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Oman - Birds, Desert & Culture

Tour Code: OMN01

A 11-day holiday focusing on the resident and migrant birds of Oman, and enjoying some splendid desert scenery and Arab hospitality.

11 days from £4495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £4195 SRS: £295


The Sultanate of Oman is one of the most developed and stable countries in the Arab world and has longstanding ties with Britain. Its avifauna reflects its strategic position in the Middle East, with influences from the Indian subcontinent as well as Africa. This tour is timed to coincide with an excellent selection of birds: desert specialties; coastal seabirds; waders; other resident birds and late migrants. Beginning with a flight to Dubai, the first few days will be spent exploring the grasslands, estuaries, canyons, coastal lagoons, inlets and mangroves of the north-east coast looking for herons, terns and many other sought-after birds. We then drive to Salalah in the south-west via the wader spectacle at Barr Al Hikman followed by desert birds. In Salalah we'll be based in a comfortable beachside hotel. Here the African influence on the avifauna is very noticeable and such species as Didric Cuckoo, African Paradise Flycatcher and African Rock Bunting as well as a variety of crakes, ducks, raptors and vultures will be among our hoped-for finds. We'll spend five days visiting the best sites before returning to Dubai for a last hurrah before our flights home.

  • Look for Upcher's Warbler & Yellow-throated Sparrow on the Ras as Sawadi peninsula
  • Gull-billed & White-cheeked Terns plus Hoopoe Lark
  • Critically endangered White-collared Kingfisher subspecies breeds near Liwa
  • All 3 species of Oman's bulbuls possible
  • Visit key sites for Crab Plovers & Hume's Wheatear
  • Search for Yemen Serin, Namaqua Dove & Black-headed Tchagra in south
  • Visit the natural spring at Muntasar which attracts hundreds of sandgrouse
  • Excellent seawatching at Mirbat, south coast
  • Enjoy spectacular desert scenery (& Frankincense trees!) in an exotic location
  • Led by an expert ornithologist guide

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Comfortable hotels and guesthouses. All rooms have private facilities.

Arabian Partridge (Chris Ward)

Arabian Partridge (Chris Ward)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Depart London

Day 2 Arrive Dubai; drive to Muscat

Day 3/4 Wildlife and cultural excursions from Muscat

Day 5 Sur estuary

Day 6 Bar Al Hickman and Al Ghaftain

Day 7 Muntasar

Day 8/9 Salalah and Al Mughsayl

Day 10 Samhuran and Mirbat

Day 11 Fly London, via Dubai

The Sultanate of Oman is a jewel on the Arabian Peninsula. Its interior is a vast desert plain known as the ‘Empty Quarter’ — made famous to Westerners by explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger in his riveting 1959 book, ‘Arabian Sands’, a classic of travel literature. The book provides a fascinating glimpse into the traditional life of the nomadic ‘Bedu’, and the Arabian Peninsula at a turning point in its history (Abu Dhabi and Dubai were small fishing villages!). Much has changed since Thesiger’s time, but much has not. This is still a romantic place, where the aroma of Frankincense pervades colourful souks, and men wear traditional perfumed white ‘dishdasha’, their cloaks embroidered in silver and gold. Oman’s landscape weaves a captivating spell over those privileged to see it; the beautiful Al Hajar Mountains jut starkly out of the desert plain in the north- east, while along the southern coast desert sands are fringed by a brilliant turquoise sea.   

Oman is one of the most developed and stable countries in the Arab world and has longstanding ties with Britain. It is a friendly country with a newly developed infrastructure and welcoming attitude to tourists. 75% of Oman is Muslim, with Arabic being the official language; however, the country is also home to many other non-Muslim religious communities and has a racially mixed population reflecting its strategic position within the Middle East. Its avifauna, too, reflects influences from both the Indian subcontinent and Africa, and on this 11-day tour, timed to provide us with an excellent selection of birds, we will go in search of desert specialities, a wide range of coastal seabirds and waders, and other residents and late migrants. 

