Surrounded by cars in different levels of disarray, the lone petrol station in Al Khaluf looks forlornly into the sea. Without seeing the hidden wonders of its beaches and deserts, one would wonder why someone will choose to settle in such a desolate place.
A few metres away from the petrol station, a greasy makeshift garage is also surrounded by old cars, some of which I haven’t seen since the 1990s.
There are a few shops here and there selling food and goods and the villages are far apart that one may need to drive for 30 minutes just to buy some house items.
The villages are spread across the wide expanse of Al Khaluf. A part of Al Wusta Governorate, it’s been attracting campers and outdoor junkies in the last few years because of the incomparable experiences it provides.
One of the coastal villages by the highway is home to perhaps 70 per cent of the total population of Al Khaluf. It’s a village you won’t miss as from the road, the busy coast is filled with fishermen either hauling boats or are coming off from the dozens of dhows floating in the distance.
“Al Khaluf is an amazing place you can escape to. Depending on the road you take, it can either take 5 or 7 hours to drive with the coastal road much farther than the Adam-Thamrait Rd’’, shared Ahmed al Jabri, one of the pioneers who’s helped built up Al Khaluf as a camping destination.
When we arrived at Khaluf’s coastal village past 3 pm, the beach was nearly abandoned with but a few fishermen driving off from the beach to head home. Surprisingly, Al Wusta’s temperature is better compared to Muscat playing at around 28 to 30 degrees Celsius.
Even from this village, the beach is already showcasing what the rest of the wilayat is all about — powdery white sand fading into the aqua-blue-emerald waters of the sea.
‘I’d been to Khaluf so many times and whenever I come to visit, I always discover something new’’, Al Jabri shared.
“It’s filled with many natural wonders and together with the locals, we managed to identify many natural attractions which to this day, had been the reason why people are driving 5 to 7 hours long just to experience’’, he said.
“When we started visiting Khaluf about six years ago, there were barely any places to stay except on tents or camps. But the frequent visits had stirred a few economic activities. For example, some homes are now available for rent for those who are looking to stay in Al Khaluf with their families’’, he shared.
“Absent a proper hotel, Khaluf was only accessible to campers in the past but with these houses catering to short-staying guests, even families with kids can come and enjoy its beautiful beaches. I’m looking forward to the establishment of better tourist accommodations and restaurants. I think when those become available, the place will become more accessible’’, he said.
The pride of Khaluf is the area everyone calls Sugar Dunes located about a 30-minute drive inwards passing through the shores teeming with birds and a rough landscape with patches of dying plants and wind-swept rocks.
“It used to be just a fisherman’s getaway but now, nearly every weekend, it is visited by people from the nearby wilayats and even campers from Muscat,” Al Jabri said.
“Over time, the cave of Khaluf has also risen in popularity. It’s quite a nice spot where you have to pass through this tiny opening in a hill that leads into a chamber that eventually opens up into the usually angry sea,” he shared.
“Other than the powdery white sand beaches, some beaches have also faintly pink sand because of the millions of micro shells that are mixed into the sand. These are quite fascinating to watch especially during the sunsets,” he added.
If travelling to Al Khaluf, these are some of Ahmed’s notes:
Travel Time: Al Khaluf can be reached via two road networks. One can be through the newly built tunnel in Samayil while the other through the coastal roads of Sur and Al Ashkarah. The Adam-Thamrait Road via Samayil usually takes about 5 hours while the coastal trip will usually be two hours longer.
Transportation: While saloon cars can easily pass through the paved roads from Muscat to the main village in Khaluf, visiting the Sugar Dunes and other attractions will definitely need a 4WD. It is therefore recommended to take a 4WD to fully enjoy the place.
Attractions: People usually visit Al Khaluf for three reasons: the Sugar Dunes and the nearby white-sand beaches ideal for camping, the Khaluf Caves (there is a shallower cave located at the opposite end of the popular cave) and the nearby scenic cliffs, and the pink beaches.
Activities: There are numerous activities you can do in Khaluf but most of them, you have to bring the gears yourself. The Sugar Dunes is ideal for dune bashing while the shores are ideal for kayaking and snorkelling. If you don’t have the gears, renting for them in advance can be arranged. Some groups also organise camping trips to Khaluf so if you’re looking for more convenience, be prepared to shell out around RO 30 or more.
What to Expect: Finding toilets and accommodations is hard. If you’re travelling with family, you can rent one of the available villas in the area but this usually means booking it in advance.
There are very limited places that sell foods and goods. If planning for a two or three-day camping, make sure to bring along ample supply. Once you’re in the Sugar Dunes, the drive back to the village is about 30 minutes long so always do a last-minute check for supplies before you drive into the unknown.
Always look after your safety. Khaluf is a very remote location that if you get into some serious accidents, it will take hours before you reach a hospital. Always bring with you some safety kits.
Clean after yourself. Due to its location, it’s very hard for public cleaners to come to pick up your garbage. Make sure to bring with you all your trash and dispose of them properly as Al Khaluf is currently suffering from sanitation issues. Don’t add to the problem.