The desert can be an intimidating place. Not only is it dry and dreary but in the winter, it can be unforgivingly cold. It can also be filled with hidden dangers including venomous animals that can strike at any given moment when your presence becomes a threat to them.
But if you know how to transform the desert to become your friend, it can be a fun place to be at. Now that winter is officially here, exciting opportunities for desert adventures also started to pop up.
Have you seen those long caravan of Jeeps headed for the desert and wondered what they are going to do? Chances are, they might cross the desert or embark on some dunes bashing.
But other than camping in some places where the sand meets the sea like Al Khaluf and Ras al Ruwais, here are other fun adventures you can do while exploring the Sultanate of Oman's fast-shifting sands.
This is probably one of the most low-key yet equally exhilarating adventures you can do in the desert. All you need is a good sand dune, a longboard that can be attached to your feet with leather straps and a lot of courage to scale a 10-storey high dune.
"Sandboarding, as of late, has become very popular amongst guests coming to Oman visiting the desert. While the majority of the players are young males, it is an activity that can be done by everyone even children or women," shared Anurin Jensen, the general manager of the famed Desert Nights Camp located in Al Wasil, in Rimal al Sharqiyah.
Sandboarding borrows a few tricks from surfing but instead of riding the water, you are riding the sand. The board, usually polished to achieve maximum speed, had to be masterfully navigated so it stays on top of the sand.
While desert camps like Desert Nights provide boards for their guests, DIYs can also be used. If you have an old skateboard from home, you can remove the wheels, cover the holes and polish the board so that you can also enjoy this type of activity.
For as long as many of us can remember, deserts will always be associated with camels. Absent cars, Bedouin tribes and desert travellers in the past only use the aid of camels to cross long desert distances.
More than an attraction, the camel rides offered in different camps across the Sultanate of Oman is also an opportunity to appreciate the contribution of the desert ships in making life comfortable. As an important part of their community, Bedouins also value their camels not only for the services they render but also because of the meat, milk and assistance they provide.
"As an attraction, we also take every camel ride an opportunity for people to understand Oman's Bedu tribe. When guests go for camel rides, they can interact with our Bedu staff who are happy to share insights about their way of life amongst other things sacred to their society," Jensen said.
If you're planning to try this out, be ready for a bumpy ride and make sure to hold tight upon embarkation or disembarkation. It's the kind of experience that you can treasure. It's not every day that you get to try it out.
Popular as an outdoor activity all over the world, dunes bashing is comparatively as exciting as any roller coaster ride. But rather than rely on the precision of metals and gears, this activity also strongly requires good driving skills.
For a lot of people in Oman, dunes bashing has become a beloved activity with many of the accessible dunes nearly seeing dozens of bashers daily. Nearest to Muscat is the Barka dunes. A trip to the desert won't be complete without this wild ride.
"Dunes can be intimidating so if you successfully make it to the top and back down, it kind of speaks to your ability as a good driver. This is why dunes bashing is popular as a desert activity. It's done pretty much all year round and every time there is a good dune, adrenaline-junkies will not be able to resist scaling those heights," Jensen said.
With plenty of deserts all over the country, this activity is done from Barka, to Rimal al Sharqiyah even in the wide expanse of the Empty Quarter.
"We won't recommend this activity to newbie drivers. You must be confident with your driving skills before you even embark on trying it out. For our guests, we usually have experienced Omani drivers who show them how it's done. When done safely and in the right way, it can be an amazing experience," Jensen said.
For those who can't do 4-wheel drives for dune bashing, the best alternative for you is quad biking.
"This activity allows you to have almost the same thrill of commanding your own vehicle. We provide both quad bikes for adults and children and the thrill of this adventure includes being able to see in a distance the true beauty of the desert," Jensen said.
"Quad bike" comes from the four wheels that were designed for cross country riding on the sand. They are also easier to control and are heavier so the chance of you flipping over is less.
"It scared me to try at first. But when you get the gist of it, it's an enjoyable ride. If a woman in her late 50s can do it, so can anybody else," shared Charry Dasovich who visited Oman for a few days to check out what adventures are available in the country.
"This is one fun adventure I will never forget. Driving around the desert with these vehicles, it's really a must-try," she recommended.
Whether you want to catch the sunrise or sunset, the best way to be right on time is by camping on the desert sand.
"Camping has been a time-honoured tradition in Oman. During winter, dozens of groups visit different locations for camping. The fun part of it is putting up a bonfire, cooking some delicious meals or barbecue, and then feeling that cold breeze of the desert," shared Jensen.
There are numerous desert camping grounds all over Oman. The best choices include those in Rimal al Sharqiyah, Ras Ruwais and the nearby coastal deserts.
"It's impossible to find families in Oman not to have been able to camp in the desert in winter. For those who are unable to live without modern comfort, that's the exact reason why we introduce glamping -- or glamorous camping. You can stay in a luxury tent. You will have the same camping experience but with a proper bed, a proper toilet and bath and all the camping activities like bonfire without sacrificing comfort," Jensen said.
"To fully experience Oman, you have to also understand what the desert is all about. What fun things you can do on it and what safe adventures you can take. For anyone visiting the country in winter, I would highly encourage you to embark on your desert adventure," Jensen encouraged.
To check out more fun desert adventures, you can follow Desert Nights Camp on Instagram at @officialdesertnightscamp.