Wahiba sands - Oman
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The Wahiba Sands, about three hours from Muscat. It is a vast mass of red and white sand, 140 km by 80km, with dunes rising up to 150 meters.
The Wahiba Sands are a region of desert in Oman. The region is named for the Wahiba tribe.The area is defined by a boundary of 180 kilometers (110 mi) north to south and 80 kilometers (50 mi) east to west, with an area of 12,500 square kilometers (4,800 sq mi). The desert has been of scientific interest since a 1986 expedition by the Royal Geographical Society
These beautiful dunes stretch as far as the eye can see and it is a spectacular sight especially in the evening and the morning, when the warm colours of the desert become much richer and the long shadows accentuate the splendour of these giant forms.
The sands are made of grains of rock, blown in from nearby eroded rocks and marine sediments and they are moving inland at a pace of about 30 feet per year.
Wahiba Sands is not just a desert landscape though. It encompasses areas of woodland as well as the mudflats and lagoons around Barr Al Hikman, where large migrant bird populations congregate in winter.
It is also home to around 180 plant species and 200 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
There are over 3,000 Bedu of varying tribal origins who live here among the woodland on the fringes of the sands.
There are also a number of small settlements along the coast that are lived in by the local fishermen who take advantage of the rich fishing grounds of the Arabian Sea.
Evidence of human occupation in the sands dates back as far as 8,000 years.
It is possible, but highly challenging, to drive right through the sands from north to south, camping under the seams of native ghaf trees or tucking behind a sand dune. There are, however, no provisions available, petrol stations or any other help at hand in the sands, beyond the desert camps at the northern periphery. As such, it is imperative that you go with a guide, or at least with another vehicle, driven by someone who knows the route. Off-road guidebooks describe this route but all will advise you not to venture through the sands alone. In the summer the sands donít take prisoners so avoid exploring too far off-the beaten track between April and October.
For the casual visitor, the best way to explore the sands is by staying at one of the desert camps. The owners of the camp will meet you at the MuscatĖSur Highway, and guide you, usually in convoy across the sands. Needless to say, it is essential to have 4WD and prior knowledge of off-road driving is very helpful!
If you donít fancy the prospect of getting your vehicle stuck in the sand, there are plenty of tours available and some camps will come and collect their non-driving guests for an extra fee