Leaning the furthest out into the Arabian Sea of all the nations perched on the Arabian Peninsula, Oman has some of the most beautiful, pristine beaches that the world, let alone the Middle East, has to offer and is a haven for astonishing wildlife and natural beauty.
That Oman remains largely untouched by the behemoth of modern tourism is largely down to its location, with many wrongly believing that all countries in the region are beset by political instability and rising tensions, but this neglect from the mass market has opened up a cornucopia of relatively unexplored paths for the more adventurous tourist to explore.
Whilst Oman has far more to offer beyond its picturesque natural beaches, these winding ribbons of golden sand tend to be the magnet to which those who visit the country are pulled. Beautiful at any time of the year, it is during the summer months that the beaches of Oman are transformed into the nesting place of thousands of turtles, which scatter across the sand for miles upon miles, creating a stunning natural movie for visitors to enjoy.
There are only seven species of turtle currently inhabiting this earth – and five of them can be found in Oman – making the country the clear choice for anyone interested in the natural spectacle that is the nesting process. The Green Turtle is the most common in Omani waters and can be spotted plentifully at the main turtle watching resorts of Ras al-Hadd and Ras al-Jinz, but lucky visitors may also catch a glimpse of much rarer species including the Loggerhead Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle.
The act that tourists come to Oman’s beaches to see, the nesting of the turtles, actually occurs during the black of night, with these beautiful creatures hauling themselves out of the sea and onto the shore beneath the light of the moon. This movement takes immense effort from the turtles, which have to drag their heavy shells along with them.
Once the turtles have reached the beach they dig a hole in the sand using the tips of their paws, creating a place to safely bury their eggs before returning to the waves. It takes about 55 days for the eggs to hatch, at which point the true spectacle that tourists flock to Oman to view begins.
The baby turtles emerge from their eggs and begin a terrifying journey back across the beach and to the sea, once again under the cover of darkness. These creatures, only having been in the world for a matter of moments, have to run a gauntlet of beach foxes, crabs and birds before reaching the sanctity of the ocean and the life that lies ahead of them.
This hatching process is the event that attracts people to Oman for turtle watching, an industry that has led to Oman creating dedicated turtle nesting tours at Ras al-Haad and Ras al-Jinz that allow interested tourists to experience this astonishing natural event in an ecologically responsible manner and without disturbing the creatures.
The nature reserve at Ras al-Jinz was established in 1996 from a merger of two reserves, creating the ideal conditions to allow the turtles and their environment to be as well protected as possible. Located on the easternmost point of the Arabian Peninsula, the protected natural area comprises more than 120 square kilometres, with a beautiful 45-kilometre stretch of coastline.
In 2008 the Ras al-Hinz Turtle Centre was established, a project designed to accelerate the promotion of Oman’s coastline as a genuine ecotourism destination, whilst also controlling the very real human threats that exist to the turtles and their habitat. This includes prevention of any commercial harvesting of turtles, any disturbance during the nesting process and protection of the turtles’ habitat from vehicles and pollution.
Photos: [all via Bigstockphoto.com].