For Francis’ Family

September 2016.

Sand and sea expedition

Dear Francis,

Oman is an Arab nation steeped in history and natural beauty. From its pristine, aqua-blue coastline, to its spectacular mountains and wind-swept deserts, it is all too easy to get lost in its beauty. Your journey will cross these natural elements, giving you ample opportunities to explore its diversity. You will cruise the bays of Bandar Khairan by personal yacht, following the waterways into the expansive Wahhiba desert. Relaxation and exploration are intimately fused, as recreational activities are married with expeditions through Oman’s World Heritage sites and ancient Wadis.

Day 1: Arrival

Upon your arrival in Muscat you will board My Amara at The Wave Marina. In the afternoon you will depart for the desert fjord of Bandar Khairan—a large, mangrove-fringed lagoon which is particularly beautiful in the late afternoon. As the sun reflects off the sandstone, it seems to vibrate with color. We will anchor here in Bandar Khairan for the night.

Day 2: Bandar Khairan

You will spend a leisurely day at anchor in Bandar Khairan, acclimatizing and getting to know the boat and your crew. Because you and your family have a love of watersports, you will have the opportunity to do some wakeboarding and snorkeling, exploring the rich diversity of coral and sea life within the bay. You can also play a few games as a family and unwind in the sun before joining the crew for a delicious meal comprised of fresh seafood and salads.

Day 3: The port of Sur

As day breaks over this stunning landscape you will take a coastal cruise to the port of Sur. What was once a bustling port and trading center (whose maritime traditions live on in the only dhow-building yard in Oman), Sur is one of the most historic settlements in the south. Its beauty is also seen in the surrounding tranquil lagoons, and its past stories in a string of watchtowers and forts that line the harbor.

This port is the jump off point for both the nesting grounds of the giant leatherback turtles and for the desert of the Wahhiba Sands. Let this grandeur guide your day’s proceedings, as you enjoy your day on board the yacht, stopping at the small island chain of Ras Abu Daud for another breathtaking snorkel and swim. This area is also particularly known for its steep wall diving, suitable for both novices and advanced divers.

This evening the yacht is met by 3 x 4WD vehicles which will take you to see the turtles laying in this major hatchery. This activity is strictly regulated and only takes place at night. After getting such intimate insight into nature, you will return to the yacht and dine on board, and then spend the night on the anchor in Sur harbor.

Day 4: Wahhiba Desert

Climb into the 4WD vehicles again to run to Wadi Bani Khalid, one of the extraordinary lifelines of water that runs through the desert of the Wahhiba Sands. Located just north of Al-Kamil, the approaching road will climb high into the Eastern Hajar Mountains and zigzag through many colorful rock formations—from green to rust-red with iron ore. Water flows all year round from a natural spring that supports abundant vegetation.

Here you will enjoy a picnic lunch and a swim in the wadi before heading into the Wahhiba Desert. The smooth, wind-swept dunes will captivate you as a palate of blues and greens is exchanged for warm orange textures. You will be visiting a Bedouin family to view their unique way of life, whilst also enjoying some amazing dune bashing.

Dinner will be served by the crew on the yacht, where you will anchor for the night in Sur harbor.

Day 5: Wadi Shab

Awake with the glimmering lights of Sur harbor and rejoin the cars, taking some time to visit the working shipyards before heading to Wadi Shab. This is a true ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ experience, as you will hike and swim your way down this spectacular wadi to enter the underground pool grotto through a keyhole in the cliff face. Be sure to check out the extraordinary Bimah Sinkhole (and jump if you dare).

After, you will be driven back to Muscat, upon which you have two options. The first is to rejoin the yacht at Bandar Jisseh (picked up by tender from Shangri La Marina), or enjoy the passage on board as the yacht heads back to Muscat. Following this route will allow you to see more of the impressive coastline and the area’s sea life.

You have the choice to dine on board the yacht or have a private dinner in the acclaimed Bait al Bilad, the Village House in Qantab—an authentic Omani village experience. If you choose this option, you can sit on the terrace and watch the sunset as you eat some of Oman’s most delicious cuisine.

Day 6: Muscat and Dimanyat Islands

Today you will have the pleasure of experiencing the The Grand Mosque—a glorious piece of modern Islamic architecture that was a gift to the country by Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign. It can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers, including 750 women in a private musalla (prayer hall), and is an active place of worship.

