The Sultanate of Oman is an enchanting, unique country that I know well having lived there for many years. Not only does this relatively unknown country have the warmest, most hospitable people, it’s essence of Arabia strives with culture, history and beauty.
Oman is very rich in tradition, having preserved its strong heritage that dates from 5,000 years ago. The atmosphere is peaceful and it is a safe country to visit in the middle east. This gem of a country is a breath of fresh air (literally) in contrast to it’s high-rise packed, luxurious and artificial neighbor, Dubai. Both countries have their own unique attractions to offer, on much opposite ends of the scale.
There’s an endless choice of activities to do for every type of traveller. Whether seeking to indulge on a gorgeous beach vacation, get involved in a number of unique adventures or discover cultural wonders, the treasures of Oman will not disappoint.
I hope to encourage all travellers to discover this fascinating country, with a list of the top 6 adventures you can’t miss:
1. Wadi Shab
Oman is scattered with Wadis (arabic term for valley) and this is without a doubt one of the best day trips to go on. Only a few hours drive from the captial city of Muscat, this short hike will lead you through an opening of lush palm trees and astonishingly bright, emerald-green rock pools that weave through the dramatic canyon-valley. You will climb over and under rocks, swim through turquoise pools, climb up mini-waterfalls, wade through streams and for the dare-devils, this is a cliff-jumping haven. In 2012 the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series final stop took place here.
The end of the hike/swim leads you to the much anticipated ‘keyhole.’ This is a very narrow slit in the rock face that you have to swim through for several metres before reaching the opening to a large water-filled cave. You can swim behind the main waterfall feature of the cave with not an inch to spare as your head fits through the small smoothed passages carved by water. Hear your voice echo as you pass through stalagmites and stalactites during this exhilarating journey. You can also climb up the waterfalls cliff-face and take the plunge off a protruding rock back down to the depths of the cave. It truly feels like you’re in an adventure water-park, except it’s all natural and very real. The perfect day for families and friends.
2. Tiwi Hole
After experiencing the wonders of Wadi Shab, a close drive away is the famous Tiwi Hole (also called the ‘Sink Hole‘) located in Hawiyat Najm Park. Over-looking this sink hole is mindblowingly beautiful. The rich, bright blue water is impressive. It feels like you’ve stumbled upon a piece of magic contrasted against the plain rocky, flat landscape surrounding it. You can swim in the warm sea water, snorkel and cliff-jump off the side.
3. Snake Gorge
This isn’t any ordinary hike. Experience an adrenaline rush like no other at Wadi Bimah (Snake Gorge) in the Wadi Bai Auf area of the Al Hajar Mountains. Embark on 3km of swimming through or jumping in to bright green pools and water-filled caves, climbing up waterfalls, sliding down natural water-slides and scrambling over boulders. This is all through a narrow dramatic canyon cutting snake-like in to the rugged landscape. This certainly feels like you’ve been transported in to an Indiana Jones movie or a thrilling water-park ride. To add to the excitement, watch out for the (completely harmless) snakes slithering in the rock pools. It’s important to be aware of any rainfall, as flashfloods can occur through the gorge.
4. Majalis Al Jin Cave
Welcome to the second largest cave-chamber ever discovered, a true wonder of the world. I did this expedition with a professional caving company after several days of training. This is serious hair-rising, heart-pounding, thrilling business – one of my greatest achievements. The cave is just so huge it’s hard to wrap your head around the mass of immense space surrounding you. Three shards of light shine thickly across the entire chamber, piercing through gaps in the roof above. This creates a surreal and magical display of nature’s beauty. Access to the bottom is by abseiling, using special equipment through one of the three vertical entrances. Majalis al Jin is also the desired location for Base jumpers – not for the faint hearted.
4. Jebal Akhdar
This is one of the most beautiful and scenic places to see in Oman. Discover valleys, plunging canyons, plateaus, mountain cliffs and fantastic hiking trails through Jebal Akhdar (‘Green Mountain’), part of the Al Hajar Mountain range. Extending about 300km wide, the highest point of eastern Arabia lies here, called Jebal Shams around 3000m high. This is a treat for hikers who can soak in spectacular views while embarking on a mix of challenging and moderate trails. Many tourists and locals will reach this mountain by 4×4 car through rocky terrain, for day or overnight camping trips. This is by far nature at its finest.
5. Wahiba Sands
Only a few hours drive from Muscat is the magnificent Wahiba Sands, an awe-inspiring sight. Choose one of the many tourist companies to take you on a 4×4 Dune Bashing excursion. Enjoy the roller-coaster ride of creeping up steep sand dunes to go plummeting down them much to your thrill and excitement – hold on tight! You can also go sand boarding. This is a whole new kind of workout – climb up the dunes with your board to go whizzing down a mass of deep-orange, rippling hills. A very unique desert experience.
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As well as plenty of pristine beaches to relax on, Oman has some of the best dive sites to explore. With an abundance of colourful coral and marine life to keep you in awe, the diving here is not to be missed – for the experienced divers and learners too. Check out Oman Diving company and the Oman Dive Centre for a range of dive trips to join.