Have you ever heard of the Musandam Peninsula? If you are like me I’ve never heard of this place, but after reading about it online, I knew I wanted to check it out. When I travel I always want to see the natural environment and get outside. But when I went to Dubai last year I noticed that besides the desert safari, there was not many outdoor activity options. But then a colleague in my lab told me about Musandam Peninsula, only a 3 hour drive North from Dubai. It is famous for its amazing mountains and fjord-like valleys. There’s also some really unique dive spots, since it’s right in between the Arabian Gulf, and the Gulf of Oman.
I knew I was going to UAE for a conference, and I’m all for making the most out of my carbon emissions and decided to head there early. A few others were thinking the same so me, Lucy, and Wally took the same flight departing Jeddah at 5 AM, and we touched down in Abu Dhabi around 9 am. We didn’t have our car rental booked, and we were a bit nervous when the first three car rental agency’s said they didn’t have any cars left that could drive into Oman. But finally we went with Hertz. The worker was so kind and helped us finding the cheapest deal. We went with a toyata yaris and paid $100 total for three days. So split between us it was very reasonable. We were recommended to just buy insurance at the boarder because it was cheaper than through the car company, so we took his advice. He also told us about an app called “Here we go” which tells you directions as well as letting us know when we go over the speed limit. It was useful, although we did get lost while driving through Dubai. But we accidentally drove by the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world) which was pretty cool! The drive was pretty uneventful, with desert surrounding us for most of the ride. We stopped for lunch at a Burger King where I was happy to find a veggie burger on the menu. We continued North heading towards the Musandam peninsula. The boarder crossing was very annoying and very long. It required us to pay a small fee to leave UAE, and another to get into Oman. We also had to buy Omani car insurance. There were literally no signs telling us what to do so we just kinda went into the two large buildings and figured it out. It took us maybe 1.5 hours in total of waiting in line to get through the car inspection. It was a bit of a pain in the ass but we knew it was coming so it’s ok. The drive once we passed through boarder patrol was amazing. It reminded me a bit of Northern Saudi, with huge steep mountains right next to the sea. And dramatic views with a winding road next to the cliff. We got to the town of Khasab eventually after maybe 30 minutes, and found the hotel I booked before the trip. It was the cheapest hotel I could find for three people. It was a tad shitty but it has AC, Wifi, and 3 beds so we were happy. We arrived around 4 pm and decided to walk around the “town” a bit and find the dive shop we would be going out with the next day. We walked past a beautiful fort that had a similar architecture to what I saw in Oman a few years ago.
We dove with a company called Musandam Discovery, and we tried on all our gear so it would be ready the next day. The girl working in the shop was super nice and gave us advice on where to eat. In the rest of the evening We went grocery shopping for breakfast foods and snacks, followed by dinner in town. We found a cheap local place that had lots of veggie options. Afterwards we tried to go to the main resort to visit the bar but iobservance of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday they weren’t selling alcohol. So we ended up getting back at our hotel around 9 and going to bed.
The next morning we woke up early and got ready for our dive. The diving in Musandam has many options, with the better dive sites the farther north around the peninsula. Since we were a group of 8 we were able to go pretty far. The weather started out ok, with a few waves that got us a little bit wet. We found a sheltered cove for our first dive, and conditions were great underwater. But when we popped up to the surface an hour later the winds shifted and there were large waves. The roof of our boat somehow got ripped off and we lost it. Fortunately the conditions under the sea were still pretty good. There was a large amount of fishing gear stuck along the coral was really sad. But I was happy to see a large amount of healthy coral. We also saw lots of eels, some nudibranch, a mermaids purse (shark egg) and a really friendly turtle. Our dive instructor got a headache half way through so me Wally and Lucy just went along on our own pace. It was a lovely dive, the visibility was not as good as the Red Sea, and the coral was not at bright, but I still enjoyed the dive as it had different species. But as I mentioned when we came to the surface the weather was pretty bad so we had to head back towards the town and find another sheltered dive site. We ended up diving at a wreck which was cool. Unfortunately we decided to swim to some coral afterwards and found it to be completely dead which was super sad to see. There were tons of corals that were bleached and others that had algae growing on it.
I’m the afternoon we decided to go for a drive and drive as far as possible back into Khasab. We drove for about 30 minutes and the scenery was breathtaking. We also found a really nice park with tons of locals picnicking and enjoying nature. It was a lovely drive I highly recommend it. When we returned we went to a tourism agency right next to the hyper lulu grocery store and inquired about doing a dolphin dhow boat tour the next day. Apparently all tours are the same price so no bargaining. We were told it might rain but signed up anyway, as week we’re heading back to Abu Dhabi the next day.
We had dinner at the same spot as the night before, and then we got some delicious drinks at the hotel bar. It was such a fun evening.
The next day we were pleasantly surprised to beautiful weather, also flooding in the roads making it clear that it had rained most of the night. But the skies were blue and we were ready for an adventure.
Before our show boat tour we toured the Khasab fort which’s as super cool with nice architecture.
The boat was pretty empty, and the people ok the bait were pretty interesting. I loved hearing about their lives and what brought them to this part of the world. This show boat brought us into the “Omani fjord” which had such cool views, it was so beautiful. In addition to the spectacular landscape we also saw so many humpback dolphins. A girl on our boat said this was her fourth trip and the best dolphin viewing she had experienced. There were few boats out since it was a weekday, meaning the dolphins always wanted to play in the wake of our boat. They’re so cool to watch and I fell in love. We also got to get into the water and snorkel. The total trip was from 9-1 and afterwards we cleaned and packed and were headed to Abu Dhabi for our conference. When leaving Musandam we still had to park and get out of our car twice to cross the boarder, but we didn’t need to pay this time which was good. The trip back to Abu Dhabi took maybe 4 hours.