Later, you may either decide to do a spot of shopping in one of our more modern centers, or attend a highly acclaimed cooking class in Bait al Bilad. The centers offer the charm of a complete Amouage store and the best pashmina supplier in Muscat, whereas in Qantab village you can learn to prepare some authentic Omani food (if you weren’t there for dinner the night before!).

Either way, this is a great place for lunch and relaxation before heading to some more culture in the form of Bait al Zubair, a popular culture museum of Omani life. Opposite stands Bait Muzna, which holds representatives of some of the region’s most promising artists. Meet the yacht off Marina Bandar al Rowdha (where she has refueled), then head on to a lazy afternoon in the glorious World Heritage Listed Dimanyat Islands—an archipelago of pristine white beaches with extraordinary coral reefs. We can arrange private diving for you here if you wish.

You can now choose to return to The Wave Marina with the opportunity to disembark and have dinner at The Chedi Muscat, or stay on board either in the Marina or at anchor just off the Dimanyat Islands.

Day 7: Dimanyat Islands and Muttrak Souk

At your own leisure you will be able to enjoy the unspoiled Dimanyat Islands. You can satisfy your aquatic urges by snorkeling, diving, or wakeboarding in this pristine location which is often closed to the public when breeding season is underway. The reserve is home to a large number of sea turtles that nest here, and is also a magnet for migratory and indigenous birds. Whilst snorkeling you may experience the rich natural heritage of this site and swim above several kinds of rare coral reefs.

In the evening, you will return to The Wave Marina to enable you to make an evening visit to Muttrah Souk—a bustling marketplace where artisan goods are sold. You can also enjoy a mashkik (barbeque skewer) or two or a fresh mint lemonade at a street-side stall.

You will spend your night at The Wave Marina, where the calm crashing of the waves will provide a welcoming contrast to the hustle and bustle of Muttrah Souk.

Day 8: Oman’s cultural interior

This is your day to appreciate the history and culture of Oman’s interior! Departing at 10am by 4WD, your first stop is the bustling local market of Seeb on your way to the magnificent Wadi Bani Kharus. This provides a unique insight into the cultivated wadis of the interior, with terraced fields and Yemeni style houses that are seen nowhere else in Oman, and which have a distinct flavor of the mountains of Jebel Akhdar. Geologically, Wadi Bani Kharus is also one of the most interesting in Oman, going back 6 million years in time as you penetrate deeper into the wadi.

From Wadi Bani Kharus, you will head to Hazem Castle, one of the less visited but extremely interesting interior forts with its murder holes and underground passages. This is a more eclectic visit than the ‘big ticket’ forts of Nizwa and Bahla

Afterward you will meet the yacht at Sohar Port, and from there will head up towards the Musandam Peninsula. Spend the night at anchor off Zighy Bay.

Day 9: Zighy Bay and Dibba

Today is a day to relax and enjoy the spectacular surroundings of the Musandam Peninsula near Dibba and Zighy Bay. It is known also as the ‘Norway of Arabia’ due to its beautiful rocky inlets, captivating mountain ranges and small villages. Its isolation from mainland Oman gives it a charm well worth embracing.

I can arrange diving sessions in this magnificent location or if you prefer, you can book a spa treatment at Zighy Bay for this afternoon. I suggest dinner at the acclaimed restaurant at the Six Senses Zighy Bay for this evening, with nightcaps back on board the yacht.

Day 10: Exploring the Musandam Peninsula

Today you will spend your day exploring the spectacular Musandam Peninsula, moving towards Khasab through the Straits of Hormuz. Located on the northern border of the Sultanate of Oman, the peninsula boasts high mountains that rise for more than two thousand meters above sea level. The juxtaposition of sea and mountain ranges is considered one of the exclusive features of the area.

Khasab is the Governorate of Musandam’s regional centre and takes its name from its fertile soil. It’s famous for its magnificent villages.

Spend the night at the anchor in the beautiful Majlis Bay.

Day 11: Khasab Port

Today you will travel to Khasab Port, where you will explore its fascinating fort, situated right on the bay. This is where you will disembark and either process through immigration to travel to Dubai or fly back to Muscat, ending what has been a truly wonderful journey of a lifetime.

Francis, it has been my pleasure to plan this itinerary for you and your family. Please feel free to contact me at any time, should the need arise.