Oman 2017 rap. - stig.pdf · PDF file Flights between Muscat and Salalah are frequent and...

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Transcript of Oman 2017 rap. - stig.pdf · PDF file Flights between Muscat and Salalah are frequent and...

  • Oman 25th February - 10th March

    2017

    By Stig Jensen and Jon Lehmberg

    Introduction

    After having been on our radar for several years, we finally decided that the time for a trip to Oman was now.

    Since we both had a couple of weeks to spend in late February and early March, the timing wasn’t much of an issue

    for us. Most birders visit Oman towards the end of the year, especially in November, but we didn’t regret our

    decision to go in spring instead. Of course, we missed some interesting stuff which is only seen in autumn or latter

    in spring, most notably “the swift”, Sooty Falcon and some of the African migrants, but we reckon that we

    capitalized on other fronts instead. Red-billed Tropicbirds were inspecting potential breeding grounds, and ducks,

    sunbirds, weavers and others were all in superb breeding plumage. Other highlights like the impressive numbers of

    raptors, the various breeding owls, all the mammals and much more can be found in both seasons, and we don’t

    hesitate in saying that Oman is worth a visit at almost any time of year. We certainly enjoyed our stay there

    immensely.

    Logistics

    Because of the Internet, being your own travel agent is easy these days, and we had no real problems booking both

    flights, rental cars and accommodation on the web. We bought the plane tickets directly on www.qatarairways.com

    (international) and www.omanair.com (domestic) respectively. Flights between Muscat and Salalah are frequent and

    fairly cheap, while the intercontinental flights were a wee bit pricey compared to other destinations. The

    connection time in Doha on our outbound travel was very good.... – not so much on the way home, which made us

    spend a couple of days in Qatar.

    The rental car in Muscat was a little bit more expensive than the one in Salalah, but they were both rather

    reasonably prized, and of course petrol was much, much cheaper than we’re used to at home. Both rental cars were

    Mitsubishi Pajeros and they both served us well. If travelling on a tight budget, renting a salon car, instead of

    splashing out on a 4x4, is a good way of keeping down costs. We were pleased with our choice of car, but only

    really needed the four wheel drive and high ground clearance on very few occasions indeed, and all the places we

    visited are accessible in a “normal” car. The car we picked up in Muscat was supplied by Interrent and booked

    through www.rentalcars.com , while the one in Salalah was booked on www.holidayautos.com , supplied by Europcar,

    and handed over by an extremely serviceminded local agent, who went as far as jumping in his own car to guide us

    out of the airport, not that it was really needed, but still.

    Like in other countries on the Arabian Peninsula, many of the big roads in large cities are dual carriageways which

    do certainly have their advantages, but can also be a bit annoying when trying to find your way around. Another

    challenge when trying to navigate urban areas are the many roadworks, but all in all driving in Oman is a nice

    experience. The locals are much more patient and relaxed than in Qatar and the U.A.E., and road conditions are

    generally very good – be aware of the many speed bumps, though!

    We had decided to use Al Awabi as the base for our visit to the northern Al Hajar Mountains. Accommodation

    isn’t exactly easy to find here, but, with a little help from our friends, we found the (previously named?) Village

    Resort Motel. It’s situated by the road leading into Wadi Bani Awf a few kilometers west of Al Awabi and the

    rooms were clean and spacious, though by no means luxurious. We paid 25 Omani Rial per night for a room with

    twin beds, which is rather expensive, we think. However, we were the only visitors at the time and it might well be

    possible to haggle for a lower price. The staff was very friendly here, and extending our stay was no trouble at all.

