My first big trip in Oman was in February to the Umm As Sameem – the sandstorm edition. There was bad weather forecast but having crossed the border and paid for visas everyone was still keen to go. Having done a risk assessment based on the forecast we concluded that there was no danger to our group, so off we went.
Usually when we cross the Umm As Sameem I suggest to my group that they might like to imagine a cloudy day with no sun, and how difficult and dangerous it would be to navigate with a camel train; well, we may have had modern-day camels, i.e. capable 4x4s and a track to drive on but they didn’t need to stretch their imaginations hard to visualize my scenario – the visibility was 100 meters in places. Our friends Nikos and Yanis cycled the last 100kms of the track with their fat bikes and you can read about their adventure in the March 2017 edition.
Early in March, we made our first trip to the famous Sugar Dunes in Khaluf, heading south via the Wahiba Sands followed by the enigmatic Barr Al Hickmann, and we enjoyed this area so much we returned later in the month. February/March was a particularly busy time for me and at one point I had driven 14,000kms in 33 days; two days on the beach with no driving was called for – although we did use the car to get to the shop some 15kms away – up the beach!
Having chilled out for a couple of days we continued our journey to Salalah via the Muscat-Salalah Coastal Highway; this must be the best road in Oman! Beautiful scenery, enough shops, roadside restaurants and petrol stations to make the journey comfortable, and plenty of interesting places to stop and you can read about this route in the OutdoorUAE July (“check this”) edition.
For the Ascension day holiday in April we ran a trip in the Starfish dunes based on the route in Mike Nott’s book, followed by an overnight in a beautiful Wadi near Yanquil. There are some huge oasis lining the road between Dank and Yanquil and these make great exploration walks; dates, bananas and corn grow abundantly here.
Before we knew it, the hot weather was here and there was nothing for it but to head for the hills, the lovely cool green mountain, Jebel Akhdar in fact. The first of two summer trips with walks, drives and visits to fruit farms and rosewater factories!
Over the summer months, we also explored Wadi Bani Auf, Wadi Sahtan and the beautiful Wadi Hawqayn; you can follow the last one’s route on the OutdoorUAE website. An easy Wadi where you have the chance to drive through water year-round, it is also a straightforward drive through wonderful scenery. If you have a head for heights and would like a more challenging drive then the route from Al Hoota caves over to Rustaq via Wadi Bani Auf and Snake Gorge should be on your to-do list; awesome scenery, tiny little villages clinging on to the side of the mountain and amazing geology!
October saw a return to the Starfish dunes; one of the best sand dune areas in Oman and so accessible to UAE drivers – very well worth a visit. In November we made our last visit of the year to the beautiful Rub Al Khali, this time enjoying the best weather we have had there – comfortable temperatures and clear blue skies, lots of stars at night including a few Perseid Meteors!
2018 will see me returning to the UAE where I plan to get in as much sand driving as possible! Having driven in the sea, over rocks, through rivers and over huge salt flats, the Desert Diva has concluded that the sand dunes of the UAE are indeed her natural environment! ■
Words + Photos by: Marina Bruce