When faced with the infinite undulating dunes of the Wahiba Sands there’s only one way to tackle the 6000-year-old desert. And that’s, of course, by hurtling around in a 4WD.
Wahiba Sands in Eastern Oman, also called Sharqiya Sands, are a huge swathe of uninhabited land. Taking up 12,500 square kilometres, the copper coloured dunes run on and on. With their lines stretching from north to south.
Jumping into a 4×4 and tearing around the dunes is a thrilling way to plummet down the 300 feet high sandy hills. And if you’re really brave you can hang out the side as the driver pushes the throttle full hilt.
Jumping into your own Land Rover without a guide would be very foolish indeed. As you can imagine it’s very easy to get stuck or lost speeding around this land. Letting the air out of your tyres means you’re less likely to churn up sand. Going in a convoy of cars is always safer. And getting a driver who knows what they’re doing means there’ll be no emergency calls needed.
The Sands are found a three-hour drive from the capital, Muscat. And they stretch 180 kilometres from north to south, 80 kilometres from east to west. In 1986, Royal Geographical Society expedition discovered 150 species of plants and 200 species of animals living in these tough conditions. Some just aren’t deterred by endless desert that may look barren and inhospitable.
The Wahiba Sands are also home to the Bedu, or Bedouin nomadic desert tribes. They specialise in camel racing. So if you visit between October and April, you’ll likely to see camel races across the desert. The Bedu are the only permanent residents of this land. You’ll see women dressed in their distinctive clothing of patterned shawls and face masks.
If you choose to spend a night in the desert, you can do so in unexpected luxury. Despite the dunes being a harsh environment, there are beautiful desert camps that belie the surroundings.
At Desert Nights Camp, you can organise your dune bashing and arrange to go sand boarding, trekking in the dunes and camel safaris.
The 1000 Nights Camp, which is found further into the dunes, provides luxurious accommodation and even free wi-fi in this magical landscape.
Whether you choose to spend the night on the sands, or just come for the day, the thrill of charging up, down and sideways through the dunes in a 4WD is going to be hard to beat. In a desert where everything moves so languidly in the heat, the speed of your off-road vehicle is the perfect antidote.
Wahiba Sands, Oman
In the summer months Oman is blisteringly hot, so it’s more pleasant to visit October to March when the mercury drops to 30°C.
What you need to know:
Remember to only attempt this without a guide if you’re familiar with the dunes landscape, and know how to handle a 4WD in sandy conditions. You definitely don’t want to be lost out here.