The Damaniyat Islands: Home To Oman’s Natural Aquarium Gulf Of Oman

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26 May 2019 Posted By Y Magazine

Overview

Aftab H. Kola finds an unspoiled haven with a stunning eco-system that’s home to all manner of wildlife.

Plumbing the turquoise-blue waters, silence prevails; a serenity unlike anything on shore, and yet there is a sense of mystique. You are amidst the colourful corals, an integral part of the ecosystem.

With two major seas abutting Oman – the Arabian Sea and the Sea of Oman – it has a collection of over 530 square kilometres of amazing coral reefs that support more than 100 coral and 580 fish species.

Thousands of marine birds make it as their home in summer unfolding a stunning canvas at the Damaniyat Islands. Seventy kilometres west of the shores of Muscat, an archipelago of nine tiny islands make up the Damaniyat Islands.

Bound by Muscat Governorate in the north, and the Wilayat of Barka in Al Batinah region in the east, the Damaniyat Islands Reserve is a wonderful getaway for frenzied souls.

This picturesque chain of islands along the coast of Wilayat Seeb and Wilayat Barka is rich in marine and terrestrial wildlife.

Declared as a Natural Reserve by Royal Decree in April 1996, the Damaniyat Islands are accessible only by boat. The most important ones are Al Jabel Al Kabir, Awald Jon, Lumia, Al Hayout, Al Jabal Al Saghir, Al Kharabah and Al Momalah. 

This reserve is also considered a natural heritage museum surrounded by sea water and has great potential for environmental tourism, taking into account the policies and regulation to be observed when visiting such places.

The Islands are also rich in coral reefs, of rich colours, shapes and textures, which extend for about 15 kilometres along the rocky coastline.

It is really a delight for natural life explorers who wish to discover the wondrous attraction of this place.

These colourful coral reefs form wonderful formations that attract a large number of tourists fond of scuba diving, and those who like to enjoy the natural beauty.

The immense variety of migratory birds is one of the common features of the Islands, too. The common tern prefers to nest on the vegetated islands while other species of terns opt for the open land. Red-billed tropical birds nest on the north face of the cliff while the magnificent ospreys nest in winter months on top of the more prominent cliff.

The Reserve is considered a safe haven for green and hawksbill turtles that come to nest on the beach because the area is free of predators like dogs and foxes. Marine mammals like bottlenose, common and spinner dolphins and the humpback whales all make their home here.

These islands are composed of prominent limestone rocks and ancient coral reefs. To the north, they slope steeply under the sea to depths of more than 25 metres. To the south, they are flanked by shallow sandy sea with extensive coral reefs. The separation of these Islands from the coast contributes to the preservation of their unspoilt nature.

There are 15 types of wild plants, most of which grow in Kharaba and Big Mountain, creating a perfect habitat for the nesting birds. Besides this, there are various types of marine weeds and algae — sources of food for turtles and mammals.

Dolphins and whale sharks, and black-headed whales swarm the waters surrounding the island along with fish such as greasy grouper (locally known as hammour), emperor (sheri), mackerel (kanad), tuna and ornamental fishes. Some types of reptiles and sea snakes are also found here.

Camping is only allowed in the (Al Jabal Al Kabeer) Big Mountain and Al Joune islands. To maintain the environmental balance in the islands, tourists are advised not to take dogs or other plant seeds that might grow in the area. All protective procedures should be taken to preserve the beauty of this place. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs of Oman is constantly carrying out the Marine Life Preservation project under Reef Check Oman (a community-based NGO partially funded by the government) to restore coral damage.

Regulations require a written permit from the ministry for visiting the island. A maximum of 12 people or five tents are allowed. Regulations also specify the fees for obtaining permits for importing/exporting endangered animals. Camping is not permitted between May and October because that is the time the green turtles return to the island. 


How to get there?


The islands are located around 17km offshore in the waters between Barka and Seeb and can take between 30 minutes to one hour by boat to get there. Chartering a boat or booking a tour is essential. The islands are clustered into three groups, while the Damaniyat Islands Nature Reserve is comprised of nine smaller rocky islets.

GPS Coordinates:  23.8556° N, 58.0881° E

Location

Gulf Of Oman
Length:
Difficulty: Easy
Dist. from Muscat:


GPS Location

23.8556° N, 58.0881° E


Known For

Adventure, Beautiful beach, Family Tour, Oman Sights


TRAVEL GUIDE

The islands are located around 17km offshore in the waters between Barka and Seeb and can take between 30 minutes to one hour by boat to get there. Chartering a boat or booking a tour is essential. The islands are clustered into three groups, while the Damaniyat Islands Nature Reserve is comprised of nine smaller rocky islets.


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