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Experience Oman’s fascinating sea creatures right up close

Swimming next to a majestic whale shark, accompanying cute turtle hatchlings on their way to the sea or watching dolphins at play – these are once-in-a-lifetime adventures on many people’s bucket list. Often, destinations can only offer these experiences during a particular season. However, in the Sultanate of Oman visitors can tick all three boxes with a single trip at most times of the year and return home with an unforgettable experience.

Snorkelling with whale sharks off the coast of Muscat

They are enormous yet soft creatures and not dangerous at all – whale sharks. From July to November these six to ten-metre long fish, the world’s largest by the way, feel particularly at home in the plankton-rich waters of the Gulf of Oman. In the Daymaniyat Islands nature reserve a few kilometres from the capital Muscat, visitors can watch these gentle giants close up while snorkelling, diving or swimming. Boat trips depart from Al Mouj Marina, where a number of local companies such as the MolaMola Diving Center or Daymaniyat Shells offer tours, at prices ranging from as low as 60 euros. The fascinating ocean giants can also be observed near the Omani exclave Musandam.

Bird's eye view of two people swimming next to a whale shark in the sea

A whale shark off the coast of Muscat © MolaMola Diving Center

Watch turtles lay eggs and their offspring hatch

With their leathery skin, a hard shell and around 225 million years of evolution under their belts, sea turtles are the world’s oldest living reptiles and seem to derive from another time. This is probably why humans hold a special fascination for them. Near the coastal town of Sur in Oman, a three-hour drive from Muscat, lies the Ras Al Jinz nature reserve. It boasts one of the world’s few beaches where sea turtles come ashore all year round to lay their eggs. Four of the seven existing species, mainly the green sea turtle, but also the hawksbill and loggerhead turtles plus the olive ridley turtle, nest on this beach. Adult females return to their birthplace every two to three years and - depending on the species - lay 50 to 200 eggs in a sand pit, often up to three times during a single nesting period. Around 55 days later, the big hatching begins. The best time to see turtles in Oman is during the hot summer months. However, the rest of the year is also a good time to observe both egg-laying and hatching. The Ras Al Jinz Scientific and Visitor Centre, which also offers accommodation, organises guided tours to the turtles at night and in the early morning hours. As the beach of Ras Al Jinz is not openly accessible, a guided tour is obligatory. In addition, Masirah Island and the beaches near Duqm and Salalah are popular nesting sites for turtles.

A turtle on the beach in the foreground, the sea and a cliff in the background

Turtles on the beach at the Ras Al Jinz nature reserve © Ministry of Heritage & Tourism Sultanate of Oman

Watch dolphins hunt and play

They are smart and swift hunters and love sardines – dolphins. At the southern tip of Oman in the Dhofar region around the town of Salalah, with a bit of luck a spectacle awaits visitors. Large schools of sardines gather off the coast, attracting dolphins. There is no need to even board a boat to watch them. The tall cliffs surrounding many of the local beaches offer an excellent viewpoint for the black shadows beneath the waves. The glistening hump of a whale suddenly emerges from the blue sea, hot in pursuit of sardines. A short while later an entire school of dolphins appears. Visitors can take a boat tour with a local operator such as Around the Ocean to watch these intelligent animals from close quarters. Quite often half a dozen dolphins will swim alongside the motorboat, playing in the waves and performing elegant corkscrews while leaping out of the water. From November to March, sardines are in abundance off the coast of Salalah and attract huge numbers of dolphins.

Dolphin pods in the sea and coastline in the background.

In the south of Oman visitors can watch dolphins from a boat and with a bit of luck even from the coast. © Ministry of Heritage & Tourism Sultanate of Oman

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