leisure: Quest for adventure

Quest for adventure

While meetings may be largely confined to venues located in Oman’s low-rise, sandstone cities, once business has been taken care of, it would be a missed opportunity not to venture outside and explore the diverse landscape.

With a fantastic array of natural attractions and stunning scenery to enjoy, incentive groups can take their pick from a range of activities that showcase the best of the destination’s natural beauty. Whether trekking in the mountains or deep-sea fishing off the coast, there is plenty to inspire.

 INTO THE BLUE

 Those who like to spend time on the water will be pleased to know that the vast majority of Oman’s coastal hotels also offer a range of water-based activities, from snorkelling to jetskiing. There is also a number of independent activity centres that cater well to visitors.

Marine life is abundant and includes marlin, yellow fin tuna, barracuda and dorado. Hence, a deep-sea fishing excursion can be an exhilarating way to end a business trip.

 If getting wet isn’t on the agenda, why not consider a traditional dhow cruise or dolphin watching at daybreak. Here’s our pick of the best…

Dedicated to diving

 With more than 3,000 kilometres of coastline, deep canyons and arguably the most spectacular underwater scenery in the Middle East, divers will not be disappointed. There are several dive centres catering to all abilities so everyone from novices to seasoned divers can get a piece of the action.

 Global Scuba

Based in the Civil Aviation Club, Global Scuba is close to Muscat International Airport. It is also nearby some of Muscat’s major hotels, including the InterContinental Muscat, Grand Hyatt Muscat Hotel and the Radisson Blu Hotel, Muscat, making it extremely easy to end a day of meetings with a relaxing evening dive.

 Global Scuba specialises in diving at the Al-Dimaniyat Nature Reserve. Under the protection of the Oman Ministry of Environment, it is considered one of the best diving sites in the Middle East. The dive centre has been awarded a certi_cate by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs for the work it has done at the Daymaniyat Islands towards preserving the marine environment.

On offer is a full range of NAUI and PADI courses including NAUI Scuba Diver and PADI Open Water for those who wish to learn to dive. Experienced divers can try wreck diving over a tug boat at Fahal Island or at Bandar Khairan, Al Munassir.
+968 2 4692346
global-scuba.com

 

 Extra Divers

One of the most popular dive centres is Extra Divers at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa located in a mountainous setting overlooking the crystal waters of the Gulf of Oman. Dive boats take guests into a colourful world of corals and a sensational variety of marine life, with the chance to see moray eels, stingray, tuna, turtles and pods of dolphins. Sure to get the heart racing are the sharks, including zebra, nurse, white-tip reef sharks and, on occasion, whale sharks.

 Extra Divers has a multilingual team and offers a selection of dive experiences, including two morning tank dives, sunrise and sunset dives, as well as trips to the stunning Dimaniyat Islands, just over an hour’s boat ride away. Dive courses are also available from beginner to instructor level and all are in line with SSI, PADI and CMAS standards.

 In addition to dive options, snorkelling and dolphin watching trips are available on request.

All services are available for both resort and outside guests and are dependent on weather conditions.
 +968 2 4776042
 shangri-la.com/muscat/ barraljissahresort

 

Oman Dive Centre

A unique dive resort featuring traditional Omani-style accommodation, a seaside restaurant and beach bar, Oman Dive Centre is located 20 minutes from Muscat’s historical quarter inside one of the bays of Bandar Jissah.

The resort comprises 30 individual barasti bungalows dotted along the secluded private beach among desert plants and flowers. The dive centre offers diving courses, fun dives, snorkelling trips, coastal tours, sunset cruises and dolphin-watching trips and rents out equipment including kayaks and body boards. Beautiful corals are visible just a stone’s throw from the shore.
+968 2 4824240
 omandivecenter.info

 

Observe the dolphins

 Dolphin-watching cruises depart from Muscat’s Marina Bandar Al Rawda and typically last two to three hours, taking in the various coves and inlets that line the coastline. Travelling north to Musandam, adventure-seekers will discover a host of boat trips heading out across the Arabian fjords. Pods of dolphins are a frequent sight from the deck, while the more daring can dive under the waves and discover a colourful underwater world.

