Tips for visiting Etosha National Park

Classic Etosha: springbok and zebra

First of all let me say that WordPress has been a huge pain in the butt lately and I have no idea if this post is going to publish the way I want it to. Text keeps disappearing, photos reorder themselves, and it’s general choas. I’ve spent 30 minutes trying to fix the photo captions and I’m giving up. Maybe they’re trying to get me to start paying to use their platform. HA.

Moving on.

One of our favorite things to do in Namibia is to go to Etosha National Park. We’ve been enough times now we basically know what we’re doing (Kind of? Maybe? We haven’t seen a cheetah yet so who knows.) There’s a massive amount of info on the internet about visiting Etosha, but I think I actually have some meaningful contributions to make!

I’m not going to tell you where to go to find the big cats or where the elephants like to hang out because frankly I have no clue. Each time we’ve gone they’ve all be somewhere different and Etosha is almost the size of New Hampshire so there is some wiggle room.

Spotted hyena in the morning

Here are our tips for making the most out of your trip to Etosha:

Get out the gate as soon as it opens. 
Yes, sometimes that’s quite early and yes sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed. But most of our favorite sightings have been early in the morning, and the light is great for photos. Similarly…

Black-backed jackal family near Okaukuejo
The Etosha morning commute

Exit the park right before the gates close
More great photography lighting and the animals are finally coming out of their shaded hidey holes. Pack a cooler with some beverages, find a watering hole, turn the car off, have a sundowner and just watch the animals emerge. 

Pack your meals to go.  
Or at least pack enough nourishing food to sustain you between meals if you get up early and plan on eating breakfast around 9 at your rest camp. On our most recent evening at Okaukuejo we made sandwiches for dinner while sitting alongside the Okaukuejo watering hole because we only had one night there and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss an amazing sighting to go eat a mediocre expensive pork schnitzel at the restaurant. Some of our favorite meals-to-go: cold quiche, hard boiled eggs, hummus and pre-sliced veg, cold pizza, and of course sandwich fixings.

Bring lots of game drive snacks. 
I’m talking cookies, popcorn, gummy bears, chips, biltong, apples, granola bars, and more cookies. Everyone has their kryptonite snacks; bring those. Things that will make everyone forget their sore butts from enduring bumpy roads, keep whiny children and grownups from losing it, and generally make things more enjoyable. 

Bring a way to make coffee and large to-go mugs.
If you stay at an NWR facility there will be a water kettle; we bring ground coffee, a french press, and thermoses, and we are good to go.

Have everyone go to the bathroom whenever the opportunity presents itself. 
Toilets are few and far between. The LAST thing you want to hear when you’ve found the perfect watering hole, turned off the car, and cracked open a beverage is, “Mommy, Daddy, I REALLY have to poop.” Trust me.

Share information with other tourists whenever you can.  
If we hadn’t told a truck full of Namibians where we had our lion and rhino sightings, they never would have told us about their leopard sighting. And we never would have seen a leopard. Relatedly…

We never would have spotted this beauty without a tip-off and good binoculars

If you’re staying somewhere new and you don’t know where to go to find the big game, ask or look in the sightings book. 
If you can find a game driver they might help you, or maybe not, who knows, they can be proprietary about their info. Every NWR reception has a sightings book; take a look and go to those watering holes.

Buy a map (or several) before you start driving around the park. 
M gets one in the back seat, we have one in the front seat. They also function as an animal guide, which is helpful when you see things like the bird below, which is a puffed out male kori bustard.

Pay at once for as many consecutive days as you’ll be in the park.
You can pay for as many consecutive days as you want, and this will save you time each day. You don’t need to fill out the paperwork or go back in to pay, and sometimes the queues can be terrible.

Don’t get jealous when other people see things that you didn’t
There’s ALWAYS that guy that brags about how he saw a lion take down a zebra, but when you ask where exactly he saw this, he won’t/doesn’t want to give you a straight answer. It’s stupid. People are territorial about their sightings and it’s childish. But that’s life.

Lower your tire pressure, keep your vehicle in 4WD-high, and don’t drive too quickly.
The dirt roads in Etosha aren’t great, verging on really bad. We lower our tire pressure to 1.5 bar and take it slow and steady. After all how else will you see animals. The first time we went we saw a flipped over rented vehicle, probably some tourist who didn’t know how to properly drive on gravel roads. Don’t be that tourist.

