Outdoors… That’s the call of the winter. Shake off that summer ennui, get out into the open and breathe in the fresh winter air. Take a cue from the following feature and set out on an exploration/camping trip in the nature-soaked landscapes of Oman
Camp out and reconnect with nature to experience the fresh vibes emanating from the mountains and the plains
Its time to blow away the dust from your tent bag and pull out the camping gear from its summer hibernation to enjoy the weather outdoors. Make the most of the two-day weekend this season with a camping trip at one of the popular tourist spots in the country.
While beach is your best bet if you are looking for camping sites closer home, with Muscat boasting a host of picturesque shorelines that are both inviting and easily accessible, it is the mountains and the desert that are beckoning. In fact, some of the destinations, like Jabal Shams and Jabal Akhdar, have camping facilities that are just right to cater to your needs, whether with family or friends.
The popular Wahiba Sands, or the Al Sharqiya Sands, also has several camping options for those looking to get close to the desert this winter. Although desert safaris are best undertaken with guides from travel agencies, adventure seekers can find avenues to explore the enchanting vistas of the golden sand dunes and camp in the wilderness.
Other camping spots to explore are the Dibab Lake Park to experience its breath-taking sink hole; Yiti for a tryst with nature; Ras Al Hadd for the green turtles; Wadi Tiwi for the rock pools; and Mirbat to explore the landscape, among other exciting destinations around the country.
The Daymaniat Islands in Al Batinah South Governorate and the secluded beaches of Musandam Governorate, which is famous for its attractive fjords, are also perfect to explore this winter. You could either pitch your own tent or camp out in those created by the Tourism Ministry in specific areas.
If you check the Oman’s Tourism Ministry portal (http://www.omantourism.gov.om/) you will find the following destinations listed under experiences for camping activities (some of them might need prior permission from the Ministry, though):
Al-Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve
Al-Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve, located about 18 kilometres off the coast of Barka and 70 kilometres west of Muscat, is made up of nine islands. Its attraction lies in its pristine beaches and the rich natural heritage replete with several kinds of coral reefs. The reserve features pristine beaches; it has a rich natural heritage and is replete with several kinds of coral reefs.
Bandar Khayran Reserve
Located within the precincts of Muscat, this reserve is about half an hour away from Bandar Al Rawdha Marina by boat. It has several attractions – from the dolphins bobbing alongside the boat to the coral reefs, which has been a great lure for divers. There are more than 20 diving locations here, each with its own charm and beauty.
Barr Al Hikman
Barr Al Hikman in Al Wusta Governorate is a beautiful sanctuary for birds and fish. This island is considered one of the most important bird migration stations both in Oman and Southeast Asia. Many birds congregate here, especially water birds coming from as far as Siberia’s northern shores.
Khawr Al Maghsayl
The lagoon at Khawr Al Maghsayl in the Governorate of Dhofar is a perfect destination for bird watchers and photography buffs. Important species of indigenous and migratory birds inhabit the lagoon; while some migrate from Africa, Europe and from India, others are permanent residents of the lagoon. The area of this lagoon is about half a square kilometre.
Wadi Shab Spend your weekend swimming in clear water pools in Al Sharqiyah. This wadi attracts both locals and expats for its beautiful cave, waterfall, and easy access by car.
Are you prepared for a camping trip…?
Be prepared…not just in the context of your fitness level or your adventure spirit; but, most importantly, in the basic essentials you would need to make your camping experience hassle-free.
What you carry along – the necessary supplies and equipment – can make a big difference to your trip. Here is a detailed checklist to help you get going…
Tent and all things shelter
• Ground cloth or tarp
• Shade tarp, poles, rope and stake
• Mat for tent entrance
• Dust pan and brush
• Sleeping bag/air mattress
• Sheets and blankets
• Utility bags for storage
• Lantern with fuel
• Extra batteries
• Bug repellent
• Camp chairs
• First aid kit
• Lantern pole or hanger
• Pocket knife, scissors
• Fire extinguisher
Cooking and eating
• Large water jug and bucket, if possible
• Cooler and ice
• Stove with fuel or propane
• Matches or lighter
• Charcoal or firewood
• Campfire grill/BBQ grill
• Fire starters or newspaper
• Tablecloth and clips
• Plates, bowls, paper plates, tissues and spoons
• Heavy-duty aluminium foil
• Paper towels
• Trash bags
• Dish soap
• Cooking oil/ spray
• Containers for food storage
• Pots and frying pans with lids
• Spatula, knife, spoon and tongs
• Skewers/grill forks
• Folding table
• Cutting board
• Dish rags or old clothes
• Seasonings and condiments
Clothes and boots
• Socks (extra)
• Hat or bandana
• Night clothes
• Laundry bag
• Tooth brush/tooth paste
• Comb or brush
• Toilet paper
• Personal medications
• Sunscreen/chap stick
In addition to the above checklist, it is also important to tell a friend or a relative of your plans, with details of where you are going and when you expect to return.
