One of the purest hospitality experiences I had last year didn’t come at a brand name luxury resort. It happened in the middle of the Empty Quarter, a vast, open stretch of desert that encompasses 250,000 square miles of southern Arabia.
I flew into Salalah, a region of the country known for its whimsical and uncharacteristic green season in the midst of a very scorching summer for the region. I hired a guide that was recommended and set off on a four hour trip into the desert. We stopped, picked up some provisions, gassed up the white Land Cruiser, and drove far and far into the desert, outside of cellular coverage.
A friend told me about the idea of “thin spaces” where you feel closer to the heavens. The desert fits that experience. The acoustics were incredible. In a world bombarded with the hectic sounds of cities around the world, this was perfect, relaxing stillness.
After a dinner cooked over a simple fire made with foraged wood, I spent a frigid night, not entirely bothered given the sublime surroundings. The next morning was the most dramatic sunrise, and with it, the light and warmth returned slowly, rejuvenating my body. My guide prepared a simple breakfast, a sort of Indian flatbread cooked with olive oil, with eggs and simple accoutrement.
This experience in the desert was something that will be imprinted in my mind forever. The power of nature, the surreal quality of desolate places, the warmth and hospitality of an Omani guide. I remarked that though most of the world is about “Instagram experiences” and accumulating social capital, this was one of the most interesting, sincere and real travel experiences and something that stays in the mind and heart.
Oman is an incredibly geographically diverse, with incredible amounts of terrain: from beaches to wadis, to the incredible canyons and altitude of the green mountains, to the desert as mentioned above. In a short amount of time, in a car, you can experience all of this, including the green, misty hills of Salalah in late June to September in Monsoon season.
The country recently launched a new airport hub (a considerable improvement from its predecessor). The current incarnation of tourism is undoubtedly sun worshipping Europeans visiting the beachside resorts of Muscat, notably the Six Senses and the Chedi. But more travelers are richly rewarded when they set farther afield by just renting a car or hiring local guides.
A few former British SAS soldiers set up an outfit that takes tourists far afield in the country for short two-day excursions, or something longer and customized if required. The Anantara and Allila in the Green Mountains offer beautiful, incredible vistas of the country’s version of the Grand Canyon. But as with all safe, adventure spaces like Oman, sometimes people are best rewarded by just getting in a car, doing some due diligence, and driving on the open road.
Turtle Season Begins in Oman
June to September is the best time to watch turtles nesting in Oman. If you think it is too hot to travel in the summer, then head to Ras Al Jinz in Sur which is a short three-hour drive from Muscat city. The temperature is cooler by 15 to 20 degrees and makes the perfect setting for spotting these marvellous reptiles.
The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve in South Ash-Sharqiyah Governorate is popular for its green turtle habitat is significantly located within the region surrounded by the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Oman is the only place where visitors can closely witness the process of nesting sea turtles without disturbing their natural surroundings. The best time to witness this natural phenomenon is either late at night or early morning with guided tours of up to 25 people in a group by the seashore.
There are turtle rangers at the beach and only once the turtles have begun laying their eggs- 200-300 or more at a time, tourists are allowed to walk towards them. It is an out of the ordinary activity to witness the mother turtle creating a pit, laying eggs as well as baby turtles running around at the seashore.
Oman is home to four different types of turtles: green, olive ridley, hawksbill and loggerhead.