In search for sea turtles, we headed down the coast to Raz al-Jinz, stopping by at Sur and the Bimmah Sinkhole along the way. There are a number of day and weekend trips you can do within an easy drive from Muscat, with many things to see and do. There aren’t any famous landmarks or tourist centres in Oman – it’s all about getting outside and enjoying nature and the wonderful landscapes. And it’s not only tourists who enjoy exploring Oman – many Omanis also spend there weekends outside of the city, having barbecues and picnics by beaches and wadis, or hiking in the mountains.
Even though it was towards the end of the turtle hatching season, which lasts from July to September, we still headed to Raz al-Jinz in the hope of seeing turtles. Raz al-Jinz beach is a government protected turtle reserve, where green turtles come to lay there eggs. It is believe that over 20,000 female turtles come to the beach each year. We were lucky enough to see one female turtle laying her eggs and a couple of young hatchlings making their way to the ocean. I was unable to get a good photo of the hatchlings – they move incredibly fast and along with the dawn light, the photos turned out rather blurry.
On our way back to Muscat, we stopped by Sur to stretch our legs and take a few photos. Sur is known for its fishing and boat building industries, as well as it’s beautiful forts and corniche (a seaside promenade). The bay, which is hugged by the old town Ayjah, is guarded by a lighthouse and contains beautiful clear turquoise water, which sits as a contrast to the rough orange rock of the fort outposts. Whilst walking though Ayjah you will notice some of the old wooden doors which Omani villages are famous for.
Another must see during any visit to Oman is Bimmah Sinkhole, which is located in Hawiyat Najm Park, just off the Muscat-Sur Highway. It’s a great place to stop for a swim – the water is wonderfully clear and the temperature is refreshing, but not cold. Be weary of the small fish which inhabit the sinkhole – they will nibble at you, which can be rather ticklish, if not annoying. However, if you keep moving they will keep away and you can enjoying bathing in this stunning natural pool.
Raz al-Jinz, Sur and the Bimmah Sinkhole can all be reached by the Muscat-Sur Highway. Raz al-Jinz is 300km south of Muscat and almost a 3 hour drive, Sur is 200km and just over 2 hour drive, and the sinkhole is 125km and a 1.5 hour drive south of Muscat. Again, you will have to take a car, as there is not public transport along this route.
We stayed at Raz al-Jinz Turtle Reserve in their new eco glamping tents, which overlook the beach. The accommodation isn’t cheap, but most decent places in Oman aren’t. The tents were comfortable and clean, and well worthwhile staying at if you wish to see the turtles at night and at dawn. The turtle reserve offers complimentary night and morning turtle tours for those staying at the reserve.
Oman doesn’t do budget accommodation well yet, but as tourism increases, I’m sure there will be more good budget options available in the near future.