Oman’s Beautiful Wahiba Sands

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As I planned my trip weeks ago, I wasn’t sure whether having a desert camp Oman experience at Wahiba Sands would be worth it. For one, I’d slept in many deserts around the world, and while I was certain Oman’s would be beautiful, I didn’t know whether Wahiba Sands would be a singular enough adventure to justify the substantial cost.

Oman Wahiba Sands

In the end, I did decide to venture into Wahiba Sands (also known, quite appropriately I might add, as Oman’s “Empty Quarter”) and stay a night in a desert camp. After reading this article, you should have a good idea of whether you want to follow in my footsteps (or not).

The Oman Desert Experience

Many travelers think that visiting the Empty Quarter necessitates camping in Oman, though I was never under this impression. To be sure, most of the “camping” options available here are actually high-luxury glamping; the majority of accommodations in Oman’s desert are cabins or villas. Even local people don’t sleep in tents, as is sometimes the case in the deserts of Morocco or Israel, for example.

Beyond this, I was actually surprised at how many things there were to do in Oman’s desert, besides just chilling out. I watch some people enjoying dune bashing in Oman, for example, as I scaled a large dune on foot at sunset, the next morning I also witnessed a strange motorized paragliding apparatus I’ve never seen anywhere else. It should go without saying that you can ride camels in Wahiba Sands, though to be honest I didn’t see many travelers doing this.

Oman Wahiba Sands
Oman Wahiba Sands

Popular Wahiba Sands Desert Camp Oman Options

Sama al-Wasil Desert Camp

 
For a variety of reasons, I decided to stay at Sama al-Wasil Desert Camp, which is somewhat less well-known than Desert Nights Camp (which I’ll talk about in a minute), but also significantly more affordable. On the plus side, this camp was comfortable, well-designed and was situated at the base of a dramatic, beautiful dune. My least favorite elements was the food. Omani food, of course, leaves a lot to be desired in general, but the “hummus” here was literally one of the worst items I’ve ever consumed in my life.

Wahiba Sands: Desert Nights Camp

 When it comes to Wahiba Sands desert camp Oman options, Desert Nights Camp is probably the most famous. However, beyond having a very catchy name (and, it seems, purchasing a lot of well-positioned Google Ads), I haven’t been able to determine any aspect of this camp that makes its extremely high cost worth it. At least superficially, it doesn’t seem to be much different from Sama al-Wasil.

1,000 Nights Camp

 Had 1,000 Nights Camp been available, I probably would’ve stayed here rather than Sama al-Wasil, and for a very superficial reason: The name is incredibly evocative, irrespective of the fact that this seems to be a stylish and well put-together camp. It also seems to be small, which is the only explanation I can have for the fact that it was totally full, months in advance, during an off-peak time.

Safari Dunes Camp

 If you’re looking for an affordable Wahiba Sands accommodation option and aren’t concerned about being at a top-rated spot or a particular design aesthetic, Safari Dunes Camp might be a good bet. Although the ratings are reasonable high, prices are uniformly low. Additionally, availability seems to be open as far out as I can see, which is more than I can say about some of the other choices on this list.

Al Reem Desert Camp

 In my opinion, the four properties I’ve listed thus far round out the desert camp Oman experience. However, I’ve gone ahead and listed a fifth, if only because there’s a chance that none of the others will be available or will suit your fancy. In fact, Al Reem Desert Camp looks pretty appealing to me, though I must admit I didn’t consider staying here in the lead up to my own Oman trip.

How to Reach Wahiba Sands aka Oman’s Empty Quarter

Most of the safari desert camp Oman options are adamant about the fact that you need a 4×4 to access Wahiba Sands, a blanket statement that’s not entirely different from what you read about Jebel Shams. However, while the road to Oman’s desert camps did seem rather well-packed, I’m glad I booked a transfer, even though it cost nearly as much as the room at my Oman desert hotel—30 OMR vs 40 OMR.
 
More broadly, Oman’s Empty Quarter can be accessed in about two hours each from both Muscat and Sur—assuming you don’t stop. You will stop, of course, and probably a lot (Wadi Bani Khalid, I’m looking at you), so if you want to arrive at your Oman desert camp around 2-3 pm, as most people don’t, leave your city accommodation no later than 9-10 am.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re search for a desert camp Oman or simply want more information about what to expect exploring Oman’s Empty Quarter, this post has everything you need to know. While Oman’s desert isn’t wholly different from any other expanse of sand on the planet, chilling amid the dunes is a relaxing, pleasurable and worthwhile endeavor. Pay close attention to important details as you plan your Oman desert adventure, particularly when it relates to transport—not all vehicles can drive into Wahiba Sands without incident.

Also check out the Middle East Section for more reading.

Robert Schrader
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who's been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as "CNNGo" and "Shanghaiist" along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.
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