Destination for adventure
The unique experiences Oman’s mountains and wadis offer is a big draw for adventure tourism enthusiasts. The Ministry of Tourism is encouraging adventure tourism by granting licences to companies to operate in this sector. It is currently working on setting regulations in adventure tourism and structuring programmes for coordination of adventure tours, besides supervising activities across all governorates of the sultanate.
Abdul Rahman al Abri, a tour guide and owner of an adventure tourism company, said that the sultanate has many locations offering such activities in the mountains, desert or sea and it is a promising destination for this type of tourism.
Abri said that it is necessary to focus on developing the sites offering adventure tourism activities. “It is also important to train those who work in this sector, and encourage setting up local companies to manage and supervise these sites. Additionally, laws should be framed to regulate the sector for local companies to collaborate with foreign companies specialising in search and rescue to be key supporters of adventure tourism,” he said.
According to Abri, those working in these sites should be given legal status while others prohibited. Such measures will attract a global clientele.
Nasser al Habsi is a mountaineering enthusiast who took up the sport as a child climbing the mountains near his village. According to him, mountaineering has physical as well as mental benefits. “For a country, it is a source of financial returns. It enriches the tourism sector.”
Adventure tourism requires special skills which must be learnt in order to enjoy these activities. Besides physical fitness, discipline and mental strength, scientific and geographical information are needed for activities of this nature, informed Khalid al Siyabi.
“It is also about knowing the use of various tools such as ropes, clasps, wedges and other technical items,” he said.
According to Siyabi, the mountains in Oman meet the seas, the deserts and wadis which makes them unique. Also, there are archaeological sites and natural fossils to be encountered. “To ensure a successful experience, there are essential steps to be followed, particularly careful planning and management of the trip, preparing tools, selection of appropriate clothing and designing contingency plans.”
Siyabi said mountaineering and adventure tourism was growing steadily in the sultanate. “These are becoming popular in various countries all competing for a slice of the pie of this unique sector. The sultanate has all the elements to compete in this sector and also take the lead in the world.”
Among the adventure activities Siyabi has participated are climbing from Wadi al Nakhr to the peak of Jebel Shams over two days. The mountains near Wadi bin Auf, Wadi Ta'ab in Quriyat, Al Lasdani in Ibri and Mibam Tiwi in Wadi Bani Khalid offer excellent locations for such activities.
Yacoub al Rabaani said mountaineering combines sports and entertainment while enjoying the tranquility of nature. “Hiking and climbing mountains has many benefits. It gives individuals the motivation to continue to practice sports and to follow a healthy diet,” he said. “Ancient mountain tracks were used by our forefathers to travel between the villages of Oman. The adventure tour companies can promote and introduce these villages to the outside world.”
Rabaani has visited many beautiful places in the sultanate, including Wadi Tiwi in Tiwi, Wadi Hawar in the wilayat of Bani Khalid, Wadi Umq Bir located between Qalhat and Tiwi, the Saab Bani Khamis route in Jebel Shams as well as the track from Hadash village to Wakan village. He said the role of social media in highlighting adventure tourism is important.
Ahmed al Rahbi, a climbing enthusiast, who has studied the subject, has concluded that the best age for adventure activities is 36 years and older. “Most climbers are amateurs who participate with several teams to gain unique experiences every time,” he said.
Mountain adventure teams innovate various types of challenging competitions for enthusiasts. Among the most popular challenges in Jebel Shams was one sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism.
Rahbi informed that among the most important competitions held recently in Oman were the OMAN-UTMB, a global ticket event owing to the distance and difficulty of the track in Jebel Akhdar and Wadi al Hamra. The competition was attended by 47 Omanis and participants of six other nationalities.
Adventure tourism is a source of income for those living in the area as it creates job opportunities and avenues to market their local products.
Training programmes have been conducted in the areas of adventure tourism by Royal Army of Oman for its staff, besides courses of Trax International under certification of IRATA and first aid.
According to Rahbi’s study, the most popular places for adventure tourism are the villages of Bir and Mibam in Tiwi, Wadi Ta'ab in the village Fens in Quriyat, Wadi al Hail, Jebel Shams, and Wadi Hawar in Wadi Bani Khalid.