In the kingdom of the mighty oryx

About 100 km east of Haima, the road leading to Al Wosta Wildlife Reserve looked barren with only shrubs and very small desert bushes dotting the area. Not many people come to this part of the Sultanate. The approximately seven hours drive seem to laze a lot of would-be tourists and only those with passion and intent ever venture to check out one of Oman’s most interesting desert safaris.
While the road is paved from Muscat leading to Haima, 40 km towards the reserve is a tough, muddy road (especially during the rainy season) causing a certain challenge but not something one would have to really worry about.

Photography hobbyists from Friday ShootOut Muscat had been lured to the reserve and although it is home to dozens of interesting and unique species like the Reem and Arabian gazelles, some hares and foxes, hyenas, fowls and other mammals, it is the Arabian oryx that they were most captivated of seeing.
Oryxes usually grow to up to 4.6 feet and in their best health, can weigh more than 200kg. While there are several known species of oryxes, the Arabian oryx is said to be the smallest from among their relatives.
Striking in appearance, their distinctive long horns (found on both male and female) can grow up to 30 inches long and they are described to have short manes with compact muscular bodies with their faces and legs often have black markings that extend from their face to their throat and chest.
Bavish KB shared that he visited the reserve in 2017 with four other friends where they stayed for two days and one night within the reserve’s well-maintained facilities.
“When we got to the reserve, the staff members were very good and friendly. We like their hospitality. The accommodation was also very good while the guides were very knowledgeable. They explained what animals were in the reserve and how they manage them,” he shared.
Nagarajan Palanisamy visited in January of 2019 with friends Dharmendran and Arvind.
It was cold and windy and was welcomed by local guide Mr Haani.
“When you notify them that you will be visiting, they prepare everything that you need. We saw their preparedness for visitors from the rooms to the food. After a lengthy drive from Muscat, a good refreshment was waiting for us,” he said.
Bavish shared that while the oryxes may look friendly, the guide warned them that they have to maintain distance at all times. Oryxes in Africa were known to kill lions and because of this are often called ‘Sabre Antelopes.’
“During our visit, we’ve seen over 500 oryxes not to include the calves. We came during their mating season and were told that mother oryxes can be very aggressive since they need to protect their young ones,” Bavish said.
“The reserve is well-equipped. They have a breeding and veterinary clinic that are well maintained and ready to handle different cases the animals can face. With the oryxes sharing the same space as the gazelles, it was truly a spectacle to watch,” Nagarajan said.
He added that despite the challenging conditions, the oryxes managed to thrive as they feed on herbs and plants and because mornings usually come with heavy fog, the plants grow steadily and are able to sustain the feeding habits of the animals in the reserve.
Nagarajan commended the conservation efforts being made and was happy to witness the oryxes thriving. He also said that the English speaking guides were a big help for them to understand the dynamics of the animals and the function of the facilities.
“Coming on a rainy season, we were confronted by a muddy desert road,” Bavish said.
But it was still worth it as he said that watching them is one of the most memorable experiences one will ever have in Oman.
“If you are a photographer coming with the intent of shooting great photos, it would be best to come with telephoto lenses. Also, make sure to check the weather when you make your plans,” Bavish suggested.
“Weather needs to be nice, that’s the main thing. If it is a dusty or foggy atmosphere, you won’t be able to get good photos,” he said.
“The golden hours are definitely the best time to shoot,” Nagarajan said.
Both photographers and their friends are planning to go back soon but cautioned that good planning is necessary to accomplish one’s intent of visiting the reserve.