DISCOVERING THE UNDISCOVERED
Decision to visit Oman was unquestionable and brought within seconds. Soon after buying those cheap tickets to Jordan I started reading many blog posts about it. In one article a girl showed pictures of her visit to Oman and I was really blown away by the look of it. I showed pictures to Leš and he said we have to go there! I was really surprised I didn’t need to beg him hahaha. It was really convenient to plan the visit from Jordan - we bought cheap plane tickets from Amman to Dubai and from there we took a night bus to Muscat. TIP: If I were to go again, I would buy direct plane tickets because even though we saved money on cheap tickets, we spent it all crossing the border twice and paying border crossing taxes and visas which we didn’t know about at all!
In Muscat airport, we rented a car for a week and started our Omani journey :) We spent all of our nights on the road sleeping in the car. Oman is quite expensive so we tried to save as much money as we could. One Omani rial (OMR) is worth about 2.3 euros! The living standard in Oman is very high and accommodation and food in this non-touristic country is beyond our limits. Also, we couldn’t really be 100% prepared to travel here since Oman is rather unexplored and the lack of articles about it made everything even more difficult. I didn’t know what to expect regarding people, landscapes, experiences, food... It was both exciting and frightening but we all know nothing good happens in the comfort zone.
To rent the car you need a credit card and since we don’t have one we tried to rent it with cash. It is possible, but in Muscat airport only Dollar accepts it. At the time nothing felt wrong and everyone was really polite so we didn’t suspect anything bad, except we waited 4 hours to receive a car which was little bit off. It turned out that this car was not a rental car at all and we never got our cash deposit back. People who work at Dollar saw this as opportunity to earn some extra cash so someone gave us their own personal car and they left no trace in the system because we paid with cash. I emailed them a hundred times afterwards but I never got a helpful answer which says a lot about how this company operates. This is just one of the many negative sides to travelling to a country like this. They are not really used to tourists and they treat us with little or no respect because they simply do not live from us. We are seen as intruders, not visitors. It’s a pity because Oman is such a beautiful country and I would love to go back.
Our first stop was Nizwa Fort. It is a huge castle dating back to 17th century and its the architecture represents typical Omani building style. The Fort is open from Saturday to Thursday 9 AM to 4 PM and Friday 8AM to 11AM so make sure you find yourselves there during opening hours. The entrance fee is around 5 OMR so we decided not to go in after all. Pictures below show what you can see from outside the walls.
After 2 hours of exploring the fort surroundings we headed towards the desert which was few hours away. We wanted to experience the desert sunset and find a nice place to sleep under the stars. As soon as we got close to the sand dunes we started driving slow to find an entrance. After few minutes we were approached by two guys in their 4x4 who saw we were a bit lost. Rashid and his brother offered to take us deep in the desert (which we definitely couldn’t do with our car) and show us the biggest dunes. They were about our age and seemed so nice and kind so we just went with them! TIP: You can arrange a ride into the desert or even camp there. If we had more money we would definitely do that, but this turned out even better because it was not planned, free and we met few amazing people with whom I stayed in touch to this day.
Soon after visiting the desert and enjoying the sunset, Rashid showed us a great and quiet place where we can park our car for the night. They let us settle while they went to do one of their daily prayers. They were gone for an hour but when they came back they brought many snacks and juices. We were sitting on one big dune, eating snacks and talking for hours under the starry sky. I will never forget that beautiful moment!
Our first night went great and we really had some rest. Early in the morning we woke up for the sunrise and took few photos :) It was magical to see how the sun rises above the dunes and feel the temperatures rise every other minute.
Soon we headed to Wadi Bani Khalid - a desert oasis best known for its large water pools and beautiful rock formations. As we were trying to locate it, we got lost and explored a part of Oman we wouldn’t otherwise see. I am unsure about the name of this location but I know the maps told us it is also called Wadi Bani. We were using the maps.me app which I strongly recommend when you do not have internet access.
I was blown away by the beauty of this secluded place. People’s houses were built among palm tree forests and they were in the perfect harmony with the nature. Sometimes, getting lost isn’t that bad at all!
We searched once again for Wadi Bani Khalid and soon we were on the right way. We stopped quite often to take pictures on the road because the scenery was amazing!
As I recall, the parking was free but it was overcrowded so make sure not to arrive later in the day. People usually spend the whole day here, especially during the weekends.
Firstly, we stopped by this big natural pool you can see in the pictures above. There are so many little fish in the water and they usually nibble your feet if you dip them in! Leš was really feeling it but I couldn’t embrace the feeling so I skipped the fish pedicure. It doesn’t hurt, but it was just weird for me haha! After that, we went looking for more clear water to jump in. This pool area was full of sea weed and dirt so I wouldn’t recommend immediately going for it! Just few minutes away we found the most beautiful little natural pools with crystal clear water and less people around! It was heaven on Earth right there :)
The water colour was changing depending on the depth. It was so blue at one point I couldn’t believe my eyes! Also, since many locals are hanging out here in Wadi and Oman being muslim country I was a little bit afraid of taking my clothes off. I have to say I was surprised because I guess it was normal for a place like this to be in a bathing suite. Only one group of teenage local boys were staring the whole at all the lady tourists but other than that it was cool!
