Mysterious Masirah

Experience an adventurous drive through a rugged terrain, relishing the beautiful view of the ‘Dhows’ on your side while the story telling wind guides you through this tranquillity.

MASIRAH is a small island along the east coast of Oman, with around 12000 inhabitants. An island with productive fisheries invites tourists with sport interests to enjoy a different kind of a holiday in Oman, especially in Summer.

We set our journey in the month of July, with a bunch of friends and an excellent 4 wheel drive to support this little adventure. Our first predecided stop was Sur to pick up some barbeque stuff and grab some lunch. We slacked a bit and realized there were high chances of missing of our ferry from Shinnah to Masirah. So we skipped our lunch but packed all the necessary food items and sufficient water and drove to reach Shannah on time.

Marking the location on the map, looking out for boards and directions we reached Asharqiah. It was a sigh at once. I could not get my eyes off the beautiful sight of the beach. It had high tides rushing to crash onto the shore. The ‘coastal strand’ with shrubs seen to anchor firm within the sand was a different view in comparison to the dry shore at Muscat. It was a very crowded shoreline, and why would it not be? The temperature hovering between 25-27 °C , seemed breezy and perfect spot for the kids. As if this wasn’t enough the gleaming scenes of the sand dunes covered the sight on my right. I could spot the camels plod along. The rude wind whizzing through the dunes, swept the sand to the roads. It just seemed like hundreds of hasty golden snakes crawling all over. An eyesome journey! The gang was just so speechless that none of us even moved to capture the image in a camera. Though I pity my husband who was the lone driver amongst us, I envied him as he steered through the humid winds. We could sense the car wobbling now and then due to the gusts of wind.

As we drove further, a ravishing view of the traditional ‘Dhows’ smudge with the haze, unfurled. It was nostalgic. The images from the childhood shows like ‘Arabian Nights’ revisited me. As we approached the Shannah port we were greeted by the salt foam flying across the streets.  The ‘salt flat’ here is the natural surface which has salt left after the total evaporation of water. We drove directly to the ‘National Ferries Company’ office. Our tickets were pre-booked and we made it on time to the ferry. With hardly any people on the ferry we were off to Masirah.  Once into the island,hungry and tired, first stop was for some falafel and rice, this was a by the side of a beach. 

The next mission was the cottage hunting. We had reservations at this humble stay about 40kms from the port. It was 7.30PM and so dark that we could hardly spot the area. When with such a great group there is no fear, but a funny mind can perceive things to make the journey more memorable.Driving on a desolate street. Strange evening, not even a lamp around. Maps lead us to the end of a road with just a board having the name of the resort. ”Thank Heavens” a kind local raised his arm in the direction of the resort. Close observation and we could see a yellow light at a distance, dim and dip. A short break and it goes again, dim and dip. Oh dont worry, it was just the creative staff from the resort trying to guide us:-)

The surprise did not end there. We got down from the car and hardly i could stand still against the wind trying to blow me away. Then I saw our stay. It was a cabin. It was my first trip without google and I never bothered to see where I would be staying. With the first look i was sceptical, with this wind wobbling sturdy cars I really dint expect the cabin to fight the sand from getting into our rooms. Too late to say!! I joined the group preparing the barbeque spot. Place is awesome for a group hangout. We carried few indoor games like cards and carom. The staff was really sweet to make a lovely machboos on our request. there was music and dance. Perfect friday night!!

When we entered the room, I was happy to be wrong. Rooms were clean and tidy with no sand, no dirt inside. Now past midnight as my husband snored, louder than that was the howling wind. A small opening in the cabin brought stories from the wind into the room boosting my imaginations to another level. They were whispers and whistles. So much tired to move to the door I decided to slide the holder closing the small opening next to me in the cabin. There was nothing but the swirl of sand bustling along the wind. Neither a shrub nor a worm, if there were, hissing sand would gobble while careening away. Soaking up in these thoughts I dint notice falling asleep until I was woken up by bright sun in the morning.

The morning was different, as if the night never existed, serene, calm more than beautiful!

Morning view of the sea

Firstly I was not aware these were multicolored attractive rooms. Secondly we were staying by the beach!! The scene near the beach was as if the wind swept through the surface of the water, to push the waves back to their origin. This was another beautiful spot for photographers. A Dhow sailing at quite a distance, small landmass in front, a wrecked boat on the side and just us on the beach. I could hardly hear my friends speak. With the sea all around me I wondered if it was infinite.  

Back from this beach we left for breakfast. Now the city was with lot of life. There were tourists on the streets, great Indian and Turkish breakfast served in few small restaurants, though this was still nothing close to Muscat it was good to see people around. Although we dint have much time left for the ferry we managed to cover few places on the list. We visited two other beaches.The place itself being unique with an uncommon sea bed, rude wind showering us with coarse tiny stone/sand particles. Oops! it was not a good idea getting off the car. There were these wrecked dhows. Was it a mighty storm or did the age fail it? Not sure of anything related to them I wondered the scenes behind the expedition.