Bring binoculars.
Good ones. This is not the time to figure out that your binoculars actually suck.

Take the advice on travel blogs with a grain of salt.
Most of them are written by tourists who went to Etosha for two days during the dry season, happened to get lucky with their sightings and now think they know everything. Have zero expectations: the only things you are truly guaranteed to see are zebra and springbok. Don’t waste your time researching where to find animals at Etosha on the internet because, speaking from experience, it never pans out. Instead look in the sightings book or ask.

Springbok for days

Whew. Well that’s more than I expected to write. In the next post I’ll cover our Etosha trip reports and go over some advice on how to pick where to stay!

This baby giraffe just couldn’t handle the morning traffic

Back to Swakopmund

Swakopmund sunset

One of our favorite places in Namibia is Swakopmund, an odd and eclectic town along the coast in the Erongo region. It has fantastic restaurants (the bar in Namibia is quite low), good shopping, and lots of things to do. It’s where most of Namibia goes to get away. It’s about 4 hours from Windhoek, depending on how many slow-moving semis you get stuck behind.

Initially, the epicenter of COVID-19 in Namibia was in Walvis Bay, the town next to Swakopmund. The entire Erongo region was put on lock-down on May 28, basically two weeks after the initial lock-down had been lifted (which had been put in place in the second half of March). Then the Erongo lockdown was lifted, but by then Windhoek was also in a lockdown. Then, on September 17, the State of Emergency expired, COVID-19 was magically gone from Namibia, and all lockdowns were over.

Many businesses in Erongo haven’t recovered from the COVID-19 lockdown, and I don’t know if they ever will

We went to Swakopmund as soon as we could. M got to go to the Snake Park and the aquarium, Nate went fishing, I went shopping, and we all chased guinea fowl, slept in, played on the beach and ate ourselves silly. It was delightful.

The Snake Park’s Very Dangerous Wall: black mambas, cape cobras and a puff adder
A Namaqua chameleon enjoying a worm snack

We went back to the best pizza restaurant in Namibia, Gabriele’s Pizza, and one of our favorite German restaurants, the Brauhaus. I was reminded why I don’t like eating oysters at The Tug: they don’t cut the muscle away from the shell. I once asked about this and was told “That’s why you have the little fork.” Um ok. Sadly the Jetty hasn’t reopened yet and hopefully it’s not gone for good.

Delicious pizza at Gabriele’s
The Jetty restaurant is, surprise surprise, at the end of the jetty

The Strand Hotel, which has the best views in town, was having a really great special so we stayed there. It’s hard to beat the convenience of having a restaurant with its own microbrewery and fantastic oysters downstairs. HOWEVER. Breakfast was an utter mess. No one was wearing a mask actually covering their nose and mouth, the tables were too close together, and the head chef was standing over the (uncovered) pancakes with no mask on, talking to everyone. We kept our masks on when we weren’t actively eating or drinking, and tried to eat foods that were covered, prepared fresh, or behind a plastic barrier. The first morning was terrible and the second morning we went down earlier when there were less people. Even then, we sat inthe most out-of-the-way table available, but when people came and sat next to us, we got up and left. Normally we would have sat outside but it was freezing cold and windy.

Lesson learned: next time don’t eat the free breakfast. 

Oysters at Brewer & Butcher

It’s nice to have the freedom to travel wherever we want around Namibia again. Tourism to more crowded places (which sounds like an oxymoron in Namibia) in the time of COVID-19 is tricky, but possible. You just have to make more calculated choices. Swakopmund: we’ll be back; the Strand: nope.

I love this little blue house so much
One of many buildings in Swakopmund with German-inspired architecture.

A weekend at Erindi

A huge elephant by the Camp Elephant watering hole

One of our best friends from Muscat came to visit us, and we decided to go check out Erindi Private Game Reserve. Just about everyone in Windhoek told us Erindi is absolutely amazing, and (spoiler alert) they were right!