The water here isn’t salty at all so it was a bit hard to float on the surface but we did manage to take few good photos :) We stayed there the whole day swimming and sunbathing. If you follow the water path you can go search for caves and explore the rest of the Wadi. The cave isn’t that exciting but it was fun to go a little bit deeper into the canyon. The water level changes from a really shallow (5cm) pools to deep pools which you need to swim over to go further! We also brought our food and had a little picnic in the middle of the day :) Make sure you do too because restaurant here is expensive!
Our next stop was Wadi Shab! Another day another wabi. There is a parking lot in the entrance and you need to take a 1 minute boat ride to get to the other side (I think it was 1 OMR). To reach the best pools and a cave waterfall you need to hike about an hour into the canyon. It is not hard or challenging but bring your own food and water! On this page you can find a bit more about preparing yourself and all the other useful info before getting here.
In the pictures below you can see all the different stages of the canyon! It is very diverse which makes it even more interesting and easier to walk through.
Finally, when you reach the end you will know it instantly! We were first ones that morning there so we had a chance to enjoy the wadi by ourselves. When you reach the pools, don’t stop there! You can maybe find a safe place to leave your belongings, but take your phone or camera (with water protection) with you and go search for the hidden waterfall!
To reach the waterfall you can go two ways - swimming through the canyon or hiking over it. We tried both ways and by hiking you don’t need to get wet because you get behind the cave and then you climb down into it. That’s how we took this photo of the waterfall. If you go swimming you might need to dive beneath a big rock to get into the cave. It is not scary at all, and there is a chance you won’t need to do that at all if the water level is low enough! Later in the day there were quite a number of people in the wadi so we just found a little rock cave in the canyon which felt like our little room, chilled there, had a nice lunch and went for a quick swim ever half an hour or so. It is just like a day at the beach, only a bit special and not something you experience every day. If I could chose only one place to go back in Oman it would be this place! I think :D
TIP: When you leave, make sure to leave enough time to hike back. You will be much slower because you will probably be a bit more tired from the whole day :) Also don’t forget to ask when does the last boat go to the other side and make sure you be there!
When we came back, the cutest thing ever were these puppies right near our car! I still don’t know how did I ever leave!
After this beautiful day we went searching for a nice location to park our car and sleep. The night before we didn’t have any luck finding it. After Wadi Bani we went to the village called Sur but oh my, what a bad experience. I was fully covered with clothes but nevertheless so many people were pointing fingers at us, some little boys were kicking puppies with their legs at the beach, nobody wanted to help us find the way and they were laughing at us, some men yelled for no reason… I don’t get easily scared at these situations but we both felt horrible and we choose to leave immediately. We slept at the Wadi Shab parking lot but I wouldn’t do it again. It was okay but it didn’t felt very safe. Nevertheless, the next night we found the most magnificent place ever! We were heading to the Sinkhole the next day and since it was close to the sea we went there and just parked on the cliff above the sea. In the morning, we had the most beautiful sunrise we could ask for.
Early in the morning we went to the Bimmah Sinkhole. It it the most popular place in Oman and I’d say the most special one as well. It is believed that the hole was created by a meteor many years ago but some people say the ground just collapsed and created the sinkhole.
The gates open at 8am if I remember correctly. We there first and again alone, but not long after it was crowded with people and impossible to take pictures without anybody around! The water is really refreshing and if you swim to the edge you can jump off the rocks across! There are millions tiny little fish in the sinkhole who bite (feels like tickles) but you get used to the feeling :D Since it became crowded we soon left and headed to our last stop - the capital city Muscat. There, we finally rented a hotel for 2 nights and had a nice long, much needed shower.
Be careful when driving into the city! Omani people drive like crazy and there are so many cars you can easily get confused by the traffic. On our first day we went to the beach not expecting anything and then we were overly amazed by this spot! Beautiful palm trees, sandy beach, sunny day.. real tropical paradise! Very unexpected and much appreciated.
Leš and I didn’t go for a swim because the sea purity was a bit questionable but we did spend the whole day under the palms. Nothing to complain about here!
Spending a day at the beach was a great overture to our next and last day in Oman - Daymaniat islands day trip! We booked our tour with this agency and I highly recommend them! We had the most amazing guide, a lot of food, water, fruits, snorkelling equipment, towels and snacks! As if that wasn’t enough, the islands were a legit heaven on Earth. I lack all the words in the universe to describe how good this experience was!
When we reached the islands area we put on our snorkelling equipment and spent almost an hour among corals, sea turtles, rays, sharks, garfish, nemo and dory, eels… you name it! The sea was crystal clear and the colour was to die for! After that, we threw the anchor and spent the rest of the day on the beach. Leš went few more times to snorkel and I was just chilling after 6 days of driving :)
And that’s it! Looking back now, Oman was one of our fastest but best decisions ever and I would go back in a second. Even though it’s still not a touristy country, I have seen many changes over the internet since last year we have been there so I guess things are getting better regarding to that matter. My only advice is to respect the people and respect the culture! And of course, put Oman on your travel list if you haven’t done it yet!
Stay adventurous and I wish you happy travels! :)