If camping is not on your agenda for the weekend, give outdoor cooking a try, even if it is simply grilling your dinner on your barbecue stand or grill. Here are a couple of barbecue recipes to get you started…
Tandoori Chicken Skewers
• Plain yogurt – 1 cup
• Red onion – 1 (finely chopped)
• Lemon – 1 (juiced)
• Ginger – 1 tablespoon minced
• Garlic – 3 cloves (crushed)
• Garam masala (a blend of ground spices) – 3/4tsp
• Ground cumin – 3/4tsp
• Cayenne pepper – 1/2tsp, or to taste
• Turmeric – 1/4tsp
• Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – 4
• Cooking spray
• Combine yogurt, red onion, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, garam masala,
cumin, cayenne, and turmeric in a bowl.
• Place chicken breasts in the yogurt mixture and flip to coat; cover bowl with plastic
and refrigerate overnight.
• Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate.
• Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and thread onto skewers. Place skewers on the
grill and cook, turning every 3 to 4 minutes.
• Cook it until chicken is browned on all sides and the juices run clear –
for about 15 minutes.
Grilled Veggie Skewers
• Cherry tomatoes – 1/2kg
• Eggplant – 1 (cut in large chunks)
• Olive oil – 3tbsp
• Tabasco red sauce – 1tsp
• Salt and pepper (to taste)
• Cilantro – 3tbsp (minced)
• Soak wooden skewers in water and preheat grill until hot.
• In a small bowl whisk together salt, pepper, sugar, cilantro, Tabasco and olive oil.
• Place tomatoes and eggplant onto skewers with a small space between them all.
• Baste the vegetables in the marinade.
• Place on grill and turn when the eggplant is soft and grill marks are there.
Turn over and grill until done.
• Remove from grill and serve.
Grilled Lemon Chicken
• Fresh lemon juice – 1/2 cup
• Soy sauce – 1/2 cup
• Ground ginger – 1/2tsp
• Ground black pepper – 1/4tsp
• Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – 4
• Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels.
• Stir together the lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger, and black pepper in a bowl; pour into a large, re-sealable plastic bag.
• Add the chicken breasts, seal the bag, and massage to evenly coat chicken with lemon juice mixture.
• Place in refrigerator to marinate at least 20 minutes or overnight.
• Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat. Lightly oil grill grate, and place about 4 inches from heat source.
• Drain the chicken and it place on preheated grill. Cook until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear – 6 to 8 minutes on each side.
BBQ Short Ribs
• Boneless beef short ribs – 2kgs (cut into 3-inch long pieces)
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
• Light brown sugar – 2/3 cup
• Paprika – 1tsp
• Garlic powder – 1/2tsp
• White vinegar – 1tbsp
• Dried ground thyme – 1/2tsp
• Ketchup – 2/3 cup
• Yellow mustard – 1tbsp
• Worcestershire sauce – 1tbsp
• Preheat the grill to high heat 300 degrees F. Arrange the short ribs in a 13 by
9-inch baking dish and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
• In a small bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate.
Pour the sauce over ribs and toss well, coating all the pieces.
• Cover with aluminium foil and roast until cooked through and tender (about 3 hours).
• Remove the foil during the last 30 minutes of cooking to brown the top. Transfer to
a serving platter and serve.
Grilled Shrimp with Garlic & Lemon
• Extra-virgin olive oil – 1/4 cup
• Garlic cloves – 6 (thinly sliced)
• Celery seed – 1tsp
• Crushed red pepper flakes – 1tsp
• Whole-grain mustard – 2tbsp
• Large easy-peel shrimp – 1kg
• Lemons – 2 (1 thinly sliced and 1 halved)
• Kosher salt (to taste)
• Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
• Chopped fresh chives (for serving)
• Combine oil, garlic, celery seed, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden, sizzling,
and fragrant (2 to 4 minutes).
• Whisk in mustard and transfer to a bowl. Let it cool completely.
• Add shrimp and sliced lemon to oil mixture. Season with salt and black pepper
and toss to coat.
• Refrigerate at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.
• Heat grill to medium-high. Grill shrimp and lemon slices until lemons and shrimp
are lightly charred and shrimp are just cooked through (1 to 3 minutes per side).
• To serve, transfer to a platter, sprinkle with chives, and squeeze lemon
halves over top.