There are two lodging options: Camp Elephant or Old Trader’s Lodge. At Camp Elephant, you can either tent camp or stay in a self-catering chalet. No matter which option you choose, I don’t think you can go wrong. The camping looks seriously nice: there are private flush toilets and showers, a refrigerator, hot water, grassy areas for your tent (grass!), picnic tables, and a kitchen sink. Coming from Oman where there was literally nothing if you didn’t bring it with you, the camping there is hardly even camping, other than the fact that you have to sleep in a tent.

Self-catering chalets

We booked the self-catering chalets since we weren’t sure if we’d have our camping gear or not. The chalets all border a watering hole and have two bedrooms, a bathroom, air conditioning, and a well-equipped kitchen with a microwave, toaster, and a two-burner stove. Then outside there’s a picnic table and two (two!) braai areas. It was awesome.

The front of the chalet, with a view of the watering hole and two braai spots

Watering hole and chalets at dusk

I can’t tell you much about Old Trader’s Lodge because Camp Elephant guests are “strictly forbidden from visiting Old Trader’s Lodge at all.” I’m guessing it’s fancy? I have no idea. I’m also curious about what must have happened to institute this ridiculous policy.

We visited Erindi on Thanksgiving weekend, so we decided to do a glamping Thanksgiving. We cooked all the food, except the turkey, on Wednesday and Thursday. We got the braai going as soon as we arrived, heated up everything else, and had a humongous feast. In hindsight, the fact that we thought we needed to bring additional food for Saturday night is laughable. We went home without having cooked some of the food we brought, and we never even had a chance to make s’mores. Oh well. Worse things have surely happened.

Thanksgiving desserts!

Sausages on the braai

On Saturday morning, E and I went on an early morning game drive while Nate stayed behind with M and slept in. The game drive was…. alright, I guess? It certainly wasn’t my favorite. There were a bunch of loud hungover people that arrived late, drank throughout the entire thing, wanted to wake up the lions, asked if you could hunt rhinoceros, watched youtube videos and video-chatted during the game drive, and asked the driver if he had more drinks. And the driver seemed hell-bent on driving through the tightest of spaces in an enormous safari vehicle. I sat in the middle to avoid getting swiped by thorny branches. He spent probably 10 minutes trying to drive over a tree. But we saw a male and female lion resting and then a cheetah family out on a hunt, so that was cool.

The next morning, Nate and E went on a game drive while I stayed behind with M. Their guide was awesome, super-knowledgeable about everything, and took them to see lots of lions (including cubs!). Plus there was the added bonus of no obnoxious passengers. So I guess the game drive tours at Erindi are a total and complete crapshoot.

Another option at Erindi is to do self-drive game drives. You have to stay on the road, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see any lions or large predators unless they literally cross the road right in front of you, but you’ll see lots of other neat stuff. We saw a lot of zebras, springbok, oryx, and giraffes. Plus some clusters of elephants and rhinos.

Since moving here I’ve discovered that I get carsick on the bumpy dirt roads (great timing, huh?) so Nate drove the first half and then I took over. I felt slightly better behind the wheel, but I need to buy some kind of medicine for next time.

The amount of wildlife visible from the chalets is awesome. Hippos and crocodiles live in the watering hole, and there’s no shortage of wildebeest, springbok, elephants and warthogs, plus a huge variety of birds. There are also scorpions and bat-sixed moths. A palm-sized scorpion wandered towards our picnic table while we were playing a board game outside after M went to bed. I shouted “Holy shit, a scorpion!!!” and I’ve never seen grown adults jump so quickly on top of a table.

Erindi makes for a nice weekend getaway, or a great first stop on a further-flung camping trip. There’s a surprisingly large well-stocked shop next to the reception with pretty much everything you could need if you forget something, including ice and firewood. That said, I started a list of things to make sure we bring next time: pool towels, tin foil, binoculars, extra dish towels, a silicon spatula, and a kitchen sponge.

Erindi, we’ll be back!

Update: We’ve since returned to Erindi and our second account was about the same. Guided game drives are a still complete crapshoot (even more so than last time) and the facilities are still amazing.

New trip-planning page is live!

