Sur is a quiet coastal town which was once an important base for trade with Africa, especially through Zanzibar, formerly under the same sultanate as Oman.
Sur has been an important dhow-building centre for many centuries, and you can visit what remains of the boatyards today and see dhows being built in the traditional way.In the 19th century, Sur had an ocean-going fleet of more than a hundred dhows.
There are two 3-star hotels here, the Sur Plaza and the Sur Beach. Both are simple establishments, the latter has a swimming pool and faces the beach. Visitors come down here to enjoy the coastal drive from Muscat, and to see the turtles nesting at Ras Al Jinz.
Ras Al Jinz
Green turtles come to nest on this and other beaches from about 11 pm and the hatchlings often come out just before dawn. The best time of year to see them is between June and October, but the turtles come pretty much all year round.
There is a project here, recording the nests, and in theory the site is protected. In practice, things often seem to get out of hand as large tour buses arrive from Sur after dinner, disgorging noisy tourists who want their photo taken next to a turtle! The rather reserved Omani guides find it hard to keep control.
To observe the turtles more peacefully it is better to come later, after the buses have gone, and even stay out on the beach until dawn. If you wish to do this, then stay either at the Ras al Hadd Hotel nearby, or try the rudimentary campsite by the beach.
The Wahiba Sands, about three hours from Muscat, is Oman’s version of Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter. It is a vast mass of red and white sand, 140 km by 80km, with dunes rising up to 150 meters.
There is a scattering of Bedouin camps, as Bedouin herders still wander from waterhole to waterhole, and the sands actually contain quite a variety of terrain and vegetation. It is possible to drive across the Wahiba Sands, but it is more usual to drive in from Mintrib, camp overnight – we recommend the Thousand Nights Camp, and drive out of the sands the following morning.