(MENAFN - Arab News) Are you into outdoor activities? Do you like to go hiking, camping or perhaps bird watching? Now that the cooler season has arrived, it is a great opportunity to head to Oman and enjoy the multitude of different outdoor activities the Sultanate has to offer.
The mountains in Oman might deceive you by their barren, brown, and subtle look, but once you delve into any of the many zigzag wadis (valleys), you will be surprised by how much green they conceal. Take Wadi Ash Shab, for example. The wadi runs from the coastal village of Tiwi and snakes through the mountains and is rich in vegetation, as well as in caves and overhanging rocks. Enjoy the green sceneries as you trek the wadi's bottom before reaching its famous pools - a great place to go for a dip and cool off. Wadi Ash Shab is a one-hour trek famous among hardcore and novice trekkers alike; don't be surprised if you stumble upon tens of other trekkers along the route.
Another famous trek in Oman is Wadi Ghul (often coded as w6a). Located in the Hajar Mountains, Wadi Ghul is dubbed the Omani Grand Canyon for its sheer 1,000, or more, cliffs. If you opt to trek in Wadi Ghul, then perhaps you would like to include ascending Jebel Shams as part of your itinerary. There are two ways to go about conquering Jebel Shams, Oman's highest peak at 3,075 meters: either by trekking or by car. The road to the summit, 37 kilometers from Ghul village located at the mountain's foot, is sealed all the way, except for the last seven kilometres when it becomes a graded one. The first 10 kilometers are a leisurely drive with slight change in elevation, but the rest is a steep, winding and hair-raising one, so please be super careful if you are behind the steering wheel.
If trekking is a strenuous effort for you and you would prefer a less demanding vacation, then perhaps you would like to consider camping. Oman is awash with great camping spots where you can go for long relaxing picnics and enjoy the nature around you. Head to the Hajar Mountains for some picturesque views, or to the coast where you can pitch your tent on whitewashed sandy beaches and have the whole place just for yourself.
The stretch between the Omani capital, Muscat, and the coastal town of Sur offers great camping spots as well as other activities. The sinkhole in Bimmah is a lovely half-day excursion where you can go and enjoy the one of a kind attraction. As the name might imply, the Bimmah sinkhole came to existence when a limestone cavern collapsed; however, locals believe otherwise. They believe a star, or a meteorite in that matter, fell from the sky and created the huge hole; hence, came the Arabic naming "Hawiyat El Najem." It is a 40-meter wide, 20-meter deep water hole where you actually use a staircase to descend to its bottom before taking a plunge into its water. The water is more mineral than salty, but still not potable. The elusive Blind Cavefish call the Bimmah sinkhole home; so don't panic if you come across any. The depth of the Bimmah sinkhole is still unknown and though the water is relatively clear at the surface, it does get quite obscure deep down.
Another wholeheartedly recommended excursion to do while in the area is turtle watching. Omani beaches play a crucial role in the survival of turtles, as they are breeding grounds to four out of the five turtle species that can be found in Oman. Ras Al Jinz is one of Oman's most crowded beaches, not with beachgoers basking in the sun, but rather with female turtles laying their eggs. The delivery takes place at night and the high season is between June and September. Watching the turtles is a highly regulated affair where only two excursions run a day (one at 9 p.m. and another at 4 a.m.). In order to minimize the disturbance to the turtles in their natural habitat, there is a cap on the number of visitors in each of the two excursions. Photography, during the nighttime excursion, is absolutely forbidden and so is camping on any of the beaches at Ras Al Jinz.
When it comes to bird watching, Oman is a heaven for avid birdwatchers among us. It is an important stop on the route of hundreds of migratory birds, not to mention the wide variety of resident ones. Grab your binoculars and head to the beaches at Musandam, Sawadi, Masirah Island, or even Muscat (Shatti Al Qurm district), and you will spot a large number of different birds: from gulls and herons, to cormorants and even flamingos. Further inland, and in hilly and mountainous areas, you have a better chance with vultures: From the Egyptian vulture with its distinguished yellow head, to the lappet-face vulture, which is more associated with Africa rather than Arabia.
Whether lengthy walks in verdant wadis amid amazing mountains, camping on pristine beaches, taking a dip in bottomless sinkholes, or watching turtles performing age-old rituals, Oman is guaranteed to amaze you with one or more of its superbly startling outdoor attractions.