Wadi bani khalid and turtles!

 

Okay so where did I last leave off? Of course, camping in the wrong town. Our intention was to find Wadi Bani Khalid but we arrived at the wrong one, the other was over an hour away. This might not sound like much but we have a limited amount of mileage per day so we do have to be conscious of driving distance. But we decided, what’s a little extra fee for going over, and headed towards to correct wadi, backtracking towards the sand dunes. Finding it was in the middle of no where (as everywhere we have been). But the maps app came in handy and we just kept on going. Up and down mountain side through tiny villages and along a road literally in the middle of a dried up riverbed. Eventually we came to the end of the road with a few parking spots with a sign saying “welcome tourists”. Well this must be the spot! This is one of the most famous wadis/swimming holes in Oman, so I was picturing a touristy scene. But nope we were the first car here! We followed a bath that lead like five minutes along an irrigation canal, until the amazingly vibrant blue pools came into view. There were a few locals already here, having breakfast at the “restaurant” built next to one of the pools. There were a few bridges connecting the sides of the pools, providing a perfect spot to take photos of the pools. You arrive at a very wide pool, which connects to a narrower one that connects to a little river. We quickly jumped right in to cool off, and started making our way upstream. I was blown away by the beauty. This was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I’ve seen some things! The river reminded me of the Narrows at Zion National Park, just deeper and a lot more blue in color. You could swim/walk for like 20 minutes. There’s so much to see along the way. The end is a cave, which we didn’t even adventure in because we didn’t have a flashlight. If you really didn’t want to get wet they even had a path that you could walk to get there, but why not swim it’s 1,000,000 times better than walking. You climb up waterfalls and slide down lounges and swim under huge boulder caves.IMG_8563IMG_8562IMG_8565IMG_8568IMG_8582 It was unreal, I can’t believe we almost decided to miss this! The best part was that we had a bunch of locals leading us, otherwise I’m not sure I would have been able to make it the whole way. They would hold my camera as I rock climbed and it was hilarious as they told us exactly what rocks to put which hand/foot. We didn’t ask for help but we appreciated their efforts. Every time we would stop to take in the scenery they would patiently wait for us before moving along. We told them that’s it’s fine they could keep going but they always insisted on waiting. I don’t think there’s a huge amount of tourists that visit. There was one particular pool that we could stand in and have small fish nibble our feet and get off the dead skin. It was like a free pedicure! People pay big bucks to have fish eat their feet in salons so we just let them feast. I would occasionally scream and giggle, it takes a while to get used to the feeling of having a fish bubble your toes. It’s funny to me because growing up at the lake house in Maine, I was terrified of fish touching my feet, and here I am allowing them to.

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look carefully at my toes! You will see some lil fishies munching away

Oh have I come a long way! I am still constantly blown away at the things I am capable of doing. Traveling alone in the Middle East, camping in the middle of no where, and just having the time of the life. Obviously I’m not perfect, things go wrong sometimes (duh I missed my flight) but the fact that I can see such incredible sights and experience these things makes me feel super empowered! Traveling really changes your perspective in the world, I’m totally addicted and I know I’ll never stop having this curiosity and longing to experience new cultures and visit as many new places as possible.

 

Sorry for that tangent, anyways, Wadi Bani Khalid, out that on the top of your Oman to do list, it’s incredible!! Only photos can help show the beauty, so here are a few.

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We had a surprisingly delicious lunch buffet at the restaurant at the Wadi. There were actually vegetarian options, like dal (so yummy, I love lentils), rice, mixed veggies, potatoes, and pita bread. The view was so incredible too, highly recommend! After lunch we went back up the river, meeting a new guide who kept showing me new places to “cliff jump” (don’t worry I didn’t do anything crazy). It was a blast, seriously so much fun. It was also nice that this was all freshwater, so I was feeling super clean, almost like I took a shower!

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taking a leap

 

After this Wadi, we headed a few hours towards Sur. Our goal was to end up at Ras Al Hadd to see some turtles nesting. This is another pretty big “attraction” in Oman. We wanted a coffee, so we searched sur for a while (not having much luck, we were also looking for wifi, which is a rarity) and had no Luck. So again we used Maps.me and found their was a Gloria jean’s like 20 minutes away. So worth it, we drove there and got some wifi to google more info about the turtles. Turns out you can’t camp on the turtle beach (Ras al hadd, because it’s a protected turtle reserve). Also turns out you have to pay to go, and you need a tour guide. Also you’re supposed to have a reservation, oops. I last minute emailed them asking if there was any availability and they didn’t respond. So we again looked st a map, and figured if the turtles go to this protected beach, they must also go to other nearby beaches right? We decided to have dinner and then wander along some beaches until we found a good camping spot. For dinner we found a Dominos. Now I usually try not to eat cheese/ dominos but we were desperate to eat something other than Indian food, so we went for it.  Got some veggie pizza and laughed at the fact that we were at a dominos in Oman. Speaking of Dominos, KAUST just opened one so apparently it’s a thing in the Middle East.

