OMAN is a prime destination for tourists seeking to link a holiday with an intense outdoor adventure or an intercultural experience in interacting with the local community. The destination is marketed by the Ministry of Tourism with the slogan “beauty has an address”, referring to the natural beauty and diverse landscapes of the Sultanate. The possibilities are indeed immense for tourists keen on discovering the wadis, deserts, mountains and beaches and the variety of activities offered is broad, ranging from dolphin watching, to snorkelling, climbing, camel riding or hiking. Thus, adventure tourism and ecotourism are the most attractive types of tourism in Oman.
An interesting way to travel through Oman is by planning a road trip independently through travel forums, social network websites and/or the “couch surfing” website, leaving space for spontaneous decisions and social acquaintances. In most areas of Oman camping is allowed and free of charge: pack your camping material, some food and a detailed map of Oman and be ready for an exciting adventure.
Even within a short stay and within a few hours drive from the capital, the curious traveller will be able to catch a glimpse of unique landscapes, cities and typical Omani villages like Sur, Nizwa or Misfat Al Abryeen. The beaches between Muscat and Ras Al Hadd, the desert south of Bidiyyah or the highest mountain peak of Oman, Jebel Shems, are quiet and relaxing places to set up a tent and enjoy the natural surroundings. With an open attitude and the will to communicate, the visitor will often receive a warm welcome, as hospitality is an important part of the Omani culture.
Oman is home to 15 nature reserves and a rich and diverse fauna and flora and programs to conserve the environment and raise awareness are already in place. Yet through the fast modernization and touristic development, some natural sites are severely spoilt by pollution. To avoid beautiful beaches like As Sifah beach or wadis being littered with plastic bags and bottles, a responsible attitude from all actors involved in tourism is required.
The growth of the adventure tourism in Oman has been catalysed by the development of alternative forms of accommodation, for tourists and families wanting to combine natural experiences and comfort. “In the past 10 years alternative accommodation forms such as desert camps or mountain resorts have been developed, with an intensified investment in the past five years. To boost this form of tourism we now have to promote our natural beauty through newspapers, television, internet and social networks. There is still very poor information about Oman’s touristic offer, namely in Europe, which is our key touristic market”, commented Yasir Al Abdullah, Managing Director of Bright Travel and Tourism. Many resorts or hotels in prime natural locations have already been developed, including desert camps such as the “1001 nights Camp” or the “Al Raha Tourist Camp” near Bidiyyah and mountain resorts such as the “Jebel Shems” resort. On the eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula in Ras Al Hadd, tourists can spend a night in the Green Turtle Resort or in the Ras Al Jinz Hotel directly near the turtle reserve. The Ras Al Jinz Sea Turtle Reserve is a nesting area for green turtles, in which it is possible to observe the protected turtles lay their eggs and the hatchlings make their way to the sea. Responding to the high demand for adventure tourism, tour operators offer popular packages including a guide, the rental of a 4x4 vehicle, accommodation in resorts or hotels and a variety of activities.
“Our country is being recognized as an excellent touristic destination, with Muscat selected as Arab Tourism Capital 2012 and projects are being developed at a fast pace. In my opinion it is the right time to invest in touristic projects”, recommends Yasir Al Abdullah.
By Nathalie Ferré
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