There was some bioluminescent plankton we saw as we walked along the beach. Clarissa even stopped and picked up a couple glowing bits and carried them around for a few minutes (what ended up being her favorite part of the trip).

The next morning, we headed on to Sur to visit the seaside fishing village. As we turned onto the highway, we happened upon some grazing of course we hoped out to take some photos!

Why did the camel cross the road? I don't know either?!?!

When we arrived in Sur, Nasser set us up with a boat ride around the sheltered lagoon in Sur. The entrance of the lagoon is marked by Al Aygah Castle, which includes a watch tower. The watch tower guided Dhows of yesteryear into the lagoon as well as protected Sur from invaders.

We had a wonderful vantage point for seeing all the minarets (see post tomorrow). I think the highlight was the number of green sea turtles we saw feeding in the lagoon. They weren't sadly this is the best picture we got of one.

Yes, we....Clarissa was trying her hand at marine turtle photography/videography.

We had a lovely breeze.

One of Sur's big industries is making dhow boats for the region (Qatar has several on order in preparation for the 2022 World Cup games). Nasser said that it takes about a year to build a dhow.

Towards the end of our boat ride, we past really close to the Al Aygah Castle, as well as, a modern day lighthouse looking tower.

I think even Richard enjoyed the boat ride.

We headed back to our route back to Muscat. Along the way we passed Galhat (also called Qalhat Ancient City). It is on a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Galhat was major port on the east coast of Oman/Arabia between the 11th and 15th centuries. Archeologist found evidence of trade links between the east coast of Arabia, East Africa, India, China and South-East Asia.

After driving a bit more, we arrived at one of the more popular wadis in Oman - Wadi Shab.

When trying to park, Nasser's car kept beeping to alert him of something behind him....but we weren't that close to the next car/wall.....when we got out...we saw the source of alert....silly

So you have to take a small boat from the car park to the start of the hike into Wadi Shab.

Then we started our 40 minute hike one way, in the sun, on a hot 95°+ day! There were a number of date palms growing along the walkway.

There were several pools of beautiful water along the way has cliff overhangs for walking along...sometimes providing a bit of shade.

Lots of greenery growing around the pools of water.

Clarissa (being in all black) was super hot and wore out about 30 minutes in. Richard stayed with her in the shade. I went a bit further and caught up to Mason and Nasser. We didn't end up going to the very end of the trail, but still enjoyed the beautiful oasis in the desert.

We all made it back to the start and took the boat across to the car park.

As we arrived, we saw a goat standing on a trash bin....King of the Rubbish!

After having a lot of water, and a bit of lunch, we headed back on our way to Muscat. We stopped off the highway to check out 'White Sands Beach'. The water was a bit green (which tends to happen when there is a algae/plankton blooms....recall we saw the glowing plankton the night before).

We found out this beach is popular with expats living in Oman.

Our final stop was Bimmah Sinkhole. There is a little park around the sinkhole which provided Clarissa and I place to put on our swimsuits. Then we hiked down the stairs (the others were silly and didn't want to get refreshed in the cool water!).

As you can see the sinkhole is quite a popular place! The sinkhole is approximately 65 feet deep (20 meters) and 165 feet by 230 feet wide (50 meters by 70 meters).

Clarissa and I watched as some teenage boys jumped off the top of the sinkhole into the water (crazy if you ask us). We didn't take a camera down with us, but Richard got this picture of the two of us swimming (I'm in a purple rash guard and Clarissa is right next to me in an aqua one).

Its pretty cool to say we've swum in a sinkhole now! After leaving the sinkhole, we drove the last 1.5 hours back to Muscat. We then had to say goodbye to Nasser.....he was Mason's favorite part of the trip. Both kids really liked him (he has a number of kids of his own...mostly high school/university age).

That wraps up our adventures in Oman (I already wrote about the next day we spent in Muscat after our tour). It was a great trip and if you look at the map at the beginning of this post, we covered a good bit of Oman....BUT we didn't make it down to the frankincense trees to the south, to Tage (the world's longest cave), or up to the beautiful steep cliffs of the Musandam Peninsula. Hopefully we will have another chance to come back and see those areas as well.

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