OMAN – An Oasis in the Desert
Monday, December 26, 2016
Decision to explore a new country is not easy,that too with out a proper planning.During a routine week end gathering,we friends were in discussion about the Eid holidays ahead in the coming weeks.With no more places left out to explore in kuwait ,we(3 families)decided to spend the 5 days holidays in any of the GCC countries not only because of the option of on-arrival visas for professional degree holders but also due to shortage of time to plan for other countries.Oman popped up immediately in our mind as we have heard that it is the perfect (family) destination for a two to three days off as its really easy to travel, offers a huge variety of highlights and has some of the most gentle people on this planet.
OMAN AND SALALAH TOUR – 5DAYS AND 4 NIGHTS
We took Oman airways flight at 3 am and reached Muscat airport at 6 am.We were picked up by our driver cum guide Mr.Noufal palora (Tour Executive)who was recommended by a friend who had wonderful travel experience with him before. We reached our friends place in Mutrah which is at 30 mins drive from the airport.During the 30 mins drive I felt Muscat was no different from Kuwait in aspects like roads,climate though the temperature was 10 degrees less compared to Kuwait.My guess about the place in that 30 mins time proved to be completely wrong ,as by the end of the tour I realised Oman was quite a unique place among other Gulf Countries.
We refreshed at our friends luxurious apartment and ate special breakfast made by them and were ready to leave to Bhima Sinkhole. We started at about 10.30am and it was just starting to get quite busy. Noufal recommended that we get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds and, of course, the heat. We didn’t intend to swim in the sinkhole as we were told that there would be no place to get changed in the actual sinkhole.The sinkhole was well worth the trip with the fishes nibbling at our feet. It did not hurt at all.Kids did not mind getting wet full and enjoyed viewing the fishes underwater through their googles.The stairs down to the sinkhole are quite steep so we had to hold on tight to our little ones. Luckily we had taken an umbrella to protect ourselves from the hot sun, as there was virtually no shade at the bottom.
After spending almost an hour or so we picked up our things after drying off a little and left to Wadi Shab which is located in Tiwi south from Muscat .
"Traveling is all about new experiences," and the element of surprise takes your trip to the next level."though we planned for vacation I had literally no idea about the places we are going to visit.The Wadi was one such place,all I know about is that ‘Wadi’ means a valley or channel that is dry except in the rainy season. Noufal was briefing about beautiful coastal oasis of Wadi Shab stating that it is fresh water cascading from tops of the mountains meeting the sea water on its banks.He was also telling that adventurous lovers would enjoy the journey through Wadi, as you can only meander through certain areas by boat, or take pleasure in a refreshing hike through this mountainous region.
A little boat ride across the water and our journey into one of the most beautiful places started. Noufal said that the entire Wadi was about a 40mins hike and considering the risk involved as there are chances that we may slip easily and fall down somewhere or hurt yourself seriously – asked us not to go through the entire way. Since total of 6 kids were there he ensured that we were safe and comfortable.
For about 20 mins we walked amidst the beautiful scenario and reached the pool .The water in the pools was as clear and blue as you can imagine and the feeling of almost untouched nature was absolutely stunning! With kids we felt better not swim in the pool which lead to
a beautiful cave with a waterfall .On our way back we found a person who is hurt very badly was bleeding and being carried by a local. We felt that our decision to return back without viewing the amazing spot is correct ,as its real risk to proceed through along with kids,as there were no medical facilities also around the place.
For lunch ,Noufal drove us to a local restaurant where we were served biriyani and freshly fried fish.The cook cooked specially for us and we were free enough to enter his kitchen and helped him in fry the locally sourced fresh fish(just to pose for a pic).
From there we were all set for a long drive to Sur.Noufal went at 145 km speed and we were literally flying and enjoyed every bit of the drive. He stopped us at local snack shop and said that the tea they offer is the best ever .we were spellbound by the richness in taste of the tea with flavor of cardomon that too along with hot samosas whatelse we could ask for.We finally ended upto to Ras Al Hadd hotel, driving a long way into the desert! .At 8pm we were ready to watch the turtle. It is an amazing experience walking down to the beach and seeing the turtles. It feels very appropriate and non-invasive and the Omani government are clearly doing the right thing by controlling access to the beaches through this centre. The rules are very clearly spelt out about noise and about the camera light to be switched off .Kids had loads fun in catching small turtles and leaving them back in a safe place.