Top left corner (clockwise): Wadi Shab, Daymaniyat Islands, Masirah Islands, Wahiba Sands

A quick administrative note: If you’re looking to plan a trip to Muscat, Oman check out the new “Things to do around Muscat” page! It’s in the tool bar at the top next to “Home” and “About.” I’m working on adding photos, but I don’t want to bog it down. Several of the items are linked to blog posts with more information.

There are several categories: forts/castles/other neat outdoors things, hiking, primarily indoor things (museums, the souk, etc), wadis, and beaches/watersports.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

Top left corner (clockwise): Jebel Al Akhdar, scuba diving at the Daymaniyat Islands, Sa’al Stairs, snorkeling at the Daymaniyats

Our trip to Rajasthan: Pushkar

The narrow, winding streets of Pushkar

Our primary reason for stopping in Pushkar was to break up the drive from Jaipur to Jodphur. Pushkar turned out to be a delightful, interesting, pedestrian-friendly town with lots of neat things to see and some great food. Definitely worth a quick stop!

Watching our lunch get made

Warily watching the world go by

We stayed at Inn Seventh Heaven, a quirky, fun haveli that M loved running around. There were cats to chase, elephant statues to investigate, stairs to climb, and swing benches all over the place, plus a water feature in the middle of the ground floor. Honestly, I think the most fun he had in Pushkar was probably exploring the hotel.

Looking up from the inner courtyard at the haveli….

…. And looking down into the same courtyard

Pushkar is a popular for pilgrimages because of its sacred Hindu lake and many ghats. A ghat is a set of stairs leading down to the water, and there are usually several ghats all for the same body of water. There are more than 50 ghats at the Pushkar Lake. One of the few temples to the Hindu creator-god Brahma is located in Pushkar, and this is also a popular draw.

A temple by a ghat

One thing to note about Pushkar is that because it is a devoutly religious town, almost all of the food there is vegetarian with no eggs. They still eat cheese and yogurt, and the main protein source is legumes. So be prepared for weak breakfasts if you like protein in the morning.

We were particularly glad to have a Pushkar city guide because he took us around the town in the evening. Experiencing the temples at prayer time was one of the more spiritual experiences I’ve had, and something we never would have done without our guide. We walked all the way around the lake and he got us into the Brahma temple 5 minutes before closing time (and showed us the best inexpensive place to store our shoes without having to worry about them getting stolen).

Pushkar lake, ghats and temples at sunset

We were pleasantly surprised by Pushkar, and unless you plan on doing some of desert adventuring based out of Pushkar, I think you probably only need to spend one night. After waking up early to wander around Pushkar Lake during sunrise, we ate breakfast (which left us all hungry an hour later), and we were on our way to Jodphur!

Our trip to Rajasthan: Jaipur

The Hawa Majal or “The Palace of Winds” is basically a facade; it is not a real building.

There’s so much on the internet about Jaipur already, I don’t have much to add.

My first-ever thali. Sadly nothing else on the trip was quite as good!

We stayed at the Pearl Palace Heritage Hotel (which is separate from the Pearl Palace Hotel) and it was wonderful. Our room was interesting and fun, and the breakfast area was super quirky. There is no restaurant on the premises, so they offer free tuktuks to their sister hotel, the Pearl Palace Hotel, which has a restaurant. The restaurant there is amazing: very good inexpensive food and excellent thalis.

We wanted to spend some time with elephants while we were in Jaipur. We found an elephant sanctuary called Elefantastic, and we had a really great experience. It was a bit canned and the guy seemed preoccupied with our potential TripAdvisor review (which I never gave), but we enjoyed ourselves and M loved it, so we were happy.

Our elephant for the day. The orange chalk line across her forehead kept the oil that was massaged into her scalp from running into her eyes.

We got to paint our elephant with natural mineral-based paints (where these colors exist in nature, I have no clue). It seemed gimmicky initially, but it was much more fun than I thought it’d be.

My handiwork

At the City Palace

We did all the normal stuff in Jaipur: the Hawa Mahal (much smaller than I thought it’d be), the Amber Fort (much larger than I thought it would be), the City Palace, etc.

Inside the Amber Fort

More of the Amber Fort. Picture don’t do it justice.

Between our city guide and driver, we were well taken-care-of, and the guide did a good job of being understanding of the limits of sight-seeing with a 3-year-old. Jaipur is worth the trip!