With this being the last spot covered we promised to return back again the next summer to enjoy some kitesurfing, turtle watching and to unveil some real mysteries of the island. So this summer why don’t you visit Masirah and share your story?

(PC: http://www.kiteboarding-oman.com)

Route:

Muscat  to Masirah : Muscat –Qurriyat- Sur- Shannah – Masirah

Masirah to Muscat:  Masirah – Shannah – Mahut- Sinaw- Muscat

Pit stops:

You will have good number of fuel stations and rest rooms attached to such stations. For people visiting Wadi Shab, Tiwi will be a good place to eat. For the rest like us you can stop at Sur to shop or for your lunch. We did not visit any restaurants but there are a number of shopping markets and malls with restaurants in them. On your journey back to Muscat you can stop at Mahut for a quick snack/shawarma.

Booking details:

We rented a car on per day basis from ‘Europe car’. The cottage was booked through booking.com.  We stayed at ‘Masirah Beach resort’.  You can easily book the ferry tickets through ‘National Ferries Company’ online.(Check the weather and carry jackets or appropriate clothing for the weather.) For kite boarding you have two beach camps organizing it, else https://www.kiteboarding-oman.com/en/kiteboarding-masirah-island/ will help you.

Weekend by the Beach

 

tent.jpg

Weekend is here!! So what is your way of ending a tiring mundane week? Walk with the nature, and you will receive more than you seek. Hit the shoreline, feel the humid air, soak your feet in the pristine water. If you are in Oman (Middle East) here is how you can welcome the winter.

We planned a weekend jaunt. Our destination was Wadi Shab. Clear sky, sunlit radiant Oman morning and no traffic made it a perfect day for travel. As we drove on route 17, about 150km from city on the Muscat – Sur road near Bimmah, a mesmerizing beach view caught my sight. The spectacular view of the beach with shades of blue, the swash of the tides rolling and crashing the rock boundary, along the shore line changed our plans. Only a few seconds later, we took the next exit to reach the spot. It was Bimmah Pebble beach.

beach      IMG_7592

                    PEBBLE BEACH – BIMMAH

As I stepped down the car and started walking towards the beach, the shoreline seemed infinite. Moving closer I was elated to see the bed covered with coral shingles and pebbles. The geographical features and the higher wave energy have led to this deposition. The mollusc shells, and the pebbles polished and patterned veins due the contact of waves were a treat to the eyes. The sparkling water and low tides will compel you for a stroll. This is one of the least crowded, unadorned beaches close to Muscat. There were cars parked at distances, tents and fishing rods too were visible. Boys decided on a wonderful spot and set a tent in no time. It was an average height cliff, with the waves pounding at its edges. It was fun getting down to the water and while climbing up back to the tent we picked the broken pieces of wood thrown here and there, made a small fireplace and there began our barbeque. There was great music, game of cards, delicious food and then was the nap time.

bb

        BARBEQUE SCENE

If it is your first time by the sea, you will be jolting awake from sleep every time the wave hammers against the rocks. The silent waves on the lap of the shore had turned ferocious in the night. I was up the whole night, gazing at the crescent moon and a twinkling star on its side. I witnessed a train of camels pass by. Just when the eye lids got heavy and tried to shut the sky brightened. Everyone was up to enjoy the sunrise. The tides retreated, as if they never made it till the rockline. It was calm. Sky blushed with the orange hues of rays, just picture perfect!!

sunrise

SUNRISE VIEW AT THE BEACH

Whether you have recently moved in or been here since years, if you are person who describes your outing locations with the words like serene and solitude, this place must be on your list. If you are adventurous you could snorkel or swim. Else, you could simply lay low on the pebble bed, relax with the company of your favourite novel. This is definitely a photographer’s abode. For the travellers planning to cover many places on the same day, you could combine the visit with Bimmah sink hole and Wadi Shab. Wishing to return soon, we left the beach having a good weekend and all rejuvenated.

Images – Dilip Raj                                                   Editing – Akash MV

 

Travel plan:
Route: Muscat – Sur expressway (Route 17)
This is about 150km from Muscat. You could also plan to cover Qurriyat dam, Bimmah sink hole and Wadi Shab on the way.

Amenities around:
The closest eatery would be the restaurants at Tiwi, closer to Wadi shab. You could use the restrooms at Bimmah sink hole or at the petrol station closeby.

Ras al Jinz

Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.”

                                                                                                     Bruce Feiler

A humble wrinkly friend, flippers in the sea, rambles in the sand. Though might seem so peaceful within, is armoured with a shell to shield from the predators. These reptiles (testudines) are called turtles when reference is limited to mostly aquatic species and tortoise when referring to land dwelling species. My interests to watch a turtle life closer led me to Ras al Jinz, a turtle reserve beautifully conserved in Oman.

