Oman is a land of contrasts waiting to be explored, from the soaring sand dunes to the rugged mountains all the way down to the turtle-nesting beaches. Eat with an Omani family and sleep under canvas on remote coastline.
Muscat - Explore impressive Forts, Royal Palace and Corniche of the capital
Wahiba Sands - 4WD exploration and camp among spectacular sand dunes
Nizwa - Visit the impressive Jebel Shams 'Grand Canyon'.
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Muscat, an old walled town, arguably the Gulf's most attractive city, surrounded by a horseshoe ring of mountains that naturally restricts it city's growth. For those arriving on time today our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 12pm for the welcome meeting and to take us on a guided tour of Muscat. Our leader will show us the highlights of the city including visiting the Bait Baranda Museum. We will also have the chance to take a stroll along the waterfront of Mutrah, Muscat's oldest quarter and onto the bustling souk. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Muscat International Airport (MCT), which is 30 minutes\ drive from the airport. Please note that if you wish to join the guided tour of Muscat today, you must arrive at the hotel by 12pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least 90 minutes to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 30 minutes\ drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 10am. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Before leaving Muscat we will visit the Grand Mosque. We then follow the coast down to Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi. A beautiful oasis of freshwater pools, Wadi Shab is an ideal place for a photo opportunity. We will then visit Wadi Tiwi where there is the option to walk in the wadi, following the pools up through a haven of lush vegetation and palms, before heading to our wild camp at Finns Beach. Tonight's wild camping experience is supported by the crew who will have the tents ready for the group's arrival and will take the camp down when we depart, as well as a camp chef. The sitting area will be traditional Omani style with cushions on the floor and toilets are al-fresco! There will hopefully be time for a swim in the Arabian Sea before we settle down for a night away from reality under a star-filled sky.
Continuing along the rugged coastline we head for Ras Al Hadd, pausing en-route to visit the Port of Sur. Once a major trading port with East Africa, Sur represents the seafaring origins of Oman. We will visit the dhow shipbuilding yard where traditional dhow boats, used throughout the 19th century, are still built today. We also visit the nearby small fishing village at Ayega, now a quiet community of old merchant houses but once a stronghold of rebellious sheikhs, where we will visit the lighthouse for a photo opportunity. This evening we'll be staying by the water's edge, in a perfect position to visit the turtle reserve at Ras Al Jinz. This coastline is an important nesting site for some 20,000 endangered Green Turtles annually and we will visit after dark this evening with a local guide. The Olive Ridley Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle and, the endangered, Hawksbill Turtle have also been spotted here. Please note: Although Explore's departures do not operate within the main nesting season during Oman's hottest summer months, it's estimated that at least one turtle comes ashore every night of the year and there is opportunity to enjoy this wonderful natural experience year-round but due to the wild nature of this activity we cannot guarantee a sighting.
After breakfast this morning we will begin the journey to our next wild camping spot in the desert. The coast of Oman is wild, rugged and beautiful; a place where deserted white beaches are interspersed with small, traditional villages. As we journey along here, the Wahiba Sands begin to rise before us, a vast sea of sand covering about 15,000 square kilometres. Laid out like a great ocean of sand the endless dunes are generally rusty red at the base and honey coloured on the top - an alluring landscape of changing contours and colours. The sands are home to the Bedu, nomadic tribesmen who roam the land with goats and camels, or live in small fishing villages. An exhilarating drive across the dunes brings us to our nightstop somehwere in the Wahiba Sands. Sunset promises stunning photo opportunities amidst the spectacular dunes, before we settle down for another night under the desert sky.
Early mornings in the desert are a time of activity . Mists are a curious phenomena of the sands, spreading across the dunes and wadis at night, to disappear in the early mornings. The remarkable dew drinking beetle, living just below the surface of the normally scorching sands, utilizes this time to gain valuable sustenance. We continue through the desert this morning. In spite of its barren feel the sands contain a phenomenal amount of life. As well as the Bedu they are home to an exotic diversity of fauna including dragonflies, wolf, two species of Ruppell's fox, wild cats and white-tailed mongooses. Some 115 species of birds have also been recorded here and it is one of the few remaining refuges for the elusive Arabian and Sand Gazelles. Once out of the sands we continue through a market town that is a meeting point for Bedouin for miles around. From here it is a fairly easy drive along tarmac roads to Nizwa, the capital of Oman from 751 to 1154 AD and still regarded as the cultural capital.
