We highly recommend going on an adventure to a desert camp not far from Al Wasil. It it only takes a 15-minute drive from Al Wasil to get there. So, here is how we experienced our detour to the dunes:
The dunes and dromedaries (isn’t that what they call those one-humped camels?) are the real deal.
Normally, detours can be a pain, but to make one into the Oman desert is to head straight into a dreamscape!
As Oman’s largest inland desert, the Wahiba desert, also known as the Wahiba Sands spreads over more than 3,800 square miles. The area is thought to be the original home of the Bedouins.
Dunes that go on forever, mountains of fine-grained sand that change colors every few minutes as the sun sets and the camels create a unique mood. For us, the overnight excursion to the Wahiba desert counts as one of the highlights of an Oman visit.
One-nighter in the Desert Nights Camp
At the desert’s northern edge you find a number of desert camps, the Desert Nights Camp among them.
The camp’s accommodations are modelled on the traditional Bedouin tents, only here you don’t lack any modern creature comforts. Our desert dwelling is a luxury tent.
After the brief check-in, the friendly Omani fills us in on the gathering that will take place at 16:30 for the sunset. Right on time along with all the other new arrivals in camp we meet at the appointed time and place. From there, we are driven into the dunes overlooking the camp in the camp’s SUVs.
Into the dunes
Up we go, with the engine howling and at a pretty good clip, for he who fails to put pedal to the metal risks getting stuck in the sand drifts!
Suddenly, we all seem very small. Like ants, the camp guests scatter over the dunes. Everyone is trying to pick a prime spot for watching the sunset.
The desert seems to go on forever! Watching the colors of the dunes shift from minute to minute as the sun sets is dream-like! Is the sand golden yellow now? or is it brown or more like red? However you look at it, the whole scene is simply awesome!
An after-dinner camel ride
After shooting our 1001 photos and the sun having said its last farewell for the night, we walk back to the camp, luxuriating barefoot in the fine, warm sand.
Later that night, there is a buffet dinner. While it is still surprisingly warm for a November night in the desert, as the night deepens we nevertheless break out our down jackets.
Besides the buffet, the nightly tent rental rate just shy of 300 Swiss Francs includes a short camel ride. Especially for the guys, the saddle is not the most comfortable thing in the world – so says Walter in any case. The ride conveniently just takes us once around the parking lot. It’s enough to take some “dramatic” (dromedaring?) photos ;-)
Once that’s done, the man is glad to get out of the saddle again, what with no stirrups, and all…
Also on offer are four-hour and all-day rides into the desert, but the 5-minute version for now is quite enough for me. What matters is that the pix are in the box.
The turn-off from the asphalt highway onto the gravel road that then turns into a sand track is located in Al Wasil next to the little yellow mosque. Two large signs point to the Desert Nights and the Arabian Oryx camps. They are right next to each other.
Right beside the mosque, a small tire shop offers tire pressure service: the SUVs line up in front to have air let out of their tires. It makes driving on sand easier. It is also recommended in all the travel reports.
Desert driving tips
We want to be sure, so we call the camp front office to ask about the tire pressure. We are told that it’s not necessary for the big SUVs on the flat 6.8 miles route from Al Wasil to the camp; just don’t drive over 40 mph, the Desert Nights camp staffer tells us.
It’s a different story for the sand track leading to the more distant Nomadic Desert Camp: all types of vehicles let out air. The lower tire pressure lets tires flatten out, giving them a better grip on the sand.
At normal tire pressure, our 4WD does fishtail a bit between the ruts in the sand, but we ride on without problems – it helps that the sand is dry. Halfway to the camp, it dawns on us to shift to four-wheel drive and use the limited-slip differential. It does not perceptibly improve our road stability.
A mere 10 minutes later, we pull up in the camp. The desert drive was not half as challenging as we had anticipated.
However, there, in the camp parking lot sits an SUV with a flat. They must have let out too much air…
More desert images
The Al Jabal Akhdar Mountains
This night in the desert was certainly a very special experience!
No tour of Oman is complete without a visit to the Al Jabal Akhdar Mountains though. We stayed at the spectacular Alila Jabal Akhdar Design Hotel. Not only the hotel itself, but the location and the views are simply mind-blowing! Here is our review.