Oman : Arabian Oryx Sanctuary
The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was established in 1994 to help protect the endangered Arabian Oryx and to conserve desert habitat and threatened species. It covers approximately 27,500 sq km of central Oman and lies about half way between Muscat and Salalah. Most of the Sanctuary is a very flat limestone plateau known as the Jiddat, however, to the east the limestone plateau ends dramatically at the Al Huqf escarpment which drops 100m in places.
Seasonal fogs and dews support a unique desert ecosystem whose diverse flora includes several endemic plants. Here you will find the reintroduced Arabian Oryx, and the only wild breeding sites in Arabia of the endangered Houbara bustard. A rare species of wader is also to be found, as well as Nubian ibex, Arabian wolves, honey badgers, caracals and the largest wild population of Arabian gazelle.
The sanctuary contains examples of some unique geological formations. In the past Oman was covered in glaciers (300 million years ago), swathed in forests and rivers (280 million years ago) and covered by warm shallow seas (70 million years ago)! The evidence of this can be found in the Oryx sanctuary in the form of a vast area of flat rock or 'glacial pavement' with parallel grooves scored by rocks trapped and moved by the ice, fossil tree trunks preserved in river sediments and beds of fossil shells on an ancient sea floor! It goes without saying that the landscapes are of exceptional scientific and aesthetic value hence the sanctuary was the region's first UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.
A usual weekend visit might begin with arrival at Jaaluni late on Wednesday or Thursday and end with departure on Friday. The schedule might include:
• Watching the captive oryx at Jaaluni at feeding time - accompanied by rangers.
• A visit to the information centre at Jaaluni.
• A wildlife drive with a guide across the desert to see Oryx and other wildlife.
• A wildlife drive to the spectacular Al Huqf escarpment accompanied by a guide to explore the geology of the area.
As there are no Lodges or Hotels in the area the only way to visit the Sanctuary is to Camp at the Jaaluni official campsite. The camping will be in dome tents, however, due to the absence of mosquitoes it is also possible to sleeping out under the stars.
This area is very remote and is a long drive from Muscat and really only for the dedicated wildlife viewers.