GO DEEP-SEA FISHING

With the slogan ‘Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time’, No Boundaries Oman is an ecology-conscious deep-sea fishing company. It offers snorkelling, turtle and whale watching (depending on the time of year), as well as teambuilding activities.

No Boundaries is based in the southern region of Oman within easy access of the Hallaniyats – islands 50 kilometres off shore – that offer one of the last untouched fisheries in the world and are home to the only non-migratory humpback whales in existence.

 The company provides refuge for huge pods of dolphin, manta rays, turtles and, most exciting of all, game fish. No Boundaries Oman is a family-run company with comfortable lodges just off the beach.
+968 9 5951810
 noboundariesoman.com

 

GET A FOOTHOLD ON NATURE

 Northern Oman presents great opportunities to organise incentive challenges in its impressive Hajar Mountains, with the dominating peaks perfect for extensive climbing and trekking.

The Ministry of Tourism has sponsored the installation of several ‘via ferrata’ routes in Oman. From the Italian, literally meaning ‘iron way’, via ferrata are mountain routes with fixed wire cables, metal rungs and ladders. These allow adventurous walkers and climbers to ascend steep rock faces in relative safety. At the time of writing, the routes are closed for maintenance and are to be upgraded and improved. However, there remains a good network of marked hiking routes where walkers must pass over boulders and other challenging terrain.

 

ENJOY A RELAXED PACE

 Those not keen on extreme activities can enjoy a meander around Muscat, starting at Muttrah port, a natural harbour currently being turned into a cruise hub. The dhow anchorage, fish market and old buildings with charming balconies and turquoise blue shutters have preserved its authenticity. Don’t miss the famed Muttrah souk. Still used for the daily shop by local residents, it is also a treasure trove of souvenirs.

Muscat has several historical buildings that warrant a half-day tour, including the impressive Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque with its five minarets, the Royal Palace on the seafront and two old Portuguese forts that guard the entrance to the harbour.

If time allows, just outside Muscat there are palm plantations and ancient forts, mountains and deserts to explore.

 In northeastern Oman, at the foot of Jebel Shams, Al Hoota caves are well worth a visit. Estimated to be more than two million years old and now open to the public with a geological exhibition, gift shop and restaurant, the area can be best explored by taking the 45-minute tour along 500 metres of walkways. The 4.5-kilometre-long cave features two lakes and is home to rare blind fish, as well as stalactites and stalagmites.

 Visitors interested in wildlife should take an excursion to view Oman’s turtles. With a lifespan of more than 100 years, several species have made the beaches of Ras Al Hadd and Masirah Island their destination of choice and return annually to lay their eggs.

 Located east of Sur City, Ras Al Jins beach in the Ras Al Hadd Turtle Reserve has a visitor centre with 14rooms, a restaurant, gift shop and guided evening viewing excursions when the green turtles come home to dig their nests in the sand. Visitors are requested not to touch or disturb the turtles in any way.

 A special feature of the desert is the wadis. With deep pools and palm tree fringes they are ideal for picnics, while getting to them can be an adrenaline-filled trek for the fit and adventurous.

 

CALLING ALL SPECTATORS

 The Tour of Oman takes place annually in February, luring an impressive line-up of leading cyclists to tackle the grueling terrain. There are usually 16 teams and hundreds of thousands of spectators come out in force to see the competition.

The fourth edition of the Tour of Oman took place from February 11 to 16, 2013 and was won by Britain’s Chris Froome. The route challenged riders to a 938.5-kilometre, six-stage course over varied terrain, including an awe-inspiring climb up the Jabal Al Akhdar (Green Mountain) at the close of the fourth stage. To find out more visit tourofoman.om