We were lucky enough as we spotted almost 6 giant turtles. The turtles leave behind huge cavities in the sand, and the beach looks like it has been ploughed up by a tractor. The sight of these turtles carry their heavy shells on their backs, dragging themselves out of the water to the beach with great difficulty,digging a hole in the sand using the tips of their paws so as to bury their eggs and then return to the sea is simply amazing.After spending about 2 hrs we had yummy dinner in one local Omani restaurant where we had fish fry,parotta and chicken gravy prepared by a malayalee cook and returned back to our room.
DAY 2 (10-9-2016)
AL AYJAH LIGHTHOUSE
After the yummy buffet breakfast we headed to the light house .I was dumstruck by the beauty of the light house and the surrounding area .It was a three-storey lighthouse standing tall and proud, dominating the skyline of the bay with fort-like windows and the intricate carvings on the door that are typical of the traditional Omani style. Noufal told us that we can actually enter the lighthouse and climb to the top for some dramatic shots looking out across the bay and the city itself, but unfortunately it was locked when we got there.
WADI BANI KHALID
Our next destination was to Wadi Bani Khalid which is a great place in middle of rocky mountains perfect for family outing.We had to walk for 15 mins to reach the spot .We enjoyed walking amidst the beautiful ambience,it was an amazing experience. . I was blown away by the variety of rock formations, the lovely pools of water, the ribbon of sky in the tight canyon sections and the overall beauty .
There were people having picnics along the side . We Went for a swim and loved swimming in the clear water with no fuss about the fishes and infact enjoyed the free fish spa, it was very refreshing especially on a hot day.
There were many such pools for swimming and many of the local kids were diving and jumping into the deep waters. Even our kids tried their hand on jumping from the rocks into deep water.The place was 100 % safe for swimming as it was frequently monitored by the rescue team who ensured our safety.The place is very well maintained and also has a small water fall.We changed our dresses and were ready for the next destination ‘ Desert Safari’.
DESERT SAFARI ON WAHIBA SANDS
I was not excited about doing a desert Safari after the one I did in Dubai, thinking all deserts look the same. However when we first entered Wahiba desert , I started to feel different about this safari experience in Oman. The car sand surfing in this desert was just amazing as the sands mountain were very high. With Noufal who was quite knowledgeable about the area and the desert, we had a very nice and challenging sand surfing and we got just the right spots for photo shots and to admire the amazing sunset from the dunes!! Seeing what other drivers were doing and getting themselves in I would definitely recommend our driver for an amazing surfing experience on sand.
After an amazing day we headed back to Muscat and really loved the long journey ahead mainly because of our talented and entertaining Noufal who made sure we get regular breaks for having awesome tea, samosas and to refresh ourselves .We reached Golden palace Hotel in Muscat and were all set to bed after an adventerous journey.
DAY 3 (11-9-16)
DOLPHIN WATCHING AT MARINA BANDAR AL ROWDHA
We were very much excited about our great trip to the sea to see the dolphins.Our friends family in Muscat also joined us and we took a boat which could hold 10-15 people (sufficiently shaded with a roof), They had kept few refreshments and snacks in the boat to beat the heat.Our wonderful Captain ensured us for an amazing and enlightening coastal ride .He took us beyond Fahal Island about 10-15km off the coast from Muttrah to spot the dolphins.The sea which seemed to be really calm had a lot of waves so the ride was bumpy, but fun, it was an amazing experience. A bit of patience is needed as you are viewing these creatures in their natural habitat as they surface very quickly in small pods. Within 30 mins, the captain had found lots of dolphins that were swimming around the boat for a good half an hour, it was quite a thrilling experience to have them close to the boat.
