Wahiba Sands (or Sharqiya Sands, depending on who you’re asking) is a large desert in the north of Oman, where a number of traditional desert camps have been set up for tourists. We were camping for the rest of our trip in Oman, but we were feeling quite insecure about self-driving into the desert without cell reception, and a lady also needs a shower every once in a while.
Most of the camps are very expensive, but we found that Desert Retreat Camp offered good value for money. We met up at their office at 3 PM at the Al Maha gas station in Al Wasil, to be escorted through the desert to the camp. I was really happy about not having to try to find it myself! The people who didn’t have their own 4WD car could get a ride with the guides from the camp.
Driving in Wahiba Sands
We all drove together through the sand, which felt a lot like driving in snow, only dustier. It was more fun than scary, but definitely some of both. I had to really focus on the driving, which was hard, when there were baby camels by the side of the road! When we got to the camp, we were dying to take a walk and hang with the camels just outside the fence.
Upon our arrival to the camp, we were all seated in the communal area and offered fruit and some really amazing dates, as well as Omani cardamom flavored coffee. We were then assigned our tents, that were pretty large and each had an outdoor bathroom with a shower behind it. A big difference from our tiny two person tent that we had been sleeping in for the last three nights, we could even stand up indoors!
We immediately changed our clothes and went for a stroll in the desert outside of the camp. We tried to approach some camels, but they all slowly walked away from us, everyone except for one very friendly one! The camel came up to us and it seemed to be really used to people, so it just stood there posing for a hundred pictures. I was a bit scared at first, because they’re pretty big animals, but soon relaxed.
After the camel walk, we climbed the sand dunes to get up there in time for sunset. Even though the dunes weren’t that high, it took forever to climb them as we sank into the sand. I was really exhausted when I got up there! The other people from the camp were also up there and we all sat down on the dunes to wait for the sun to go down. Unfortunately, some clouds came in and we couldn’t see a thing! A bit disappointing, but still a nice evening activity.
Hit by a sandstorm!
After a much welcome shower, the first in four days, we went to the communal tent for the dinner buffet. It was not dark, and the winds picked up to a full sandstorm. I don’t know if this is normal in the evenings out in the desert, but the winds got so strong that they were pretty scary. Our tent was moving so much that I thought it was about to fall apart. It calmed down after a couple of hours, so there was no need to worry about the night though.
Instead, we sat down to dinner, which was excellent. The vegetarian option was a soup followed by a vegetable curry, that was a little bit spicy and really delicious after the long day. As it gets dark at 6.30 in Oman, we had been having our dinners at 6 for the last few days, so waiting until 8 was torture!
After dinner, everyone retired to their tents to try to get the sand that the storm had blown in out of the beds. We immediately fell asleep, not bothered by the hard mattresses after several days on the ground.
A slow morning
In the morning, there was a breakfast buffet with daal, bread, yoghurt and lots of different things, definitely something for everyone.
Some people took off for activities, either camel riding or dune bashing, but as we’ve done that in other desert at other times, we were content with another stroll around the desert outside the camp, looking at the camels. In the late morning, we drove ourselves from Wahiba Sands back to Al Wasil, which was a lot easier than going into the desert as all the tyre tracks lead the way. From there we went straight to take a refreshing swim at Wadi Bani Khalid, which is not far at all.
We did see some good spots to camp with a regular tent, but I would still recommend doing the organized camp if you can afford it. It was good to break off the camping with some glamping, and meeting some other people instead of just being isolated outside of the towns. And even though we didn’t ride camels, we still had plenty of time to hang with them in the desert!