Oman takes great pride in its magnificent ecology and diverse flora and fauna, actively protecting it through the establishment of nature reserves such as the Daymaniyat Islands near Muscat, the turtle reserve at Ras Al Jinz, the Land of Frankincense in Dhofar or the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Al Wusta.
Special attention is given to threatened or endangered species, as the oceans surrounding Oman are home to a range of fish species as well as dolphins and migrating whales; together with intricate corals and unique species of seaweeds that support the marine ecosystem.
Inland, protected areas cover vast areas serving as important breeding grounds for endangered species such as the Arabian Oryx, Nubian Ibex or rare Arabian Leopard. The Sultanate is also a bird watcher’s paradise, witnessing the migration of over 130 species of birds each year.
Nature reserves and habitats in the Sultanate cover an area of almost 30,000 square kilometers and also encompass reserves dedicated to plant life; the most famous being Oman’s frankincense trees.
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If you have ever witnessed endangered Green Turtle babies hatch and try to make their way to the water, you will know what a special experience it is. Oman remains dedicated to enabling these kind of wildlife encounters while protecting the animals.
Nature reserves are present throughout the country, on- and off-shore, to keep animals safe in their natural habitat. Examples are the As Saleel Nature Park in the A’Sharqiyah region, which provides a safe haven for the Arabian Gazelle and Omani Wild Cat (Al Senmar), and the Jebel Samhan Nature Reserve, one of the last places of the wild Arabian Leopard.
An equally dedicated level of protection is extended toward marine life, including the turtle reserve at Ras al Jinz and the uninhabited Daymaniyat Islands. Local operators offer regular dolphin and whale watching tours, with several bird watching groups also in existence.
Wadis are dry riverbeds or small valleys. Some have stunning water pools, fed by natural springs, and a backdrop of rugged mountains. Others are framed by date and fruit plantations that to this day are tended by locals using traditional falaj or waterways.
The most well-known wadis include Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid, both of which carry water year round and have adjoining caves that add to the adventure. Others, such as Wadi Mayh, Wadi Mistal or Wadi Bani Awf require a 4x4 to explore but are worth the extra effort, thanks to unbelievable settings, scenic villages and views to write home about.
Mountains take up a large part of Oman’s landscape, varying greatly in appearance vegetation. Often times they feature stunning wadis, cut into the mountains through time and crossable only by 4x4.
The mountains in Salalah, due to regular rainfall in summer time, remain green nearly all year round. The Al Hajar mountains range, which extends from A’Sharqiyah all the way to Musandam, features Oman’s highest peak – Jebel Shams, home to Oman’s very own Grand Canyon.
Al Jebel Al Akhdar, also known as Green Mountain, is also part of the Al Hajar range. Its top is the Saiq Plateau, which runs across many kilometres and is home to numerous scenic terrace fields and mountain villages.
With over 3,000 km of pristine coastline, Oman has some seriously beautiful beaches to call its own. Whether it is the rugged coastline of Ras Al Madrakah, the white sands of Fins Beach or the endless expanse of Masirah Island beaches, visitors are welcome to enjoy beach walks, picnics and wild camping.
Hotels such as the Al Bustan Palace and Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa have their own beaches, linked with popular activities such as kayaking or jet skiing. Public beaches, such as in Shatti Al Qurum in Muscat, draw residents playing beach soccer or hosting family barbecues.
The interior of Oman is the gateway to one of the largest sand deserts in the world - the famous Empty Quarter or Rub Al Khali. Covering a large area of the Arabian Peninsula, this unique ecosystem is covered by sand dunes up to 250 metres in heights in certain areas, and salty planes in others.
Leading up to the coast in the A’Sharqiyah region are the A’Sharqiyah Sands, original homeland of the Bedouins and one of the most popular camping destinations in Oman. Away from the hustle and bustle of city or village life, visitors to this unique environment appreciate it for its easy accessibility and golden sands.
Both the Rub Al Khali and A’Sharqiyah Sands have a diverse ecosystem, with anything from small mammals to desert foxes calling it home. Plants such as ghaf trees too have adapted to the arid desert climate and the fact that there is little annual rainfall.
Oman has a large number of natural caves, varying in size and accessibility. Nevertheless, they are popular tourist destinations, sporting impressive formations such stalactites and stalagmites.
At Al Hoota Cave near Al Hamra, visitors can find a very rare species of blind fish that has made the lakes of the cave its home. Down south, the mountains of Dhofar are famous for the sheer number of small and big caves, some of which have ancient cave paintings.
On the Salma Plateau, a small crevice in the mountain top gives no indication that this is the entrance to one of the largest underground chambers in the word – the Majlis Al Jinn.
Looking back on a geological history spanning across millions of years, Oman is one of the few places that carries its unique geological heritage on the open. Attractions such as Jebel Shams, or the Ophiolite rocks surrounding Muttrah Corniche, were once at the bottom of the ocean.
For geology enthusiasts, Oman is a haven of geo-heritage sites that can be accessed directly by car, boat, trekking, or rock climbing. These range from quartzite at Al Awabi to the marble of Bawshar; to even million-year old Eocene limestone that makes up Al Fahal (Shark) Island. Each of these sites are impressive and awe-inspiring in their own right.