Every weekend, dozens of cars breeze through the sandy beaches of Al Khaluf towards the pristine shores of the Sugar Dunes — nicknamed as such because of its white, powdery dunes that are as white as sugar.
Nearly six hours from Muscat, it’s quite a long drive but even that seems not to matter for many of these weekend warriors who are always on the prowl for remote escapes and new adventures.
While Muscat is seething with heat especially between June and September, the coastal area in Mahoot and Al Khaluf are often relatively cooler thanks to the sea breeze that provides Salalah and Masirah their friendlier temperature.
We left Muscat at noon on Thursday and arrived on the shores of Al Khaluf just before sundown. Even though it was not officially weekend yet, nearly all of the pocket beaches had campers on them which resulted in us driving farther deep into an area that can only be reached by four-wheel drives.
Organized by Oman Outdoor Adventure founder Ahmed al Jaabri, our target location was a cave that has grown in popularity on social media. While the cave remains nameless, it has several nice features that we thought made it worth the visit.
Camping for the evening, we settled on a cliff where we have access to the beach that on its own was already an attraction because of its pale pink sand thanks to the very tiny pink shells that littered the area.
We headed to the cave very early the next morning and surprisingly, a group of young Omanis already beat us to the cave. We passed through a tiny passageway that at one point we have to duck to get inside. The young Omanis had set up a picnic mat and had laid out a hefty breakfast on the ground. Barely a meter away, strong waves ebb and flow into the mouth of the cave, the chamber kept cool by the often strong breeze.
The cave was about 60 to 80 square meters wide with a mouth that opens into the sea at about 10 feet wide. Seeing it with my eyes, I understand people’s fascination with the cave. While the waters were too rough to swim during our visit, the view is quite phenomenal. From the mouth of the cave, one will see other great land formations that were amazing in photos.
Sitting inside the cave, one will hear the symphony of the crashing waves and the cooling breeze.
“Families go here for a picnic. It’s a nice setup where you have a good view of the ocean. I saw it several times on social media and thought it was a cool setup. I love the idea that you have to pass through this narrow passage and it opens up into this nice view,” Al Jaabri said.
As a photographer, that was enough to convince Al Jaabri to find it.
It wasn’t surprising that the cave only got popular in Muscat recently. The place has been known to locals for quite some time. We’ve proven its popularity when about an hour after we arrived, five other cars parked near where we parked our car. In the same manner, these visitors not only explored the cave but some hiked the hill where it was located while others swam in calmer beach several meters away.
Surrounding the cave are more pocket beaches some more inviting than the others. The visitors kept coming even as we drove away.
While the cave of Al Khaluf is definitely a must-see, there was one thing that was quite alarming.
Despite the cave’s remote location including its surrounding beaches, plastic trash is becoming a real eyesore and danger.
Walking for about an hour in the long stretch of sandy and rocky beaches, tons of plastic are scattered everywhere. From shopping bags to water bottles, they either float in the water or littered what would have been pristine beaches. Because of its remote location, nobody has come to pick them up and with the number of campers that visit weekly, this trash will just grow in number until they become a real menace not only to the people visiting but also to the wildlife that depends on these beaches.
If you’re going for a visit, make sure to look after your own trash and leave the beaches cleaner than when you found them.