With areas belonging to the Al Wusta Nature Reserve, it is easy to get lost in the spectacular and deceptive terrain of Barr al Hikman. You can drive for hours here in circles, not finding anything but long stretches of white, powdery shores. With no cell reception and most of the roads being nothing more than depressions on the ground made by the coming and going of vehicles, unaccompanied first-timers usually end up getting stuck in muddy traps.
As a protected area, there are no major infrastructures in this shorebird paradise except for the wooden shelters built by fishermen, the majority of whom congregate along the safe zones of the coast where the shores do not go underwater when the tide is high.
In the last five years, Barr al Hikman has grown in popularity as a camper's paradise, earning for itself the nickname "the Maldives of Oman" because of its beautiful sand bars. Extreme adventurers also discovered that the area offers the perfect haven for different adventures, from kayaking to more challenging sports like wind and kitesurfing.
The introduction of Whales Head Camp to Barr al Hikman was an organic response to the different needs of campers and adventure lovers who wanted to experience the beauty of this remote area. Because of the major challenges posed by the terrain, the camp became a focal point not just for different activities but also established itself as an icon, becoming a reference when traveling to the area.
Over the weekend, we finally had the chance to explore Barr al Hikman again after nearly five years and were quite happy and relieved that there's a place you can pass by to get information or help in cases of emergency. The creation of the camp didn't happen overnight, nor was it meant to be structured. The camp is comprised of the main structure, which is about three stories high, with the lower level being nothing more than the stilt foundation supporting the second and third wooden floors. Surrounding it are different Arabian tents.
At the front of this wooden structure are a couple of whale skeletons, which probably inspired the name of the camp. The walls on the second level are adorned with different shells salvaged from the wide shores of Barr al Hikman. There is a main sleeping quarter at the center, while two sheds, which were converted into comfy rooms, sit at the opposite end. There's a porch that wraps around the second floor and a series of stairs that lead from the ground floor, with one leading to the top floor.
The top floor is made up of a shed transformed into a sleeping quarter, surrounded by a sun deck covered with fake grass. It is from the top floor that you can have a sweeping view of the surrounding area. The area where the camp found a home is a perfect location, as during high tide, the water runs around the sandbar but offers plenty of ground for activities like volleyball and other land-based sports. Seeing the beautiful waters during high tide provides a perfect explanation of why it's also an ideal place for kayaking, which the camp also offers.
It is important to understand that the camp is not luxurious but a great alternative for families wanting to explore and enjoy Barr al Hikman with access to bathrooms and safe sleeping quarters. The camp also offers meals, which is a great advantage for those who want the convenience of having a place to stay and eat.
What I personally love about the camp is the friendliness of the owner and the safe haven they offer in the middle of nowhere. In some form, they are also helping expand the message of environmental conservation by making sure to put up signs and remind guests to mind their trash, as well as raising awareness about the area's biodiversity.
Since 2007, Barr Al Hikman has been a focal point for international research efforts, attracting marine ecologists from esteemed institutions like the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). These collaborations, forged in the spirit of scientific inquiry, exemplify the importance of studying and preserving this invaluable coastal treasure. This coastal haven not only harbors unparalleled biodiversity but also offers a unique vantage point for unraveling the intricate web of natural processes that shape coastal ecosystems. Its significance transcends borders, drawing attention to it as a globally pivotal wetland area crucial for sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem health.
If you're going to Barr al Hikman, chances are you will most likely end up passing by Whales Head Camp since it has become an attraction in itself. From watching the sunset to enjoying the night sky or engaging in different water and land-based activities, it's a great alternative to where to stay.