Dhows and Dolphins
The best day we had in Oman was spent cruising around the khors (fjords) on a traditional sailing dhow. I usually am prepared to be underwhelmed for these type of activities, which obviously are targeted towards tourists- but on this occasion it was much much more enjoyable than we had expected.
Collected by the Khasab Travel Company bus at 8am one morning, we were driven to the port. There were about six dhows lined up, awaiting passengers.
On the quayside were huge baskets of fruit, waiting to be loaded onto the dhows. Promising start.
After having to climb across the first dhow (they are kind of tied up next to each other in a row) we boarded the second one......Mmmm luxurious Oriental carpets lines the deck. Huge velvet cushions to recline on. And best of all, a canopy which covered the whole deck.
I checked out the toilet- fine, with a flush and a hand basin.
After everyone had boarded, (about 20 people) our 'captain' came on board. A cool-looking Omani in a white 'dishdasha' (traditional long white robe) , a turban tied at a jaunty angle on his head. He welcomed everyone warmly, and promised us a fun day. He delivered.
There were about 5 crew members helping with various tasks, and a cook, who did the rounds every few minutes- offering fruits, dates, Cardamom coffee and icy cold fruit juices.
We set off. For the first 20 mins, until we left the bay that the port is situated in, it was pretty- just that. Nothing spectacular. The high mountains soar up above the water in crazy formation.
Soon we cleared the bay, and breathtaking scenes lay ahead. Suddenly the water was the clearest turquoise I have ever seen. The coastline is rugged, and went on for many many miles. Cliffs tower above rocky inlets. Its very dramatic, and very beautiful. Cameras were working overtime. There had been anticipation at the promise of dolphin sightings, but non yet.
After 2 hours we dropped anchor near a tiny island called Telegraph Island, where almost everyone dived into the clear water for a snorkel session. The variety of fish is extraordinary.
Someone threw bits of bread into the water, and we watched the feeding frenzy. And the fish seem to be quite used to interaction with humans, they ate from hands.
After an hour, we set off again. Within 10 minutes, the crew started whistling and making strange calls out to sea. Suddenly- a pod of dolphins were swimming - actually racing- alongside the dhow. It was....awesome. This wonderful experience, watching them so close, carried on for hours. They frollicked, twisted and turned, and were having as much fun as we were.
We stopped at 1.30pm at another cove. Here the water was even more clear, with the white sand of the seabed clearly visible. More snorkeling, and lunch was served. Fish baked on board, with 6 other dishes (vegetables, salads, rice & desserts) also prepared while we were snorkeling. It was a great meal.
After lunch, we set off again, and had one more stop. The dolphins appeared again.
The trip back to port was relaxing. Everyone just laying back on the cushions, some people sleeping, and some catching the fading rays of the sun. The weather had been perfect, with no wind at all. We arrived back at port at 6pm.
The crew were very helpful, pointing out the tiny fishing villages tucked along the coast. These villages are only accessable by boat, and are ancient communities. The houses are all rough built of stone. It was good to hear about the history and geography of the area.
I really do recommend this trip if ever you are in Oman. Its unforgettable.
There are a few tour companies that you can organize the trip with, and we chose Khasab Travel.
- Diving and Snorkeling
We hired a car, and drove along the mountainous coastal roads. There are charming old fishing villages to see, and beaches. The beaches are not fantastic for swimming- but good for a cooling walk. The beach is very pebbly, with crushed black volcanic rock.
I was astonished at the amount of fishing dhows that we saw in the bay. I should not have been surprised, though. Fishing has been around the Straits of Hormuz forever.
The mountains are........majestic. I wonder at the geological phenomona that caused these incredible formations millienia ago, Fissures , all showing different layers of soil , and the shapes- some sharp and craggy, some high with rounded cliff tops.
There are some rather grand houses on the coastal road. One we saw had a scaled model of a dhow over the entrance.
There is a nice walking beach a few kilometres (towards Dubai side) that has shade tents and a childrens playground, but we were the sole visitors that day.
Stop at the grand Golden Tulip Resort for tea- it is perched on a rocky cliff and has beautiful views from the terraces.
- Adventure Travel
- Historical Travel
Visit the Fort
While in Khasab, explore Khasab Fort, located at the end of Khasab’s harbour and built by the Portuguese in the 17th Century. Featuring three cannons, which face the sea, the fort was used until recently to signal the sighting of the moon – indicating the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid.
During this period, the Straits of Hormuz was being occupied by the Portuguese, who depended on Khasab for supplies of fresh water, fish and dates.The Fort was built for defense purposes. There is a museum, displaying local Omani Handicrafts and artifacts.
Dominating the small harbour, from which there is trade with Iran across the Straits of Hormuz, the fort is now almost completely restored and also exhibits examples of traditional Omani dhows, and a fine collection of traditional Silver jewelery.