A Trip to Rajasthan: India for Beginners

Getting stared down in the Blue City: Jodphur

We are currently on home leave, and I thought now would be a good chance to finally blog about a trip we took last year in October to Rajasthan, India. I wasn’t planning to blog about it because what can I possibly say about India that hasn’t already been said somewhere on the internet. But, after some encouragement, I thought about it and I do have some helpful info and tips to pass along.

We’d been wanting to go to India ever since we were in Dhaka. We had good friends serving in Chennai, and we purchased tickets to visit them and got our visas, and then the terrorist attack happened. If we’d gone to Chennai we would have been “caught out,” which would have meant that M and me would not have been allowed back in Dhaka, and maybe they wouldn’t have let Nate back either. We decided we wanted to leave Dhaka on our own terms, and we knew there would eventually be an opportunity to go back to India.

Cows everywhere.

Ironically, the flight options from Oman to India are far better those from Bangladesh to India. When we lived there, you could only fly direct from Dhaka to Calcutta and New Deli. From Muscat there are flights to probably 15 different cities in India. And they’re super cheap! I was amazed by how easy it was to get there from Muscat.

We decided to go to Rajasthan because I always thought Jaipur looked like the most interesting part of the Golden Triangle (Dheli, Agra and Jaipur) and some friends said Udaipur was their favorite city in India. From there, we looked at a map, read the guidebook, and decided to also go to Jodhpur, with a one-night stop in Pushkar along the way to break up the drive.

A Jain temple between Jodphur and Udaipur, after which we got a flat tire.

This was our itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Jaipur
Day 2: Tour Jaipur
Day 3: Drive to Pushkar
Day 4: Drive to Jodphur
Day 5: Tour Jodhpur
Day 6: Drive to Udaipur
Day 7: Tour Udaipur
Day 8: Tour Udaipur
Day 9: Depart Udaipur

So, logistics. The first thing to know about traveling to India is that, if you’re an American, you need a visa. You can easily apply for it online and I used the app PassportBooth to take photos and edit them to the correct size, and then I just emailed them to myself. One thing to note is if you do the e-visa route, you’ll get only a double-entry three-month visa. I have no idea how to get the magical 10-year multiple-entry visa. Apparently you can’t get it even if you apply at an embassy.

We hired a car and driver for the duration of our trip through Tamarind Global. It was excellent. We had a large Toyota station-wagon that our driver kept clean and stocked with cold bottles of water. We also had a different tour guide in each city that we went to. This was the first time that Nate and I traveled with a tour guide and, I have to tell you, it was awesome. We learned and saw far more than we would have on our own, and I think people were less likely to pester us because we almost always had a tour guide with us when we were walking around town. The cost of the car, driver, and tour guides came out to around $80 a day, which was definitely worth it for us, especially with a toddler.

More of The Blue City. It was obviously a favorite of mine.

I found hotels using The Lonely Planet guidebook and online reviews. We stayed in havelis, also called heritage hotels, which are basically old houses that have been transformed into hotels. Each haveli is different, and we really enjoyed the experience.

I bought a lot of textiles. Did I get ripped off? Probably. Was it worth it? YES.

I will say this: when packing your bags, ensure you have a lot of space for souvenirs. In our case, this was textiles. We went a little overboard. Shirts, pillow covers, fabric (namely cotton, silk, silk brocade, and linen), pashmina blankets, table clothes, table runners, paper products, etc. There are so many interesting and pretty things to buy there. God help us if we ever get posted to India. I’m going to buy so much furniture and everything else.

Antiques (both fake and real) as far as the eye could see.

I’ll do a more detailed post about each of the cities that we went to, but I will say this about the trip over-all: it was awesome and went extremely well.

We were prepared for all sorts of misery. Food poisoning, pick-pockets, terrible traffic, getting ripped off, an overwhelming and constant barrage of stinky smells, air pollution, and so forth and so on. Basically every bad stereotype that you think of when you think of India. Other than a few days of bad air and maybe an hour of unpleasant traffic, our fears were completely unfounded. Well, maybe I did get ripped off on a few things, but I never paid more than I thought was reasonable.

First stop: Jaipur!

