A lot of my facebook friends have been asking me about our recent break to Khasab, so here’s the Bruce lowdown on Musandam.
Musandam is an Omani enclave, the only land border being with the UAE, and it juts out into the Straits of Hormuz. For many years due to its strategic military position, this beautiful area was closed to non-nationals, and even now it is not possible for expats to drive all the way between Khasab and Dibba (Daba on map).
We’ve been 5 times to Khasab and 3 times to Dibba. To enter Oman at Dibba, you only need your passport or a valid UAE ID card, but about 35kms up (and down) the tortuous mountain road to Khasab, you will be turned back at the Wadi Bih checkpoint unless you are an Omani or Emirati national. Will do another post soon about our favourite bits of the east side of Musandam. To enter Oman at Khasab, you go through the Dara border post, which costs you a small fee to leave the UAE, and a visa fee of 50aed (=5omr or about £8) per person. Border formalities can be very quick if you are lucky – last week we took less than 20 minutes to go through UAE and Oman checkpoints on both the journey there and our return – although it can be a slow process if you go at peak times.
Last week once clear of the border, we headed north to Khasab, where we stopped briefly, as we usually do, at the first beach area – a rocky. stony beach with the most wonderful of shells.
The road to Khasab is amazing, rocks on one side, sea on the other…. and Darth Vadar leading the way ;)! Click on the photo for a close up of the black pick up.
We checked in at the Khasab Hotel, a local, basic hotel which was fine for the money (660aed B&B for a double and single room), which had a fine swimming pool and was only 2 minutes drive from downtown. (Other accommodation options are the Esra Hotel Apartments, basic accommodation again, or for more luxury, the Golden Tulip which is a few kms outside the town).
On previous visits, we have camped in the area, once at Bassa Beach (great for bbqs and beachcombing but not so great for camping if you want to sleep – lots of cars going around at all times of night), and other times at the acacia forest, which we visited again as we wanted to see it devoid of the green “carpet” it has in the winter.
We opted to eat out downtown, there are a number of local cafes where you can get a good meal for about 20-30aed per person, and it’s nice to soak up the atmosphere. Since we were last there at the end of 2009, Lulu hypermarket has now opened, I hope it doesn’t cause too many of the small shops to close, as happens in the UK when a big supermarket opens up in town.
One of the principal reasons to go to Musandam is to go on a Dhow cruise, these are available half day or whole day, include drinks, snacks and lunch, and give you the opportunity to snorkel once on the half day, or twice on the full day trip. Price for full day at the end of the season in May was 18 OMR, which is 180aed, or £30 per head. We have used Khasab Tours in the past and had booked with them again, however we got a phonecall the evening before the trip telling us we had to go to the harbour at 10-10.15 instead of the 9am agreed when we booked, as they were expecting a coach load of 42 people to join us. They have some big boats but 45 persons on board is a bit much, takes so much longer to get on and off the boat for snorkelling, plus they wanted to cut our tour time by 20% without offering to reduce the cost, so we cancelled and went with Dolphin Tours, who were just as good.
In the peak season (Nov-Mar) it is possible to go down to the harbour at 9am and get yourself on to a dhow trip “on chance”, however in the summer I recommend you book the night before – we only saw one other dhow the whole day compared to the dozen or so we have seen on other trips between Oct-Mar.
We stopped at Telegraph Island for the first round of snorkelling, where we saw a great variety of fish. The photo above was actually taken at Seeed Island, not so many varieties of fish as less rocks for them to hide in/congregate round, but these guys were hungry!
This trip was the first outing for my GoPro camera, which was actually bought for offroad driving but gave us great underwater shots.
We saw dolphins riding the bow wave – the fifth time in five dhow trips we have seen them; they live in the warm sheltered waters of the Arabian Fjiords.
This area is a geologist or geography teacher’s dream – there are the most beautiful rock formations wherever you turn, as the mountains of Musandam rise straight out of the sea.
Topped off by a sea eagle – click on the photo to enlarge if you can’t see it.
Old villages still hang on to the cliff edge – they are still inhabited and have access by sea only. Though they do have mains electric, mobile phone coverage, and a communal fresh water tank supplied by the government.
Anyone fancy being a linesman for the Oman Electric Co?
Our second Dolphin encounter of the day.
And a huge flock of cormorants – escorted us out of the inlet and back into the Gulf.
All in all a great day, took us 5 hours to drive each way, including refreshment stops. Fill up your gas tank in Oman as special is only 1.2aed per litre (22p) as opposed to 1.7aed per litre (29p) in the UAE!
Other places we have visited on previous trips
Khor Najd – the coolest mountain road (if you like that sort of thing!). Last time we went we encountered loads of litter at the picnic area at the bottom and the water was green with algae – this could be a seasonal thing, our visit was in December 07.
Spectacular/scary on the way up (depending on your appetite for heights)
Scenic/scary on the way down (depending on your appetite for heights). European readers should note the lack of crash barriers and warning signs!
The Sayeh plateau – you’ve guessed it, access from Khasab by a mountain road which is spectacular/scenic and scary in equal measures!
Khasab Hotel – +968 26730267
Khasab Hotel Website
Dolphin Tours – +968 26731855 (can also be booked through the Khasab Hotel)
Dolphin Tours Website
Dara border crossing 26 03.108N, 56 05.288E
Bassa Beach 26 12.707N, 56 14.319E
Khasab Hotel 26 12.593N, 56 14.609E
Dolphin Tours embarkation point 26 12.377N, 56 15.257E
Acacia Forest 26 02.601N, 56 22.047E
Entry to Khor Najd mountain road 26 04.392N, 56 19.507E
Entry to mountain road to Dibba/Sayeh Plateau 26 05.343N, 56 15.467E
Sayeh Plateau 25 59.695N, 56 12.804E