The fort has been the Wali's (governor's) residence, and also a jail.
- Historical Travel
- Adventure Travel
I was in Dubai and had a free day , so I decided to visit this peninsula , that belongs to the neighboring country , Oman ,as an enclave , controlling the entrance of the Persian golf.
My first idea was going to the capital , Khasab , but it was impossible because I had no multiple visa for the UAE. So , I found out other possible option : going to the east coast of UAE , then cross the border to the Oman citty of Dibba where there was a port , with dhows to Oman golf.
Dibba was like a ghost city : I couldnt see anyone in the streets , just photos of the Oman´s sultan , a personality cult , indeed.
The cruise was absolutely divine , with lunch on board , fishing , ,stunning views of the rocky coast of Oman, a stop for swimming... perfect. Even rain we had , a rarity at that desertic area.
I did it with a company named KHASAB TOURS that took me at the hotel and everything was perfect.
- Family Travel
The half day or full day dhow cruise is a nice way of relaxing at Khasab. The dhow is stocked with cold drinks, bananas and snorkeling equipments. Take your bathing suits to have a good time when the boat moores for half an hour at a nearby island. The fjords are quite blue-green and there are chances you can catch a glimpse of dolphins (we did not see any).
Mountain 4x4 tour
This tour is called a safari but considering that the only wildlife you'll see is goats, I'll just call it a tour. I got picked up by the Dolphin Travel Toyota 4x4 at 9 AM. The first stop was an centuries-old Omani house, half dug into the ground and made of stone, just so we could see how the local population lived before the country struck oil and the Sultan gave everyone in this region free land, a free house, electricity and free water. (Maybe we should all think about moving here!) The next stop was an overlook at the top of a mountain that looked out to a little fishing harbor below, with a view to the islands to the north of the Musandam peninsula. We then took the road up to the lookout point over Jebel Haram, stopping a few times along the way to take photos of the rather spectacular rocky cliffs and canyons. The road is accessible only with a 4x4, being extremely steep, and rocky in places. On the way we also went through the As Sayh plateau, which was the one place I was advised to do some birdwatching around here. Sadly, a lone birdwatcher in a car with non-birdwatchers is always going to be disappointed--I could have stayed there for hours, but that wasn't what this trip is about. We continued on up a very steep gravel road to 1750 meters in altitude, where we turned around at the lookout for Jebel Haram--quite an impressive mountain landscape. Almost the whole ride could have been on the surface of the moon, except for the goats!
Total duration was about 4 hours. If I had to do it again, I'd just go as far as the Sayh plateau and stop there to look at birds.
Bassa Beach is definitely THE place to be on a Thursday afternoon. The place fills up with picnickers, a lot of young guys wearing sunglasses and driving what passes for hot rods (sorry dude, a Honda is not going to cut it with me!), the usual Omani complement of goats, and anyone else who wants to enjoy the water. You just drive your car right up to the edge of the flats, a few meters from the water, and try to score one of the bamboo pavilions, or at least a bench. A family tied their boat up near me, and on his way to the playground with the youngest child, the dad offered me a dolphin tour for tomorrow. Sadly, I am already booked!
This is pretty much the one unmissable tourist activity in Khasab. It really is a lot of fun, so unless you are completely anti-boat, do it! You can do a full-day (OMR 20) or half-day option, both of which include lunch. I chose the full-day version.
We were picked up at the Khasab Hotel at 9 and were pushing off from shore around 9:40. Just over 30 passengers were on my boat, which was plenty spacious for everyone to lounge on the carpet-and-pillow-covered deck. By 10:15, we had encountered our first dolphins, with a couple of other boats whistling loudly and clapping to summon them. We all raced back and forth with the dolphins zipping alongside--very cool. Around 11, we tied up near Telegraph Island for some snorkeling--the fish were OK, snorkel equipment not so much, but it was nice to be in the water. We all got out of the water, dried off (towels provided), and spread out on the deck. Next thing I knew, a speedboat was pulling up alongside us, which turned out to be delivering a hot lunch! That's service! We ate, then slowly motored to Seebi Island for another dip in very beautiful turquoise water. From there we meandered back, stopping for a while at another dolphin-heavy area where several dhows joined forces to race with pods of dolphins back and forth across the water. Finally we headed back to port, getting there just after 4 PM.
This small museum is definitely worth a look. In various rooms around the fort's corner towers and walls, there are exhibits of traditional Musandam lifestyle and artifacts. These are explained with well-designed posters and showcases in the round tower in the courtyard; the region's archaeology and natural history is also mentioned. Three examples of locally made boats, as well as replicas of traditional Musandam houses, are in the courtyard. Admission is 500 baisa for adults; open from 9-3 every day except Friday, which is 11-3.
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