CAPTIVATING AND WILD AT THE SAME TIME, THE BEACH AT TAQAH AND ITS BIRDS WIN OVER JERZY WIERZBICKI
A photographer needs to have attributes other than just being skilled behind the lens. Patience is one of these.
Sometimes, you have to wait to capture that perfect shot, to get the right composition or conditions. It could be a matter of minutes or hours, or even days.
I waited six months to get the images that I wanted from Taqah Beach. I first visited this spot in Dhofar more than six months ago, when the Khareef had placed a shroud of fog and rain clouds over the area. Wind-whipped waves had turned the sea into a turbulent froth. It was fine exploring the high ground and Wadi Darbat but anything near the beach was off limits. Which was a shame because the beaches around the coastline here are impressive. My favourite was a strip of pale white sand broken up by dark brown cliffs between Salalah and Taqah, where groups of herons battled to fly against the strong gusts.
I vowed to return when the weather was more conducive for wildlife photography. I had a plan but needed time.
My moment came at the end of December. Conditions were totally different from my last visit. There was a gentle breeze, sun and the ocean was calm. My chance had finally come.
I pulled my car over on the harder sand and, equipped with just one camera and a long lens, I set off in search of the birds. My aim was to approach as close as I could to get a good shot. The silence was broken only by the sound of waves arriving on the shore. Birds in this part of Dhofar seem less concerned about a human presence. Sitting next to some reeds, I recognised about three species of birds and some particularly striking Black Ibis.
My first attempt to approach them wasn’t a great success. Rustling through the grass, my footsteps warned them and they took flight before I could even raise my camera. I decided to give them some time to settle and drove back to Taqah town to check the beach there. In among the palm trees and banana plantations, I installed the camera on a tripod and swapped the long lens for a 500mm lens. Taken from a distance, the trees bending slightly in the soft wind looked much more monumental.
After several shots I got back on the beach, where I spotted lots of seagulls.
The gulls’ distinctive screeching combined with the noise of the waves is one of my favourite sounds of nature. I was in luck. The light was perfect for photography. Far away was a large sandstone cliff, a significant landmark in Taqah, and behind it the well-known Khor Rori lagoon with the ancient ruins of Sumhuram.
Suddenly from a distance, around 1km away, I spotted silhouettes of two people. I took a few shots. Later when I enlarged the photographs, I saw the couple was a pregnant woman with her husband’s hands wrapped around her swollen belly posing for a picture.
Late that afternoon, when the sun dipped lower in the sky, I decided to approach my black birds again but this time I moved slowly through the reeds without making a sound. I found a gap in the reeds to install my camera. Although the birds didn’t hear me, I had only a short time to prepare before they saw me and took flight. When one of the glossy Ibis spotted me and gave the ‘signal’ to the rest to fly, I was ready and managed to get six shots.
Because I was using an old manual lens, only three shots were sharp and the best one is in the magazine. However, I was happy that my mission had been a success. It had been well worth the wait.
The road is easy but it’s a long drive from Muscat. Head to Salalah on Route 31 and go towards Taqah and Mirbat. 40km from Salalah you will reach Taqah town. Turn right into the town and park your car on the corniche between the massive palm trees and the beach. A 4×4 is not needed.
GPS location of the beach: 17° 2’0.11”N 54°22’48.63”E