Musandam waterbus: Braving the waves

Visitors to Musandam Governorate are gravitating in large numbers to a newly introduced waterbus service to make the most of a visit to this fascinating Omani tourism hotspot overlooking the Strait of Hormuz in the north of the Sultanate.
The waterbus service is the brainchild of local tour operator Abdul Rahman who struck upon the idea of an amphibious vehicle that doubles as a bus on land transitioning into a boat while on water – thereby offering tourists an all-in-one transport option for covering the governorate’s land and water-based attractions.
Enamored with the concept, which he knew was unique to Oman and only the second of its kind in the wider Middle East region, Abdul Rahman decided to wind down his dhow and 4×4 based tour activities to concentrate full time on his waterbus project.
“It struck me that an amphibious vehicle was ideally suited to capture the diverse natural delights of Musandam both onshore and offshore,” Abdul Rahman said. “Moreover, the novelty of a waterbus has its own intrinsic appeal to tourists, in addition to the convenience it offers as an all-in-one transport option for both land and water-based exploration.”
Speaking to the Observer, Abdul Rahman insists that the waterbus is anything but a converted bus. Far from it, he asserts. On the contrary, it is cross between a high-end bus and a small yacht – resulting in an amphibious hybrid that comes with a hefty price tag.
“It cost me a large amount of money to buy this waterbus,” says Abdul Rahamn. “It is fitted out with three Caterpillar engines – one for running the vehicle on land, and another for propelling it on water. The third engine will provide the electricity to run the various systems, instruments and electrical amenities on board. So the overall operation of the vehicle is quite sophisticated, which is the secret behind its ability to transition seamlessly from a bus to a boat.”
As a high-end tourist vehicle, the waterbus is equipped with air-conditioning systems, television sets and other passenger-friendly systems. An onboard water closet is part of an array of facilities that add to the overall appeal of the service. As for safety on water, the craft is stable as any boat, he maintains, adding that the waterbus operates only along the tranquil fjords and the inshore waters of the governorate.
Launched earlier this year in Khasab – the main administrative part of Musandam – the overland part of the tour usually takes about a half-hour. Included in the itinerary are important landmarks of Khasab, as well as Moukhi village. This is followed by an hour-long water cruise that begins at Khasab beach and covers waterfront attractions along the coast en route to Khor Qidda and onward to Al Bassah. At this point, the craft turns around and heads to Khasab Port where passengers alight.
Since its introduction, the waterbus service has been well-received by tourists, says Abdul Rahman. “Business is very good with demand being consistently strong. Many of our customers are visitors travelling all the way from Muscat. Others come from neighbouring UAE. On average, we have more than 30 passengers per day, which makes an excellent day’s business.”