Our next destination was to the Grand Mosque.We reached the mosque close to its closing hours that is 11 am,but somehow managed to enter. The mosque is quite new, however it is a really impressive and very beautiful building, and its surrounding gardens and tinkling water features make it a soothing, tranquil place to visit. The Dome and the carpet as well are splendid and a photographers delight !
We then relaxed in a beach resort for few hours and later in the evening we had darshan in shiva temple in Muscat.Then we were all set to leave the beautiful place as we had to catch our flight to Salalah.
We reached Salalah on 11 Sep at 9pm .We heard that the best time to visit Salalah duting Khareef(Monsoon) season,which lasts from June to September.But in our drive from airport to the Resort,I didn’t find anything special or amazing in the area ,even the weather wasn’t pleasant enough .We stayed in Samharam Resort which was pretty good with wonderful facilities including swimming pool.
Al Mughsayl Blowholes
The place which seemed to be pretty ordinary the day before ,turned out to be magical the very next day as we were heading to Mughsail beach which offered a stunning scenery of powerful waves hitting the cliffs, and the sight of mountains looking like a guard for that area.It was quite an experience watching the rocks,cave,cool air, sound of gushing water, sound of high ,powerful waves hitting the shore .It was really amazing to watch this natural fountain.
The blow holes where the sea water is pushed by the sea waves from beneath the cliffs into holes and the sight of water vapours pushed up left us in awe. They have placed grills on top so you can stand and enjoy it. The natural cave formation is really beautiful.The place on a whole was stunningly beautiful .There were stalls selling soft drinks,buttermilk and fruits.The taste of spicy butter milk along with fresh fruits was a real treat in the loving atmosphere.
Driving across the beautiful mountains we reached Ain Garziz park which is a well known picnic spot close to Salalah. There are several caves at the site as well.The place was awesome and was crowded .We could see many enjoying their day out cooking and barbequing in the wonderful ambience.
Spending about 3 hours in the beautiful place we got back to the resort where we relaxed in the pool enjoying the Jacuzzi bath.We bought required stuffs from the local shops there and cooked noodles as we had the kitchen facilities in our room.Kids enjoyed homecooked food after 4 days of eating out.
It’s a must visit place during khareef season. Very green with plenty of fresh air. Good place to recharge yourselves. Amazing scenery for someone who came from a place like Kuwait like us. Even though the place was crowded with families, the views were just stunning. We could'nt stop clicking pictures,The greenery is just amazing.We had a great time visiting this beautiful lush green valleyANTI-GRAVITY POINT
This place is also called zero gravity point and there is nothing to see there except for the amazing experience of your car defying gravity and moving uphill while in neutral.Many say that it is an optical illusion but the real reason needs to be known
We saw many people climbing on an old tree and clicking snaps.Even we tried our hand by climbing on it,The beauty is that the tree could hold as many people and it was fun climbing and clicking few snaps at the top of the tree .The area was so breathtaking and we felt as if we were in some fairy land.We were totally lost in the beauty of nature.
We could see many fruit huts everywhere in Salalah, where many fresh fruits particularly coconut were sold. Having coconut drink at tropical style fruit huts (stalls) is a refreshing activity in Salalah.We did purchase some coconuts, fresh vegetables and a special mention to sugarcanes which were so very tasty.
We then went to Omanian halwa shop which was stunningly maintained.All the halwa shops have similar design and maintenance.There are many types to choose from, the yellow with saffron, the black, honey, with fig or the milky one (which is very nice to be said). We get to taste all types ,however my favorite is the yellow one.They do a neat packing for us to carry if we order in bulk.The taste of the halwa is still lingering in my taste bud.
The two days Salalah east and west combination tour gave us the chance to enjoy all sights of nature.We came to the end of the most relaxing and amazing tour ever.
Oman’s unique mixture of natural beauty, cultural heritage and engaging activities attracts tourist from all over the world.Our trip to this fascinating country will remain fresh in our memory forever for its endless beauty .Unlike many touristic destinations I would say Oman is unique not only because it is traditional but also because the nature remains untouched by the hands of human which adds to its beauty.
‘Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.’- Mary Oliver
Our trip to this amazing place was so refreshing to our mind .The divine feel we experienced amidst the simple beauty of nature is priceless.
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