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With a population of hardly 12,000 people, Masirah Island is where you go to escape to a place where life is a bit slower, the sea breeze a little faster and the camels and sea turtles probably outnumbering the vehicles that roam the island.
After a 5-hour drive to Shannah port from Muscat and then a 45-minute ferry ride, the island welcomes you to a paradise where the sky meets the sea and where keen eyes will be able to fully appreciate how the waters fade into different shades of blue.
Located on the eastern coast of mainland Oman, Masirah is in itself a magical place made enchanted by nearly empty beaches mostly blanketed with white, powdery sand reminiscent of those found in the Maldives.
Our recent visit had us drove to Shannah Port via Mahout (Route 23) but you can also take the alternate route via the longer coastal route passing through Sur and Al Ashkarah. Being my first trip to the island, I was impressed to learn that the ferry leaves every 30 minutes. We took the National Ferry while going to the island but opted for the private ferry on our way back to Muscat.
Once you are on the island, there are plenty of beaches to camp. We decided to camp at Shati Bayad beach on the first night and Ras Al Kayda the following night.
The climate is cooler in Masirah benefitting from the same monsoon conditions that transform Dhofar into a lush paradise. Spied by a pale full moon, our first night camp became an unforgettable experience when our camp was mobbed by baby sea turtles that were trying to find their way to the sea but ended up in our mat instead. We collected nearly three dozen of them, put them in a bucket and dash towards the ocean to help them find the waves.
While I was taken aback at the beginning, I realised that there was something philanthropic about helping the turtles back to the ocean. Other inhabitants of the island came at night to help drive back the baby sea turtles back to the water. It became one of the highlights of the trip.
While putting back the sea turtles to the water was an exciting experience, it was made more dramatic when a huge elusive mother turtle began inching her way towards the dry part of the beach. She was on a mission to find a good spot to lay her eggs. Watching the elusive and huge sea turtle crawl on the silver lit sands was an experience I am not able to express in words.
We traversed Masirah from one end to the other helping me realise that the island has a rocky interior and with hills dividing each part. It is also gated by gorgeous sandy beaches from nearly every point. A sanctuary for fishermen, the island has been blessed with the bounty of the sea allowing them to harvest kingfish, lobsters and prawns nearly all year round.
Masirah is also home to flamingos and herons that patrol the coast by the day and the fleet of ghost crabs that march ashore at night. Water sports are a key attraction, particularly kite surfing as there is always ample wind here, the lagoon is very shallow and the water is warm. Uniquely, there’s a school of non-migrating humpback whales. The island is also frequented by over 300 species of birds, many of whom are rare.
Masirah, when you look at it realistically, have a few challenges in its path. For instance, the main town of Hilf has a handful of shops and restaurants. Some reasonable beach resorts are also available and the potential of the island is eclipsed by the friendliness of its offerings which are currently limited.
Whatever cannot be found in Masirah is a blessing as camping is the best way to go. For this trip, it was meticulously planned and perfectly organised by Ahmed al Jabri and he has once again proven that apart from being famous for his drone camera clicks, he is also one of the best in finding the hidden treasures of Oman.
When in Oman, there’s nothing like spending an entire weekend by the blue sea watching the moon gets brighter and the night goes deeper while the water sparkle with bluish silver as the moonlight reflects on it. The amazing offering of Masirah is made even more fun by a great company — laughing at silly jokes while sharing nice, DIY meals. Going to Masirah can be an amazing trip — a perfect nourishment to your usually stressed psyche.
Some Useful facts:
Transportation: Muscat to Shannah Port can be travelled by any car. But I would personally recommend SUVs as they allow more space for carrying camping gear and provide better comfort in the long drives. We travelled by a saloon car and didn’t face any issue within the island to reach the beaches we have selected to stay or explore.
Ferry: From Shannah Port, two types of ferries are available. Private ferries are basic in nature and charge RO 8 per car whereas National Ferry Corporation providing you with ample comfort charges RO 8 per car and RO 3.5 per person. They provide two separate sitting areas along with modern best quality toilets. If you are truly lucky, you can have a view of the sunset while the sea.
Shops: Hilf town has some shops and restaurants from where you can pick up any food items or necessary camping items in case you missed to carry along. From any of the beaches, this town is easily accessible and it takes about 30 minutes to drive to the town from any part of the Island.
Telecommunication: Some of the places have network issues, especially if you are camping in the interiors. In some spots, only Omantel network works.
Caution Facts: Most of the beaches in Masirah are nesting sites for turtles so always be mindful of where you camp or stay. During the hatching season, make sure not to use bright lights as these distract the hatchlings. Above photography with lights as this also scares the bigger turtles. Avoid driving by the beach areas especially in the dark. You can help put back the sea turtles near the shores if you find them lost or wandering. Weather: 24/7 you have a fresh running breeze. During khareef season, the temperature in the morning may be up to 30 degrees but nights are pleasant and mostly between 18-22 degrees. We all wore a light jacket to feel a bit warm at night. It may be a bit hotter during the peak of summer.
Cleanliness: Keeping the beaches clean is our responsibility. After every camp or visit, make sure to clean to place and leave nothing more but your footprint.
Activities: The island is very famous for kite surfing, kayaking & snorkelling. There’s also plenty of swimming and diving areas. One can also hike the small mountains near the beaches and get an aerial view of its surrounding beauty. For camping trips, you can reach out to Ahmed al Jabri through his Instagram @ahmed_aljaabri