    Birding around the resort can be quite good, and even if we didn’t spent much time here, we still saw species like

    Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-tailed Wheatear and Striolated Bunting in the immediate

  • surroundings. The resort have a Facebook page where you can see photos of the place, but since neither of us are

    Facebook users, we booked our room by writing directly to the manager (?) on this address: [email protected]

    While accommodation was scarce and expensive around Al Awabi, the opposite was true in Salalah. Our initial

    thought was to book a hotel on the beach, like so many other birders do, but since we planed on spending as little

    time as possible around our accommodation, we decided to save a shit load of money instead. Rather than splashing

    out on a sea view that we wouldn’t have used anyway, we booked our accommodation at Jawharet Al Kheir

    Furnished Apartments through Booking.com. We paid next to nothing for an enormous apartment with kitchen,

    washing machine and well working Wi-Fi. Here we were just a few blocks from the main road traversing town, thus

    allowing easy access to both eastern and western localities, but still in a quiet neighbourhood. Lulu’s Hypermarket

    was just down the road, and there were lots of other restaurants, shopping centres and petrol stations in the

    immediate vicinity. Access to and from the airport was also as easy as it gets. All in all we were disgustingly

    pleased with ourselves for having had the good sense to book an apartment here, and can easily recommend it to

    other visiting birders.

    Finally we also spend one night in Muscat. We hadn’t booked in advance but had no trouble finding suitable hotels

    near the city centre.

    Weather

    When approaching the Al Hajar Mountains the weather was cloudy with some rain showers, which caused some of

    the local population to rush to the mountains to see several small waterfalls being formed as a result of the

    downpour. Luckily this wasn’t a sign of things to come! Even if the weather was somewhat unstable during our stay

    in the mountains, it was mostly dry with very pleasant temperatures in the low to mid twenties (Celsius) and

    predominantly clear skies, though with periods of more cloudy conditions. The wind wasn’t much of an issue, but

    would pick up a little at times. Around Muscat and along the north coast there were no clouds at all, and the

    temperatures were a little higher.

    In the south the weather was more stable with very few clouds, except around Jebel Samhan, temperatures

    around 30°C in the daytime and in the low twenties at night, and very little wind to speak of.

    Resources

    For good and bad, Oman is one of those countries where planing and visiting is greatly aided by a number of very

    helpful resources... – mostly for good. As always www.cloudbirders.com is one of the first websites you’ll want to

    check out for a host of reports, of which many are very good and helpful. Another site which is gradually becoming

    a good tool for birders travelling to all parts of the World is www.ebird.org which no doubt will eventually be

    extremely useful – it already is to a certain extent.

    You can easily plan a trip to Oman by using the free sites alone, but we reckon it would be plain foolish not to buy

    the excellent “Birdwatching guide to Oman”. It’s written by Dave Sargeant and the long residing Danish Eriksen

    couple, which also operate the very useful website www.birdsoman.com with recent sightings and lots of lovely

    pictures of birds, mammals and other things. No doubt a new edition of the book would be welcome, but even if its

    age is starting to show, it’s still almost a must for first time visitors, and some updates can actually be found on

    the website mentioned.

    As we know, birders are a friendly and helpful lot... – well, some are anyway, and we benefited from that while

    planing our trip, and even afterwards. On Cloudbirders you can find a really nice report with loads of cool pictures

    made by a small group of Spanish birders - https://www.cloudbirders.com/tripreport/show/18959/27661

    Especially their observations, and photos, of birds of the night were impressive, and we greatly appreciated the

    advise given by Alex Ollé and Albert Burgas on the elusive Omani Owl. Our Danish friends Claus Brostrøm, Erik

    Mølgaard and in particular Andreas Bruun Kristensen were also very helpful, and we thank them all wholeheartedly.

    “Birds of the Middle East” by Porter and Aspinall is the obvious choice when looking for a field guide to bring on a

    trip to Oman. It pretty much include all the species you’re likely to see, and is quite good. Other field guides

    aren’t really necessary, though you might want to consider bringing one of the excellent guides covering Europe,

    since they’ll included most species as well. Field guides covering mammals are much scarcer, but we brought “Field

    Guide to the Mammals of the Middle East” by Serhal et al. in Arabic and English, which was actually a little better

    than expected.

  • Before going we tried to find a decent map of the country but failed miserably. We ended up buying a 1:850000

    map from Reise Know-How Verlag but never actually used it – not enough detail. In