Monday, 19 January 2015

Camping: Wahiba Sands, Desert Nights Camp

I grew up with a very movie-inspired idea of what the Middle East and the desert looks like: golden sands and dunes as far as the eye can see, only disrupted by a lone wandering camel. You can appreciate my disappointment when landing in Muscat to find that it didn't fit this image. One area of Oman does fit the bill though, Wahiba Sands, and its located about 3 hours drive from Muscat. 

For my parent's final weekend in Oman we decided to treat them to a glamping experience at Desert Nights Camp, where you can experience the real desert with all modern comforts that Londoners expect. The drive to the camp is much like any other drive around Oman, lots of rocks, mountains and wadis. But as you approach the area you start to see a hint of the "real" desert, which is very exciting. 

The camp is situated about 10km from a tarmaced road. A four wheel drive is ideal, but we saw plenty of regular cars whizzing up and down the path, which is well tread. The sight as you distanced the road was quite thrilling, real sand, complete with ripples, and even camels. Driving on sand is surprisingly bumpy though, even though my husband described it as "like driving on air". 

We were welcomed into Desert Nights Camp with cool towels, dates, and Omani coffee. The friendly staff whisk off your luggage to your tents, saving you having to drag it through the sand. We stayed in a huge two room Bedouin style tent with plush Arabian inspired furnishing. All of the tents are air conditioned and I was pleased that the roof is doubled lined to limit the number of bugs that could have access to you! 

At around 4.30pm we were driven up to the top of the dunes to watch the sunset, which was my favourite part of the whole trip. The view is amazing and as the sun goes down the colours you see are beautiful. 

Breakfast and dinner are included in the stay, the camp's main area has a restaurant which serves a buffet BBQ for dinner, which was very good. We chose a spot outside to enjoy the atmosphere and luckily the wind had died down a bit or we would have ended up with very sandy food! 

After dinner we ventured away from the restaurant to get away from the lights and see the stars. If you are one for star gazing I would recommending downloading an app for your phone before you arrive (there is internet at the camp, but is limited to the reception area and is very slow). With the app you simply point your phone at the sky and you can see the names of each of the stars and what constellations they are in, and because there are very little "city lights" I've never seen so many stars. 

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast and took advantage of the free camel rides offered. Although the ride was short (about 3 minutes) it was long enough for me to realise I wouldn't want to head out into the desert for hours on a camel!
We only stayed the one night, and if you aren't doing any extra activities that is enough. Price wise the experience isn't cheap, an average night costs 125OR for two people (prices do drop when it gets hotter). There is a lack of mid-range desert camping experiences so the option really is to go glam or budget. Obviously if you are in Oman on holiday I say go glam and treat yourself to any of the additional activities you want, you only live once. However, as someone living here I would love to return but the price is limiting. As a HSBC customer they had a offer giving me 15% discount (which just about covers the taxes not included in the room rate) but the camp made it really difficult for me to get this. If you are a Phoenix Club member I believe you can get 20% discount, just make sure you confirm it with the camp first and have it in writing!