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In the heart of eastern Oman, the Wahiba Sands is an ocean of regular dunes that seem to stretch out endlessly. Pale gold at noon, the towering piles of sand shift between rich yellow and coppery orange when the sun is at lower angles. Just a three-hour drive from Muscat, an overnight stay here offers an easy way to experience the primal power of the desert from the comfort of luxe camps. The sands are an important piece of the puzzle that is Oman, and you can add a night to any itinerary — it’s an especially good place for a family adventure.

Dunes here run north to south in surprisingly regular lines, pushed by the winds to heights of up to 100 m (330 ft). They’re highest in the east, near the oceans, and dwindle the farther north you go. The south is full of treacherous salt flats.

Wahiba Sands, OmanThe dunes are constantly moving — up to 10 m (33 ft) a year — making permanent roads impossible. Instead, you’ll find just a few tracks created by visitors who come for the desert camps, and by a handful of Oman’s Bedouin tribes. Their name comes from the Arabic word bedu, meaning desert dweller, and about 3,000 still live a traditional nomadic life in the ever-shifting sands.

Bedouin style, honed by centuries living in this unforgiving landscape, has a strong influence on many of the camps in the desert. For a wholly authentic experience, you can choose to stay in a traditional black-wool tent, though if you prefer more creature comforts, you can choose a more indulgent tent that boasts air conditioning. Once the sun has set, dine on local cuisine like lamb and mint tea served on low tables around a crackling fire.

Guests in these camps can take advantage of a wide variety of activities. Light pollution doesn’t dim the stars here and stargazing is a popular activity after sunset. Locals and visitors alike exploit the soft sand hills and emptiness to go tearing around in 4x4s with an experienced driver, something called dune bashing. You can also enjoy a camel ride or climb to the top of a dune to watch the sunset.

Despite its barren appearance, the desert is also home to a surprisingly diverse variety of plants and animals. A 1986 expedition by Britain’s Royal Geographical Society documented 16,000 different species of invertebrates as well as 200 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, all supported by hidden underground water reserves. You aren’t likely to see much, however, as most of the wildlife here is notoriously shy.

The Wahiba Sands’ empty beauty has made it a popular destination, which means that you might be able to hear other camps or the occasional 4x4. Though it detracts slightly from the majesty of the desert night, we think that it’s still a worthy destination. If you want a quieter, less-commercial option, we can arrange for you to stay at a totally private camp.

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Audley Travel specialist Chris

Start planning your tailor-made trip to the Wahiba Sands by calling one of our Oman specialists on 01993 838 430

Suggested itineraries featuring the Wahiba Sands

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