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Travel Guide: Adventure activities in Oman

12th Oct 2011 1:54am | By Editor

Oman’s diverse landscapes and adventure opportunities make it richly deserving of its moniker the Jewel of Arabia. Here are a few adventure activities unique to Oman. WORDS: Eric Nathan

Take the iron road

Snake Canyon is just one of three via ferratas on offer in Oman. Also available are the Grand Canyon and Bander Khayran via ferratas, the former involving a breathtaking hike along Oman’s Grand Canyon and the latter involving a 30-minute kayak then a climbing route leading along sea cliffs with great views of the bays and marine life below.

Oman underground

Possibly the most adventurous activity on offer  in Oman is the Majlis Al Jinn cave excursion. Majlis Al Jinn is the second largest underground cave in the world. It’s a single cavern 160m deep with  a floor area of 300m by 200m. That means the great pyramid of Giza would fit almost exactly inside it. So large is this cave that several base-jumps have been made into it, videos of Felix Baumgartner’s jump being available on YouTube.

What makes this cave visit exceptional is that, aside from a parachute, the only access is by abseiling into it from above. Unfortunately it’s also the only way out, requiring a tiring, self-propelled ascent 160m straight back up the rope you came down on.

Four preliminary training sessions precede this overnight abseiling expedition to ensure a cave visit you’re unlikely to forget. Unfortunately for me the cave was closed by the Government the week before my arrival, however it’s likely to re-open as soon as  they agree on the best way of managing  this unique attraction.

Escape to the desert

For people not wishing to over exert themselves there are numerous less strenuous options available. Wahiba Sands, a two- to three-hour drive from Muscat, is a vast region of desert dunes stretching 200km from the Eastern Hajar mountains to the Arabian Sea.

The dunes can be more than 100m high and present the perfect playground for dune-bashing 4WD enthusiasts. Whereas in some parts of the world dune-bashing is illegal for ecological reasons, in Oman (as elsewhere in the Middle East) it’s a booming tourist attraction. If you prefer your desert adventure more serene you can embark on a camel safari before settling down to a traditional meal in a Bedouin home.

Be warned though, Bedouin hospitality is a kind of double-edged sword. As my guide Masoud explained to me  “you can’t win with Bedouins, if you don’t finish your food they assume you didn’t like it. And if  you finish your food they will think they haven’t  given you enough”.