This is an undisturbed landscape with least human activities in and around the location. Look at the crowd during the peak season you will realize this could be one among the most famous turtle reserves where public has an opportunity to watch the most nested concentration of Chelon on the shores of Indian Ocean. The best time to visit this place would be between May and September. If you are getting skeptical about the words ‘Summer’ and ‘Beach travel in Oman’ going together, the temperature there, between 25 °C to 35°C will ease your plans.

After a wait of almost three weeks we managed to get the booking at the Ras al Jinz hotel, which offered us a wonderful stay with guided tours to the reserve. We were two families travelling from Muscat. Mid of august on a weekend, we started at 11 a.m. from the city and reached the hotel at 2.30 p.m. The space planning and the interiors of the hotel are all turtle themed. Known for their hospitality in Oman, you will be greeted with Kawa and some fresh dates as you enter. We rested in our ‘Carapace’ (rooms in the hotel) for a couple of hours. In the evening sipping some tea we were off to take a tour around the hotel.

IMG_0290

               Ras al Jinz hotel view from the entrance

The waiting area opens to the ‘majlis’ the traditional seating arrangement made on a mat spread on the floor. Moving further you will be led to the museum, a small yet very informative space.  The museum area starts with a short introductory video on turtle life in Oman. The types of turtle in Oman, their life cycle and food habits are depicted in unique ways. This museum describes the depiction of turtles in the various mythologies as a warrior and emblem of wisdom. Other than exhibiting a glimpse on the civilization in Oman, the museum educates us on their traditional making of ‘Dhows’. When impressed, you can plan a visit to the boat making industry in Sur. You can either play the questionnaire game or read books stacked in the library zone, to gather more information about the turtle. After this visit, we routed to the Eco –tents. The weather was pleasant and cloudy. As we climbed the hillock, we captured the view of the Eco tents against the beautiful scenic background.

IMG_0176      IMG_0172

Inside view of the museum at Ras al Jinz

Watching the sun set, we headed towards the eatery to munch some snacks. This tour included tickets for two shows. The first one was at 8.30 p.m. and the next at 5.00 a.m. As the clock ticked on 8 the hotel was flooded with tourists. People from different countries with friends and families gathered in excitement. People staying in the Ras al Jinz hotel made it to the first lot. Pitch dark, a tranquil night just the clear dark sky and the roaring sea at distance. The guide with us gave us some brief instructions and then we walked down to the beach for about 15 minutes until we stopped at the first nest.

There were nearly 5 turtles spotted. We were divided into smaller groups and refrained from using camera with flash as it could disturb the turtle. The sand bed dug here and there makes you stumble. This reserve is known for the nesting activity by Green Turtles. The Arabic name for this is ‘Hamas’ or ‘Shiree’. These turtles survive on sea weed. They make long distance migrations however return to their birth location again to lay eggs. They lay about 100 eggs in a clutch within 20 minutes of duration.

img_3804.jpg

   Turtle rambling back to the beach

The first spot was a pit dug for 2 feet by a turtle with the sand heap all around it. The guide expected her to be 45 years old. She was inside the pit laying eggs hastily. Following this was the process of camouflaging. The guardian mother secures her babies within the pit when she flippers the sand back into the pit. She dug false pits around her nesting pit to trick the predators.  The kids made grumpy faces as she splashed sand while camouflaging. She slowly moved out of the nesting area and made her way back to the sea with no signs to return to check on her babies. The turtles are ‘phototactic’. As she approached the beach ‘the stars of the beach’, the plankton twinkled to show her the way to the water. Watching her disappear amidst the waves, we returned back to our Carapace.

The next morning was beautiful. As we walked  towards the beach again, the golden rays pierced through the mist. The hills on both side of us and the tides that hastened to reach the shore made a perfect picture. We saw some turtles ramble back to the sea. The guide was kind enough to help two of the baby turtles struggling to reach the sea. It is believed that just 5 of 1000 turtles actually survive. After this beautiful morning walk we enjoyed the delicious breakfast at the restaurant. It was a good wholesome meal. After a couple of hours of rest we set our journey back to Muscat at 11 a.m. It was a delightful experience. The effort made to preserve the natural landscape is a welcoming initiative to the bring home different turtle species. Wish to return here next year and enjoy my stay at their eco -tents.

IMG_3805 (1)
Eco – Tents

                                              

Images : Akash MV
Editing: Shruti Baindur

Route:
Muscat – Bimmah- Sur- Ras al Jinz

Booking details:
You can book your stay at Ras al Jinz through booking.com. You can also stay at Ras al Hadd or Sur. However it would be convenient to stay in Ras al Jinz as you can just walk down to the reserve from the hotel.

Hotel amenities:
We stayed at the Ras al Jinz hotel. The booking was from 2 p.m. of a Friday to 12 p.m. of Saturday. The package included our stay, tickets for two turtle shows and a complimentary breakfast.