 

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thriving

 

We opened up Maps.me and found a beach someone tagged as “turtle watching beach” so we began navigating towards it. I might make these driving portions of the trip sound easy but they’re always an adventure. Down tiny alleyways and dark villages, always with 1,000 speed bumps that come out of no where. They need to work on making signs for speed bumps because they use them so much here and a lot of them blend in. Okay sorry anyways we found a beach, we parked and got out and tried to find a spot on Ras al Jinz beach. Our first place we pulled over had too many cars whizzing past, we needed a quieter spot. We continued on a little first road alongside the beach, and when the dirt ended and it became a sand beach, we pulled over and made camp right Next to our car. So many people stopped to talk to us, I started to get annoyed thinking “leave us alone” but they were just being friendly so we were patient. Eventually one made, Solem (Idk if I spelt that correct) came by saying that he lives right there (pointing at his house near where we were camping) offering us to use his bathroom and asking us if we wanted dinner. We declined the offer and then he asked if we saw the turtles and we said no not yet. He told us he’d come back in an hour and we could look for big nesting turtles. We were excited and said “yes see you here, thank you!” And then settled in our tent. At this point many more cars stopped by, mostly asking to be our guide (which you pay for) and we told them we had one. Other people told us we were allowed to camp there, so we told them we were on Solems property and he told us it was okay. So we kept getting mixed singles if it was actually okay that we were sleeping there. I still have no idea if it was slowed but we did it! Around 10 Solem came back and we headed towards the sea to look for turtles. There were no tourists but plenty of tourists walking about in this fishing village. Within five minutes we came across a massive green sea turtle. He lifted up her tail and shined his flashlight showing up she was laying eggs (this is a debatable action, I don’t condone touching wildlife or shining a light on them) but we let him do his thing he was just trying to be nice.

He also told us he sometimes eats sea turtle eggs and asked if we wanted to and we horrifyingly shook our heads saying no, don’t touch the eggs. Ugh such a cringe-worthy moment. But he knows these beautiful animals are endangered and help increase eco tourism in Oman, so nothing I could say would change his actions. We continued along the beach finding so many massive turtles in various stages of egg lying. Some were climbing out of the water, some were digging deep holes in the sand with their back legs, and others were burying their eggs. It was amazing!!! The moon was also full which I think relates to the abundance of turtles at the beach, so we lucked out. There were so many turtle tracks coming out of the sea it was insane, I can’t even give an estimate the number, but it was a lot. We headed back to our tent, said thank you to Solem, and discussed our next move. We wanted to try to see the babies hatch, which is what the tour at the Ras Al Hadd beach does. But we decided that there’s enough turtles here we were bound to see some hatchlings here. Ann Marie woke up at midnight and headed towards the ocean to see what she can find. She quickly returned to the tent and excitedly told me they were hatching!!! Ahhh guys I watched little baby turtles emerge from the sand and scurry towards the sea. Some were confused and ran towards the lights at the buildings so I picked them out and pointed them towards the sea. Sorry some people would look down on interfering with nature, but technically all these lights build near the beach are interfering with nature so I’m just trying to help these little baby turtles out.IMG_8740IMG_8757IMG_8776IMG_8787IMG_8792IMG_8801IMG_8813 This continued until a man in a truck from a ministry came by and told us we needed a guide. Again we insisted that we were with Solem but he didn’t look to pleased so we just told him we would go to bed and come back at 5 AM. (The conversation was mostly hand gestures and the world turtle) but I gave you the short version. When we started walking back towards our tent he asked if we were done or wanted to see more turtles. This was obviously a little confusing because he had just kicked us off the beach, but we continued onto bed. We woke up for sunrise and strolled the beach and looked at the huge amount of turtle tracks on the beach, but no baby turtles. We decided to drive down the road a bit to the turtle reserve we visited the night prior (and got kicked out) but the worker told us to come back at 5 AM so we did.  At this next beach we saw a huge mama laying her eggs on shore. We continued down the beach a little and helped out a baby turtle who was stuck in a deep hole, I picked it up and directed it towards the ocean. We followed it’s journey until it made it safely to the sea (where the turtle will face a whole new set of obstacles).

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