Today we spend a full day exploring some of the many highlights of the surrounding area. We begin in Nizwa itself, visiting the traditional Friday goat auction and the contrasting modern souks. We continue onto the 17th century fort, built to guard the Sumail Gap during the struggle between the Sultan and the radical Imams. Nizwa was the centre of Imam Resistance right up until the 1950s when the Sultan had to call upon the help of the British to quell the rebels. Once we've explored the town, we will head north through the Jebel Akhdar ('Green Mountain') mountain range, passing the dramatic craggy peaks. Despite its desolate and barren nature, small settlements cling to the plateau areas, nestling in the lunar like landscape. For thousands of years self-sufficient oases have flourished in the folds of rocks, using an ancient irrigation system known as falaj. These are water channels that never dry up, often contoured round wadis or tunnelled through the cliffs in order to tap the water table. Upkeep of the life-giving falaj is a community responsibility and contributes to maintaining harmony within a village. We will reach at 3,000m Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun), the highest peak in Oman. En-route to the summit of Jebel Shams, we encounter an astonishing view down a sheer drop of 1000m to the bottom of the 'Grand Canyon', Oman's very own (and equally spectacular) version of its American counterpart. At the bottom of this vast void, a wadi winds peacefully through the landscape. According to one theory, the canyon was once a huge cave and evidence of fossils and shells suggests that the canyon base was at one time covered by a shallow sea. Descending back towards Nizwa we will visit the mud village of Al Hamra, where we will enjoy a traditional lunch with a local family, before making our way back to Nizwa late in the afternoon.
Our route back to Muscat is through the stunning Wadi Bani Awf. We once again leave the smooth roads behind, and head into a narrow canyon with steep sided cliffs. The palm trees, scattered dwellings and interrupted streams create a peaceful atmosphere. Upon return to the capital city this afternoon, we have the opportunity to take an optional trip on a timeless dhow vessel. This optional sailing departs from the marina in Old Muscat and sails past the skyline in time for sunset. Dolphins can often be spotted in abundance in the waters just off Muscat's shores year-round.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Muscat. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Muscat at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Muscat International Airport (MCT), which is 30 minutes\ drive from the hotel.
The annual rainfall in most parts of Oman does not usually exceed 125mm, although in the north (the Jebel Akhdar mountain area), it can exceed 20-25mm per month in the December to February period. The coastal areas have a hot and humid season from May to September (up to 38 degrees C), although temperatures remain high throughout the year. Inland the humidity is lower, and nights are cooler in winter when there can be frost in the desert. There is perpetual sunshine throughout the year.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against Tetanus, Infectious Hepatitis, Typhoid and Polio. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against Malaria. Please note that all travellers aged over 9 months old will be required to supply a yellow fever certificate if you have travelled from or have transited via a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Dhow sunset cruise in Muscat - 26 Rials per person (approx US$70)
Oman: Citizens from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, US and Canada require a visa; this must be arranged prior to arrival. You can apply online via: https://evisa.rop.gov.om/en/home for a 10 day unsponsored visa, which currently costs 5 Omani Rials per person (approximately £11.00, US$13.00 - subject to exchange rates). New Zealand citizens can apply for a free unsponsored visa valid for 3 months. You will need a digital photograph of each applicant and a copy of the photo/data page of each passport to apply.
Once approved all unsponsored visas \ul must be used within 1 month from the approval date for entry into Oman or it will expire\ulnone . Other nationalities should consult the relevant consulate.
Please note your passport must have a minimum of 6 months validity from your entry date into Oman.
You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
All holidays are subject to availability and prices are subject to change.