In the last four decades, the Sultanate of Oman has become a popular tourist attraction. Major hotel chains such as Grand Hyatt Muscat, Shangri-La Bar Al Husn Resort, and Hotel Golden Tulp Seeb have been established to cater to these large numbers of tourists flying in from around the world. However, there are others who seek a more different approach to experiencing this breath-taking country. In pitching a tent, watching the stars and waking up to an amazing Oman sunrise, camping has become an immensely popular way of experiencing the beauty of Oman. Wild camping is legal here which means that you can camp almost anywhere on public land. There are only a few restricted areas such as military land, private properties, and government land like the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve. With low crime rates in Oman, it's quite safe to set up camp in any public area. The local people are friendly and might even stop for a chat, but they are very respectful of privacy. Most wild animals (except goats that are notorious for stealing food) stay clear of camping spots. There's a wide range of open terrain to explore in Oman.
Here are some of the best places to go camping in Oman and enjoy the great outdoors:
Beaches and Islands
At 92 kilometres long, Masirah Island is Oman's largest island. It is located on the south coast. It has soft golden sand and a cooler temperature than the mainland because of cool winds from the Arabian Sea, making it a great place to camp. Another popular island for wild camping is the Dimaniyat Islands. These can be found in Al Batinah South Governorate on the west coast of Oman. As they are an important turtle reserve, camping is usually banned here from May till October, though Al Jabal Al Kabeer and Jun Islands (two of the nine Dimaniyat Islands) can be accessed throughout the year. If you'd like to camp on the mainland, there are many public beaches that can be used such as Khasab Beach and Bassa Beach in the Musandam Governorate, Fins Beach in the Muscat Governorate, and Ras Madrakah Beach.
Deserts cover more than 80% of Oman's landscape. As a result, there's a large number of options for you to spend the night. Badiya Sands in the Al Sharqiyah Governorate is a home to the Badiya inhabitants spread among 15 villages. There are sand dunes that are more than 50 metres high to explore. If you'd like a glimpse into the traditional way of life in Oman, then visit the more populated Wahiba Sands where you can meet the Bedouin residents, skilful craftsmen and drivers who are comfortable in their desert lives. Further south, the Empty Quarter and Khor Rori, both located in the Dhofar region, are popular for their lush green oases in the middle of miles of sand dunes where you can settle down under the palm trees as sand shifts under your bare feet.
Jebel Shams is the highest mountain in Oman, and the many demarcated trail routes on it provide good spots to pitch a tent for the night. It's known as 'Sun Mountain' for its breath-taking sunrises with a shifting landscape of rocks and sands. Another mountain spot is Jebel Akhdar which is home to a scenic natural reserve. There is foliage and greenery around, although it has a fragile ecosystem so it's important not to litter or damage the living nature. Watch out for the packs of goats and donkeys that arrive in the early hours of the morning. The trail on Qalhat Road leading to Wadi Shab, too, has many flat surfaces that are great to spend the night. If you'd like to add a dash of adventure to your camping trip, then Salma Plateau is recommended. It is here that Majlis Al Jinn Cave (a popular BASE jumping location in Oman) is located. It has but two holes on the cave roof leading you down into the beautiful cavern. The surface is relatively flat and smooth, but if you'd like some privacy, we'd recommend camping slightly away from the main route to the cave.
- Camping in Oman doesn't have to be a stressful activity if you just keep these basic tips in mind. Wood, generally required for bonfires and cooking, can be easily found while scavenging. It's even sold in certain village shops for a small amount. The locals are kind, and they are quite helpful if you're in need of assistance.
- If you're camping on an uneven, rocky terrain, a sleeping bag alone wouldn't make for a comfortable bed. Instead, try to carry lots of cushioning, perhaps even a mattress. Equipment for this can be easily found in some of Oman's big shopping malls, especially in major cities like Muscat or Salalah. There are plenty of travel companies that organize camping trips, and you can rent equipment from them on a daily or weekly basis.
- The days are very hot in Oman and it's recommended to wear light-coloured clothing to beat the heat. In the nights, however, it can become cold. For the nights, don't forget to pack thick blankets or warm clothing. Ensure that you carry torches and matchboxes as a light source as electricity will be scarce outside settlement areas. Carry an additional bag as well for garbage to avoid littering around your chosen camping ground.
- When choosing a camping spot, it is best to avoid the wadis. They are indeed beautiful, but they are mostly located on terrain that is rocky and dangerous if you are not accustomed to it. In the monsoon months, these wadis face severe threats of flash floods that take place within minutes of rains. In an event that you find yourself in this situation, search for higher ground and follow the advice of local authorities.
When you wake up in your tent in the early hours of the morning, you can feast your eyes on a beautiful sunset over the Al Hajar Mountains, gentle waves crashing on Oman's unspoiled beaches or even sand brimming on stunning desert dunes. Camping in Oman offers an amazing experience outside of a run-of-the-mill hotel vacation.