Driving in Oman: rules, rules and more rules

View from the Muscat Expressway on a Friday morning

The best way to experience Oman as a tourist is to rent a car and hit the road. This is a very easy country to drive in, and most of the roads are really well-maintained. However, we have made some mistakes and picked up a few pieces of info along the way that might be helpful for anyone planning to do some driving in Oman.

First, car rentals. There are several car rental companies at the airport and if you want to really explore, make sure you rent a 4WD vehicle. However, make sure you get unlimited mileage. Lots of companies impose a 200 kilometer per day limit, and if you exceed that amount you have to pay out the nose. For example, if you rent a car for seven days, you get 1,400 kilometers. We learned this the hard way. Europcar is one of the few companies that does not have a limit, and you have to book online in advance.

Khor Najd, with its fun twisty crazy road

Second, driving in Muscat. There are a lot of rules/guidelines which you need to always follow, and the consequences can be serious.

Here are the biggies:

  1. NEVER EVER RUN A RED LIGHT. You will have to spend a night in jail. When the light starts flashing green, prepare to stop. (I’m not kidding)
  2. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE SPEED LIMIT. If you don’t know what the speed limit is, follow the speed of traffic. (There are traffic cameras everywhere)
  3. NO ROAD RAGE ALLOWED. No flipping the bird, no hand gestures, no yelling, etc. (The police will get involved and you will go to jail and be deported. Once again, I’m not kidding.)
  4. ALWAYS BE PREPARED FOR ANYONE TO PULL IN FRONT OF YOU.
  5. PRACTICE DEFENSIVE DRIVING.
  6. DO NOT PULL ALL THE WAY UP TO STOP AT A RED LIGHT. This is considered running a red light. You’ll notice that the locals stop a good distance back; follow their lead.

Here are some other helpful guidelines:

  • At traffic circles, those entering the circle need to yield to those already in the circle
  • For most lights with right turns, there is a designated right turn lane and you can turn right even if the light is red
  • If you come to an intersection without lights, drive like you have a stop sign
  • Watch out for maroon and white striped cars: these are student drivers
  • There are speed bumps everywhere
  • Just because there are arrows in a lane pointing in different directions doesn’t mean you can go any of those directions from that lane. It means you can get to lanes from which you can go in those directions from that lane. So for instance if you need to turn right, get in the far right lane.
  • Waze, maps.me and GoogleMaps give turn-by- turn directions here. Maps.me is helpful if you don’t have cell service because you can download the maps in advance.
  • On narrow, twisty mountain roads, honk your horn when you’re going around a turn to warn anyone coming in the other direction

Traffic can be a little more lawless outside of Muscat and away from the traffic cameras. Also, watch out for camels. They do whatever they want, including walk through the middle of the highway. Donkeys and goats also do this, but camels are the most dangerous.

Camels don’t care

Third, I also recommend buying a copy of “Oman Off-Road.” It’s available at Border’s (there’s a shop in just about any mall) or at Al Fair grocery stores. The book costs about 20 OMR ($50) and is definitely worth it if you plan on doing any exploring.

Lastly, if you really want to explore, you need a four wheel drive vehicle, and you need to be comfortable using the four wheel drive capabilities. If you want to drive in the sand you also need to have a gizmo to let air out of your tires down to 20 PSI and also an air compressor to put air back into your tires.

Now, go forth and explore! It’s going to be incredible!

Nate drove down this while I hyperventilated and swore.

The Sugar Dunes are impossible to reach with a 4WD vehicle

Good luck exploring this road in a sedan!

Driving around Dhofar: camels and cyclone damage

Camels everywhere!

While we were driving around Dhofar and Salalah, I was struck by three things: how green it was, the extraordinary number of camels everywhere, and the amount of remaining damage from Cyclone Mekunu.  I was prepared for, but still surprised by, the first two, but I was shocked by latter.

Waze tried to make us take this road

We drove down some roads that probably shouldn’t have been open, and Waze tried to take us over a bridge that had been completely washed out.

Close-up of the photo above. See how the bridge is washed out?

