Oman: Riding Into Sunsets, Swimming With Turtles

/ Oman
Oman: Riding Into Sunsets, Swimming With Turtles

Everything appeared to be golden, as vast stretches of golden-hued sand lay all around us (Photo: India Outbound/Varsha Singh)

Visitors to Oman’s capital Muscat have a wide variety of experiences awaiting them. From historical and heritage trails to markets, museums and mosques that can keep one engaged in the discovery of history of the city. For those seeking some action, Muscat and its vicinity also offer activities like swimming with turtles or go dune bashing at Wahiba Sands, barely three hours away.
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Golden. That ought to say it all and that is how I would describe the entire experience. We were at the highest point in Wahiba Sands, about 240 km due south of Muscat, the capital of Oman. From the summit, where we stood, everything appeared to be golden, as vast stretches of golden-hued sand lay all around us, forming hundreds of dunes of different sizes.

By the time we had reached the area, on a trip hosted by Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, it was already the afternoon and we realised that the winter sun would not be up there in the sky for long. So, we asked the drivers of our 4×4 vehicles to quickly take us to the highest point in the area. They brought us at the foot of what turned out to be a giant of a dune, so huge that the dozens of other vehicles already on the top, appeared to be no larger than some big ants.

As I was sitting next to the driver, from the bottom the dune looked unclimbable. But then these Japanese 4x4s have rarely failed their drivers and within minutes, with some deft driving, aided of course by the powerful motor, we were on the top. By now, the sun had begun its descent and we knew we had to hurry.

And that was when I spotted gold. Not only were the immense heaps of sand all around us shining like pure gold, but the golden hues of the setting winter sun turned everything else also golden. And to make the memory of the moment also golden, we began clicking pictures and videos of each other walking into the sunset, just as we have all seen in so many films.

Camel ride in Oman

Camel ride is a must-do activity at Wahiba Sands

By the time we moved from the summit and headed to our hotel, a desert camp in Wahiba Sands, it was already dusk. At the hotel, each one of us had a separate cottage-like room. After checking in, we headed to the common area where a bonfire had been set up, along with some music and our dinner.

The next morning, we headed back to the dunes and did our mandatory camel ride and then we started driving back to Muscat where other experiences and adventures awaited us.

Swimming with turtles

Swimming with turtles

Spotting a turtle while snorkelling in Oman

One of the most popular spots, for locals and tourists, in Muscat is La Corniche, thanks to its vibrant markets and lively night life as the area remains packed with people even  late in the nights. With modern shopping malls, restaurants and cafés sprinkled all over and a beautifully laid out promenade to complete the experience, La Corniche is the spot for the young and those young at heart.

But La Corniche offers much more than movies, macchiatos or malls. It is also home to a small port from where one can head out into the Gulf and spend a day out in the sea, which is what we did.

Boarding a speedboat, we headed out in the sea and within 45 minutes we had reached a spot where the captain cast the anchor. By the time, we had all changed into our snorkelling gear and as is the norm with me on such occasions, I was the first one to jump off the boat and into the sea.

Within seconds of having dived in, I saw my first turtle, swimming barely a metre below me in the water and headed towards a coral formation near-by. I followed the turtle, but careful enough to keep a respectful distance, taking care not to bother the animal that kept on swimming without a care in the world. We understood the fact that we were the visitors to their homes and unless they approached us, we needed to stay and watch from a distance. After about an hour in the sea, it was time to get back, so we climbed back into the boat which soon started off on the journey towards the shore.

As we headed back towards land, I took in sweeping views of my surroundings, which were a riot of colours. The clear blue sky was beginning to don a golden glow as the sun had again begun to slide down towards the horizon.

As I reminisced over the last couple of days, I realised that if days could be called by colours, my days here were golden and having made some excellent friends on this trip, not just the days, but even my memories were going to be golden.

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