Friday, 7 February 2014

Mussandam Day Trip

Looking for a weekend getaway from Dubai?

Have guests coming over with a day to spare?

Want to take a break from the city in a short time, on a time budget and avoid stressful travelling?

The answer to all these questions may be easier and closer than you imagine in Mussandam.

Endless beauty

The boats in the clear water against the stark background

More juxtaposition for perspective

We travelled to Mussandam in January after I tried researching about the journey, the place, things to do on the internet. I was extremely disappointed by the lack of information available on the internet and hope that this guide will be useful to all those groping in the dark like me.

Mussandam is a peninsula in the Strait of Hormuz and a part of Oman territory, separated from the rest of the country by UAE. It is a straightforward 2-3 hour drive down the Emirates Road from Dubai.

Although there is a lot to do in that area in terms of off-roading, we do not have a 4 x 4 yet so that was out of the question. Instead, we planned to go on a day-long boat cruise in the Mussandam fjords. People may tell you that the trip is not possible within one day but trust me, it absolutely is.

Before the trip:
  1. Check the road maps and know the directions. If possible, try and find Mussandam on the GPS in advance to avoid last minute frustration on the day of the trip
  2. Book a Dhow cruise with, for AED 200 per person. They are quite flexible if you are travelling in a small group of 2-3 persons but will require advance booking for larger groups. If you choose to take their pick-up and dropping services (from convenient landmarks in Dubai), the cost will be AED 500. The boat cruise lasts from 9 am till 4 am.
  3. If you plan to combine the day long boat cruise with more adventures over the next day, it may be a good idea to book a room at which is the probably the most famous (while being affordable affordable) hotel in the area.
For the trip you will need:
  1. Passport with a residence visa
  2. Oman visa will cost around AED 50 per person
  3. Oman insurance for your car
  4. Swim-wear is recommended but not necessary
  5. Sun glasses, sun-screen
  6. Packed lunch, snacks and lots of drinks
  7. Camera
  8. Rucksack/bag with a lock preferably
On the day of the trip:
  • Since we made our trip on a busy weekend, we were asked by the Tour company to leave Dubai around 5 am to keep enough time for the visa formalities and reach the Khasab docks in time for the cruise.
  • We left Dubai and reached the UAE border control where we had to get a stamp on our passports. We had to then take our car and drive through the border on to the Omani side to do the same and pay for the visa. It would be safe to allow 30-45 mins for this process if you leave early morning.
  • Once in Oman, it was quite straightforward apart from a Police check point expecting us to stop without any signs. Lesson: stop when you see any policemen in Oman
  • A beautiful scenic route between the sea and the mountains will soon greet you into Oman, get used to the breathtaking colours and contrasts for the rest of the day.

Road view
More view from the road
  • On entering Khasab though, things get a little more confusing. There are no signs for where the cruise starts from, where the port is etc. We were mis-led by the locals so asking is not an option either. 
  • If joining the dhow cruise, you will cross a police-station like official building at the beginning of Khasab which is actually the entry to the docks, turn in and go towards the parking, you will find your dhow boats parked there.
During the trip:
  • The boats are not exactly luxurious but practical and functional. They are similar to the dhows in Dubai except they have comfortable seating on the floor along the boat. The washroom facilities are shared, small and limited but not abhorrent.
  • We took seats in the centre of the boat expecting possible turbulence in the water leading to spending the day in the tiny toilet bent over the seat but surprise surprise, none of that happened. You can take seats as you prefer. People suffering sea-sickness or motion-sickness should come prepared with relevant medication but should not worry about it too much.
Seating along the boat
  • There will be a local tour-guide with the group on the cruise who will tell you about the fjords and the villages around. We had a lovely guide who was very nice to talk to.
Telegraph Island with history dating back to the colonial period
One of the villages on the banks of the fjord, cut off from any roads and still living the traditional fishermen lifestyle 
  • There will be tea/coffee, fruits and lunch provided on the boat but being vegetarians and not very adventurous when it comes to food from unknown sources, , we were happy to stick to our packed lunches.

  • During the cruise, the first attraction will be the dolphins. The boat captain will be experienced in knowing where to spot them. There are very high chances that you will see them during the day and if you are lucky then you may be in a group of 2-3 boats which may race with the dolphins. You will be told that dolphins get attracted to whistles and claps and it will be quite comical to hear whistles and clapping all around you to call the dolphins to the surface. Seeing the dolphins in their natural habitat was one of the most beautiful experiences we have had.
The photi does not do justice to the feeling :)
  • There will also be two spots in the journey when the guide will inform you about swimming in the fjords and take a 45-60 min break. I am not very confident about swimming in open water and feel especially uncomfortable swimming amongst fish. Though the water was crystal clear down to the soil-bed and there were a lot of fish in sight, I took the plunge with a life jacket and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of just lying there on my back with the beautiful clear water, the rustic mountains and the clear sunny sky. Highly Recommended!
Crystal clear water

I have packed this post with as much information as I know about Mussandam so that you are not stuck without a comprehensive guide as I was. I hope it was helpful, please leave me a comment to let me know J

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