In the first of a two-part series, Felicity Glover takes an epic road trip to Musandam, where she explores the pristine fjords of Khasab.
It was a beautiful, sunny day when we left Muscat for Khasab, the capital of Musandam. And even though we faced a drive of about 570km, going via the Khatami Mahalala border crossing, I was fairly confident that we’d arrive long before nightfall.
But of course, even the best-laid plans can come apart at the seams – and having that all-important plan B up your sleeve is essential for any traveller, even if you are driving. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Musandam has been on my bucket list for quite a few years now, so I was thrilled to receive an invitation from Dhiaffa, a subsidiary of the Oman Tourism Development Company, or Omran, to stay at their Atana Musandam hotel and to explore the Sultanate’s northern-most peninsula.
It was smooth going until we hit the border crossing at Khatami Mahalala – because I was driving a rented car and didn’t have the original registration card with me, they wouldn’t let us through. This meant we had to divert to Hatta to make our crossing – and that’s where our travel plans began to unravel. What should have been about a six-hour road trip turned into a huge diversion that lasted 13 hours. But that’s my fault for not double checking what I needed to get through Khatami Mahalala.
But once we arrived at the Atana Musandam, it was plain sailing and we were finally able to relax. The resort hotel has been built in the style of a traditional Omani village, while the rooms are spacious, comfortable and modern.
We were up early the next day for a delicious breakfast at the hotel as we were heading out to the fjords, also known as khor, on a traditional dhow, which had been organised through a local company.
On board, the sparkling sapphire blue water was offset by a myriad of towering limestone mountains in a variety of shapes and hues: light brown, dark brown, dusty pink, rusty orange and clumps of green bushes growing out of the cliffs.
As we entered the khor we spotted two friendly dolphins, which happily frolicked in the wake of the dhow as we slowly wound our way deeper into the fjord.
At 16km long, the khor snakes its way through some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen, with craggy inlets boasting deserted, white sandy beaches and rocky outcrops. Cliff faces as high as 1,000 metres soared above us – it’s no wonder the khor is known as the “Norway of Arabia”.
The rugged beauty of this area, which juts out into the Strait of Hormuz, was created thousands of years ago, when it was shaped by a massive movement of the earth’s crust. And while day-to-day living can be difficult, there are five villages to be found here, some of which boast just seven families, and the children have to spend the week in Khasab to go to school. Their livelihood is based on fishing but these days you’ll find electricity and a more modern lifestyle despite their isolation.
Halfway through the khor, we came across Telegraph Island, which was manned by the British in 1864 and used as, you guessed it, a telegraph station. The crumbling foundations of the buildings are still here – although on the day we were there, there appeared to be a yoga photoshoot taking place, using the dramatic backdrop of the mountains and the sea.
We moored the boat here for a spot of snorkelling in the refreshing, crystal-clear waters, swimming with colourful and curious zebra fish, bright blue and yellow angelfish and a whole host of other sea life. It was a magical moment and the beauty under the sea was just as impressive as the scenery towering above the gentle waves.
But it was time to head back to port and our next adventure: a mountain safari. Stay tuned for the second part of our Musandam adventure in next week’s issue!
The Atana Musandam is a great choice for a short break or even a longer stay in Khasab. For details and bookings, go to www.atanahotels.com