Cyclone Mekunu struck Oman (and Yemen) in May earlier in the year, and apparently dumped over 10 inches of rain in Salalah in one day, and more than 24 inches over a 4-day period. It was the biggest natural disaster that Oman’s seen in some time, and the water rushing down the mountains caused a lot of damage. I guess I thought that they would have made all the repairs and so forth by now, but it was only 3 months ago.

I’m surprised this road wasn’t closed.

Also, I don’t think it’s possible to write about a trip to Salalah without mentioning the camels. They are everywhere. In the traffic circles, the highways, the hillsides, the ruins, you name it. I read that during the khareef the camels come down off the mountains and into the plains closer to the coast to escape the biting flies.  Whatever the reason, there are camels all over the place and they give zero shits if they are in your way. They will literally walk out into the middle of a freeway without a care in the world. It definitely makes for interesting driving!

Camels in the road

Camels don’t care

We tried to drive down this road, but we gave up (and got yelled at by the camel herder)

“WTF are you guys doing here”

Ruins and a camel

I tried to convince M this was a two-headed camel. He didn’t believe me. He’s no fun.

More camels

That one’s a non-conformist.

Camping in Dhofar (and Oman beach camping notes)

Our campsite at a random beach in Northern Dhofar before we cleaned up all the trash

For our second night of camping on our Salalah road trip, I had pre-selected a spot that another blog said was nice, but we would have arrived later than we would have liked to have time to set up camp and make dinner. Instead we drove to a beach that looked promising and not too windy, let the air out of the tires to 15 PSI, and kept driving until we found a good spot.

Once again, Nate got started on the fire while I set up the tents and M buried his plastic dinosaurs in the sand. One of those dinos is still buried, and luckily M is too young to care or realize that it’s gone forever.

The tide when out and a patch of pink shells appeared

The temperature on the beach was perfect, and I actually had to wear long sleeves and sleep inside my sleeping bag. There’s nothing like eating a yummy campfire meal and watching the sunset over the ocean, and then falling asleep with a gentle breeze to the sound of waves on the shore.

It was cold enough that I actually had to sleep inside my sleeping bag!

We’re not beach camping experts by any stretch of the imagination, but we have some wisdom to pass on to others planning to go beach camping in Oman. Here are some of our tips:

  • Bring a table. We also bring plastic bins, one for cooking gear, one for other stuff, and they also function as tables. There are no picnic tables here.
  • Buy firewood ahead of time. You can buy it reliably at the Sultan Center in Muscat (one bundle costs 2.500 OMR), and apparently at the OmanOil on the freeway by Quriyat. Do not plan on being able to find firewood or kindling at your campsite.

Beach sunset and the campfire

  • Bring an axe or hatchet to split your firewood. In the absence of an axe/hatchet, bring some fire starter.
  • Bring garbage bags. We always try to leave the campsite cleaner than when we arrived, and unfortunately in Oman you’ll find a lot of plastic garbage on almost every beach.
  • Bring a tarp or mat to put on the ground. You’ll want someplace where you can set things and they won’t get covered in sand. You can buy one of those large plastic mats at Lulu for less than 2 OMR.
  • Be prepared for late-night parties. The As Sifah beach is notorious for this. People will go to bed around 10 pm and then around 2 am the partiers will show up, playing music and making lots of noise until the sun comes up. We prefer to camp in difficult-to-access or off-the-beaten path areas for this reason.

Essential beach camping gear: beach tent + sleeping tent, plastic mat, plastic bins, cooler and water bladders

  • Embrace the sand. You’ll never get rid of all of it. It’s impossible. We keep a towel inside the tent by the door so we can wipe off our feet, but when we get home everything is still covered in sand.
  • Bring a beach tent. If it gets hot, you’ll be grateful for the shade, and if it’s windy, this is where you can prepare and eat sand-free meals.
  • Close your tent zipper fully, with both the zippers pulled up as high as they will go together (rather than pulling the two zippers together along the bottom of the tent). You don’t want scorpions in your tent!

Pork sausage and potatoes for breakfast

  • Don’t plan on finding ice anywhere after you leave Muscat. We bring a cooler with ice packs and we freeze what we can to help keep everything else cold. There is ice at the convenience store/gas station next to the freeway right by the Bimmah Sink Hole exit, and that is the only place I have ever seen ice.

Do you have any other beach camping tips? Let me know!