Thrill seekers flock to Oman from around the globe to experience the extreme adventures ranging from mountaineering to dune bashing in the desert, from scrambling through canyons to the more relaxed pursuit of hot air ballooning. Here are the five best outdoor adventure activities in Oman.
Sailing in Salalah
Salalah, the capital city of the southern province Dhofar, is around 650 miles south of Muscat. Known for its Arabian Sea beaches and abundant sea life, this is an excellent spot for sailing, with opportunities for all ages and abilities. A good time to hire a boat is after the khareef (monsoon season, which last from mid June to mid September), when seas are calm and whales are easy to spot. For several months after the monsoon the arid desert terrain is transformed into a lush green landscape, with temperatures rarely exceeding 27C.
Adventure Sports offers sailing lessons from the watersports centre on the beach from £70.
Dune bashing in Wadi Bani Khalid
Towering red rock formations and the lush green springs, pools and plantations of the wadi (valley) provide a dramatic backdrop to the seemingly endless ochre sands that fearless participants negotiate in their 4×4 vehicles. Located in the Al Sharqiyah region, this is true desert magic, with 3,000sq miles of sand.
Twenty3extreme offers a Sharqiya (Wahiba) Sands Tour where you can dune bash, quad bike, and have your own private BBQ.
Diving in the Musandam Fjords
Surrounded by serrated precipices, the clear turquoise waters of Oman's version of the Norwegian fjords are ideal for underwater exploration. Some sheltered, shallow areas cater to beginners, while others are off-limits to all but the most experienced divers. These deeper waters often have strong currents and attract large, predatory fish such as barracuda, tuna and sharks — including the occasional whale sharks.
Dolphin Khasab Tours offers dive tours for all ability levels.
Traversing the Jebel Sham via ferrata
Climbing the via ferrata on Oman's highest mountain, Jebel Sham, is an adrenalin junkie's dream. The 9,934ft peak, whose name means 'sun mountain' in Arabic, lies in the Al Dakhiliyah region. The protected climbing route involves first hiking the famous Balcony Walk, which looks across Al Nakhr — Oman's answer to the Grand Canyon. Then climbers tackle the 600ft ascent straight up the cliff while securely attached to steel cables by carabineers. A moderate fitness level and zero fear of heights are essential requirements for participants.
Twenty3extreme offers a 12-hour tour from £145.
Canyoning in Snake Gorge
This natural water park stretching across the Hajar Mountains in northeast Oman is popular with hikers, but the main event is canyoning. Visitors scramble, wade, swim, walk and even abseil their way through pools, waterfalls, rocks and murky caves of the gorge before eventually coming out at Al-Zammah. Canyoning here is rated easy to medium, but it isn't for the faint hearted, including technical descents, tight squeezes and leaps into water pools.
Twenty3extreme has an all-day canyoning experience for £120.
Desert hot air balloon ride
Watching the sunrise — or set, if you can't handle the 5.30am start — over the desert is surely one of the most memorable, and gentle, adventures available in Oman. As long as you aren't acrophobic, any age and fitness level can delight in the splendid bird's-eye views of colossal sand dunes, trains of camels, and even the odd Bedouin campsite.
Orient Tours offers a one-hour tour.
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