Don't stick to Muscat on your trip to Oman. Discover the towering dunes of the Wahiba Sands desert where adventure really begins...
Oman is an Arabian jewel and is often touted as the perfect destination for winter sun, but it’s also a hot-spot for adventurous travellers. Those who venture to these intoxicating lands tend to only scratch the surface, often sticking to the country’s thriving capital, Muscat. And while Muscat itself has a lot to offer – for starters, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and bustling souqs – there is plenty more to experience just a short drive away.
Just four hours from Muscat lie the towering sand dunes of the Wahiba Sands desert, and it’s here that the fun really begins! Don't miss these few adventures to set your pulse racing:
Jump in a 4x4 and negotiate colossal sand dunes. Not for the faint hearted, your driver will take you up and down, over and across this spectacular landscape – a simply thrilling experience. Bizarrely, travellers often liken it to driving on ice and it's something you’re unlikely to forget for a long while.
Dune bashing normally lasts between one to 1½ hours, after which time you’ll be windswept and covered in sand and ready for some down time. This activity is not suitable for children.
This is for the more 'hands on' traveller. Head out on a quad bike for a more personal dune bashing experience; you are in charge and are a lot closer to the sand than in a 4x4 which makes for an exhilarating ride.
30 minutes quad biking is normally enough to get the adrenaline coursing through your veins, but it’s a pretty addictive activity and you’d be forgiven for deciding to head out again the following day. Or for getting lost in a sea of sand...
Fancy yourself as a regular Lawrence of Arabia? Then hop on the mode of transport favoured by men of his time and traverse your golden surroundings atop a camel. For those looking for something a bit more relaxed in the Omani desert this is a great choice and is suitable for most ages and abilities.
From one hour wanders to half-day safaris, there are plenty of options and most include food and drink, so you’ll have nothing to worry about other than soaking up fantastic 360 degree views. For a particularly memorable experience, head out with a guide as the sun goes down to admire a sunset unlike any other.
Imagine a combination of sledging and surfing but add in wonderfully warm temperatures, a shimmering heat haze and sand in every direction. This is the fantastic experience of sand boarding, for which the desert is your oyster!
Half an hour gives you sufficient time to hone your skills on the Wahiba slopes, but if you find yourself a bit of a dab hand at sand boarding why not extend your enjoyment to an hour? Quite long enough to work up a thirst under the warm Arabian sun, before embarking on a second activity in the late afternoon, if you fancy.
If you really want to get under the skin of a country, one of the best ways to do it is to meet some of the locals. During a visit to the Wahiba Sands it’s possible to spend some time with a local Bedouin family, learning all about their way of life in one of the world’s most beautiful but challenging environments.
Visits usually last about an hour, just enough time to scratch the surface of these fascinating desert-dwelling people and learn about their nomadic lives in the Omani desert.
Most activities will need to be booked at least one day in advance, so make sure you plan ahead – you really don’t want to miss the opportunity to take part in the activities the Wahiba Sands are so famous for. The accommodation options that are available include the rustic 1000 Nights Desert Camp, which provides an authentic taste of Bedouin life, and the rather luxurious Desert Nights Camp, where the tents are air conditioned and you can relax in your lounge at the end of a energetic day dune-bashing or camel riding.
Katy Pannell is Online Travel Editor at Audley Travel, an award-winning tour operator that specialises in tailor-made trips and small group tours to over 80 countries around the world