Y Magazine

Forbidden: Here’s a wildlife reserve in Oman that’s off-limits for tourists!

Y takes a walk on the wild side this week to snap images of Oman’s most nomadic inhabitants, after exploring the time-tested village of Fins.

You’ve seen it here before: Fins beach, the pebble-shielded sands on the coastline and the famous Bimmah Sinkhole. But not many people know that a simple five-minute journey from the Bimmah Sinkhole and the underlying beach will take you to a unique village in Oman.

On the morning of my visit – from the outside – it all looked vaguely reminiscent of any other village in the Sultanate. It had it all: little kids helping their parents do chores, beaten-up pickup trucks lurking around the roads with goods for the shops, women washing clothes at the water sources as they indulged in friendly gossip, and the elder folks gathering at the majlis for their share of news around the town.

In short, it fitted in with the active day I was seeking. Armed with the camera gear, I began my tour of the village, exploring every nook and cranny of the streets, before the midday sun began to wear me down.

What struck me most, more than just the architecture of the village, which is predominantly from the mid-20th century, was the way the houses were positioned.

The homes were all lined up together and lay only a few metres away from each other. This means, the residents of the village stay close to each other, which possibly also helps to radiate a sense of oneness among the community.

Leaving behind my trusty vehicle, I headed into the far ends of the village, when I came across vast barren land. Out of sheer curiosity, I headed right in, which, isn’t a  wise choice if you don’t know the area well.

The area surrounding the village is protected by the government. You see, there may be no sign boards governing entry into the locale but the area behind the Fins Village is actually off-limits to the public as it’s a wildlife reserve. 

I only realised this when I stumbled upon a few gazelles, among several other animals when I was prowling for flora to photograph. 

These animals have quick feet, so capturing them was quite a challenge. Nevertheless, I’ve added a few snaps here for your viewing pleasure.

But, just as I made the decision to head farther in, you know, to find more fauna, I was stopped by a park ranger. 

Dressed in a dishdasha, he didn’t seem like the typical wildlife guardian. However, his tone was.

He asked me: “Who are you and why are you here,” to which, I responded by showing him my press documents and a copy of Y Magazine. 

Surprisingly, after that he calmed down, and eventually, after much talk, revealed how the area was off-limits to the public for photography. 

The reason for that, as it turns out, is that poachers come in from neighbouring countries to hunt for these animals.

So, the only legal way in would be to seek permission from the Diwan in Al Khuwair.

Out of courtesy, the ranger didn’t ask me to delete the pictures but he and his colleagues can confiscate your belongings and give you a warning if they find you loitering around without permission.

I’ve since checked online to find out more details of the wildlife reserve but to no avail. The nearest reserve is the Ras al Jinz, which is only famed for its turtles. This makes me wonder if the reserve is covertly a part of the Ras al Shajar reserve, which lies a few kilometres away from my point of entry.

I’m waiting for an answer to that one but I’m still hoping to organise a tour of the reserve over the coming weeks.

The Fins village may be one of the busiest villages I’ve come across recently – but it’s funny how a short walk will take you to a spot that not many know is home to some of the most exotic animals you’ll ever see in your life.

How strange it is that my trip to a humble village would end up with me invading a wildlife reserve? Truly, this must be the most interesting job on the planet. 

How to get there:

Fins Village is a mere one-and-a-half-hour drive away. To get there, you’ll need to take the Sultan Qaboos Highway and take the turn towards the Route 17 road that leads to Al Amerat. Follow the road until you reach Bimmah. Once there, you’ll see signboards that will take you to Fins.