National Geographic – An Arabian Adventure

Astonished shrieks wake me from my post-lunch reverie. Posited on giant cushions, my belly full with grilled fish and my system rocked towards slumber by the gentle motion of the dhow (boat), the urgent excitement seems surreal and slightly hysterical.

Reluctantly, I rouse myself and make my way to the side of the boat, arrowing along the coastline towards the Straits of Hormuz, to investigate the source of the fuss. Judging by the ecstatic looks of my companions and the frantic motioning towards starboard by boatmen Omar and Abdullah, it seems we’ve company. The school of dolphins appears to be racing us. Throwing their streamlined silver- blue bodies flamboyantly out of the turquoise ocean alongside us, they just have the edge on our bulkier motorised dhow.

“Very beautiful,” says Omar. “They don’t come out every time, sometimes they are being lazy. But there’s usually a good chance something like this will happen. It’s what many of our customers come here for.”

Fantastical sights like these are not uncommon in this neck of the Arabian Peninsula. Located in the far north of Oman and separated from the rest of the country
by the UAE, the Musandam Peninsula is a gloriously remote tract of land where towering mountains tumble down to a coastline indented by deep, snaking khors (fjords).

Until recently its isolation meant it was known to few people, aside from locals, intrepid explorers and smugglers from nearby Iran — just 40 miles away across the Strait.

However, its proximity to holiday hotspot Dubai — a three-hour drive away — and its world-class diving opportunities meant it
was never going to remain a secret for long. The unveiling in 2008 of the plush Six Senses Zighy Bay resort on the peninsula’s east coast helped put the area on the tourism map. But despite rumours of further ambitious luxury developments, the area remains the antithesis of the glitzy tourist meccas south of the border in the UAE and, increasingly, around the Omani capital, Muscat.

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