We begin our holiday with a flight to Muscat via Dubai. From there we travel a short distance north to the Ras as Sawadi Peninsula where we will have the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the numerous waders, gulls and terns on display. As the sun sets we will enter the historic city of Muscat where we will spend three nights. Focusing our birding on several key sites, amongst them estuaries, lagoons and tidal creeks, we will look for all three of Oman’s bulbul species as well as a variety of migrants and any unusual vagrants. We will enjoy the old city and the famous souk, which bustles with gold and silver vendors, as well as the Grand Mosque. During our time in Muscat we will also take a short journey out to sea, hoping to encounter bow-riding Bottlenose or Common Dolphins as we search for Sooty Falcons, Red-billed Tropicbirds and shearwaters. From Muscat we head down the coast for a night by the beach, stopping at creeks and canyons along the way to scan for the delicate-looking Crab Plover, and Hume’s Wheatear. That night, with a little luck, we will also have the opportunity to watch Green Turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs. 

We then drive south-west to Bar Al Hickman, where a superb avian spectacle should await us — huge flocks of wintering waders, gulls and terns. We will then head inland to the ‘Empty Quarter’ of the Arabian Plateau and the natural spring at Muntasar which attracts hundreds of sandgrouse. We then journey south to Salalah in Dhofar province where we will be based in a comfortable beachside hotel. The African influence on the avifauna is very noticeable here, with species such as Didric Cuckoo, African Paradise Flycatcher, White-breasted White-eye and African Rock Bunting among our target species. We will spend three days here visiting the best sites along the coast, amongst them sink holes, khawrs, escarpments and streams where we will look for Yemen Serin, Black-headed Tchagra, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Namaqua Dove, crakes, ducks, waders, gulls, eagles, vultures and much more! On the coast, the rich waters attract shearwaters and Socotra Cormorants. Among the rich variety of birds that we will be hoping to see during our time in the south-west are two sought-after Arabian specialities, Arabian Partridge and Arabian Wheatear. We will also spend a day at the khawrs and wadi at Al Mughsayl, the most important birding site west of Salalah. No trip to Oman would be complete without seeing a Frankincense tree, and the wadi here holds a small number of these aromatic trees of Biblical fame. We will also listen for the soft ‘hoo hoo-u’ calls of the rare Hume’s Tawny Owl under a star-dense desert sky.  

A short evening flight takes us back to Dubai for the final night of our holiday. We will visit the fabulous Ramsar-listed Ras Al Khor Wildlife Refuge the following morning, focusing on any species we may have missed. All too soon it will be time to return home, no doubt with images of Oman’s special birds and vast expanses of desert and sky mingling with the scent of Frankincense in our minds ... and stories to tell worthy of Scheherazade herself about our time in this exotic land!

Crab Plover (Chris-Ward)Muntasar Oasis 'Central Desert' (Chris-Ward)Khawr Rawri Salalah (Chris-Ward)Isabelline Shrike (Chris-Ward)Bruce's Green Pigeon (Chris-Ward)Blackstart (Chris-Ward)Ayn Sahnawt, Salalah (Chris-Ward)Arabian Partridge (Chris-Ward)African Rock Bunting (Chris-Ward)White-breasted White Eye (Chris-Ward)Wadi Al Mughsayl Salalah (Chris-Ward)Tristram's Grackle (Chris-Ward)Swift Tern (Chris-Ward)Steppe Eagle (Chris-Ward)-2Steppe Eagle (Chris-Ward)Spotted Sandgrouse (Chris-Ward)Spotted Eagle (Chris-Ward)South Arabian Wheatear (Chris-Ward)Sooty Gull (Chris-Ward)Shining Sunbird (Chris-Ward)Ruppell's Weaver (Chris-Ward)Rock Hyrax (Chris-Ward)Red-wattled Plover (Chris-Ward)
K.M.
Staffordshire
A good mix of wildlife habitats and an insight into Omani culture.
K.F.
London
Fascinating journey through most of the country, meeting Omani's, large number of birds of a great variety of species, chance to see cultural sites, lots of Butterflies, very enjoyable boat trip.
J.B.
Surrey
Even thought this was a birding trip, the trip was packed with visits regarding the culture of Oman.I am not a birder so was very happy that Andrew made sure I viewed the birds through his scope. I enjoyed being in Oman, the variety of visits, the people (Omani) are exceptionally kind and helpful.
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Sat 27th October 2018 - Tue 6th November 2018

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£4495

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £4195 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Oman

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Tour Reviews

A good mix of wildlife habitats and an insight into Omani culture.
K.M., Staffordshire