Many of the best activities in Oman start early in the morning, so if you love your sleep, the best way to minimise your prep and travel time is to book a hotel that’s located in the centre of Muscat, such as the four-star Majan Continental Hotel or Ramada Qurum Beach Hotel, and pre-order your breakfast to be served in bed. All these tours include pick-ups and drop-offs within the capital city.
It’s well worth rising with the sun for the chance to see dolphins jumping through the water within close range of your speed boat. A 30-minute private transfer, that cuts through the Al Hajar Mountains along the eastern coastline, brings you to Marina Bandar Al Rowdha. This is the capital city’s oldest marina and is described as the place where the mountains meet the sea. Here, yachts, speed boats and jet skis oscillate with the gently rising and falling waters of the Arabian Sea.
It’s best to arrive early as the dolphins are most playful when the day is still young and the morning light makes for the best photographs. Within 15 minutes of leaving the marina, the speed boat is likely to be surrounded by pods of these intelligent creatures who have a liking for calm waters. They are just as curious about you as you are of them.
Explore the turquoise waters, golden sedimentary cliffs and beaches of Bandar Al Khayran. Reef dwellers and fluorescent tropical fish dart and dash between the colourful coral reefs covered in crustaceans and mollusks. If you’re lucky you might even see honeycomb morays and stingrays as well as lionfish.
Around this area you will see fishing boats and yachts moored within the shallow bay, which make for spectacular photographs above the pellucid water.
This three-hour excursion leaves from Marina Bandar Al Rowdha at 10am. Expect to arrive back in Muscat by 1pm, just in time to go off in search of a lunch of majboos (chicken and rice), followed by milky chai tea and sticky sweet halwa for dessert. Book with Coral Ocean Tours.
Al Mouj Marina, a 20-minute drive north-west of Muscat, is the springboard to the Ad Daymaniyat Islands. This protected nature reserve consists of an archipelago of nine uninhabited islands that float across an area of 203 square kilometres (78 square miles). The islands showcase rare coral reefs and seagrass beds that offer numerous scuba diving and snorkelling sites, with the chance to see whale sharks and the population of green turtles that nest on the islands.
Landing on these islands between May and October is prohibited to protect the hatchlings. There are other underwater regulars such as sohal surgeonfish, Arabian angelfish and butterflyfish, as well as Arabian Picasso triggerfish and Red Sea clownfish. This half-day excursion returns to Muscat after midday. Book with Daymaniyat Shells.
Ask any seasoned fishermen and they will surely tell you that the Gulf of Oman is famed for giant trevally, some of which tip the scales upwards of 50kg (110lbs). These prehistoric beasts usually spend their days at depths between 80-100 metres (262-328 feet), but if they do rise to the topwater to chomp your bait, expect an energetic fight. You’ll also find sailfish, yellowfin tuna, dorado, kingfish, blue and striped marlin and all the other big names you’d expect on an angler’s wish list. Be sure to choose a sustainable operator with the required permits. Book with Al Sansool.
Sur and the neighbouring whitewashed village of Ayjah, which lie some 200km (124mi) or roughly two hours southeast of Muscat, are associated with their age-old ship-building heritage, where shipyards used to line the main streets. “The dhows were built in the traditional way without the use of a single nail. Instead, hand-woven rope was used to seal the joints between the wooden planks,” explains Hilal Al Ghadani, owner and guide at Desert Flower Tours.
There’s no better way to end the day than by exploring Muscat’s coastline during a two-hour cruise onboard these sturdy handcrafted dhows. Admire the fine craftsmanship from the cushioned deck as you float from Marina Bandar Al Rowdha, past medieval forts and fishing villages, along Muttrah’s Corniche towards the old Muscat harbour and finally Al Alam Palace. Indulge in traditional Omani coffee that is prepared with cardamom and served with dates, as the sun melts into the water and illuminates the coast with a golden glow. Book with Desert Flower Tours.