Oman customer reviews
We are very proud of the feedback that we get from our trips and are pleased to share reviews from past travellers. These are kept as up to date as possible. Please have a read through to get a real sense of the kind of experience that you might have on a family trip to Oman.
Berridge Family (children aged 7 & 11)
Travelled Easter 2022
Hi Liddy. We wanted to write and say a huge thank you for your help and support in putting together one of the best adventures we have had as a family. Going away after nearly 2.5 years (#thankscovid) was a daunting prospect. Let alone to an area of the world we’ve never been before. We wanted an adventure, but without the hassle and stress of planning & research, and the risk of making a wrong choice on places, hotels, locations – such a minefield! And, wow, did Stubborn Mule deliver! I tell everyone I can what a fab company you have! You heard and understood our needs and guided us to a fab itinerary. You were even on the end of the phone at the airport, when the airline messed up our flights – your personalised service made all the difference. Thank you!
We thought we’d put together our thoughts on the trip in case you might like to share this with future travellers.
We took a 10-day holiday – a 7-day guided tour and a 3-day at a hotel in Muscat. Anyone thinking of going to Oman- don’t miss it! What an experience! We saw mountains, deserts, beach, wadis, forts, souks, the most incredible mosque. Not to mention the wild dolphins, turtles (twice), gazelles, camels, donkeys… I could go on. Oman is a very varied landscape was far more westernised than I expected (all signs are in Arabic and English), nevertheless the Muslim culture plays a huge part of life and must be respected if you want to visit here. For us, this meant women needing to dress to cover our shoulders and knees at all times. This applied to women and teenagers, but we included our 11-year-old daughter (my 7-year-old could wear what she wanted). There are exceptions to the dress code – such as hotel pools (mostly), the desert and on a boat. You can always check in advance with the concierge/ your driver for local etiquette.
We visited 4-14 April and during Ramadan. Both these points were central to our stay. April is the end of the tourist season, meaning it’s been 40(+) degrees every day; but as long as you are careful with your timings (ie you don’t mind early starts) you can avoid the heat most days. This also means the trip was incredibly quiet from tourists! We even had some locations to ourselves- this made each beautiful location seem even more special.
Ramadan (with a guided driver) for us meant many shops were shut during the day (outside Muscat). We didn’t find this inhibited the tour in any way, and we loved being able to experience the culture during this holy month for Muslims. Our driver was top class, and we would ensure our trip was timed so he could attend lunchtime prayers whilst we quietly/quickly ate lunch* in the back of the car. And we finished our trip each day so he could have suhoor (break his fast at sunset). None of which was a problem.
*lunch = we’re foodies, so lunch was not a high point as you can imagine! But nuts, fruits, croissants and a sprite from a local supermarket did the trick each day. Omani food however is gorgeous and we actively avoided westernised food as a result. “Buffet” became our favourite word, and met everyone’s needs, including our 7 year old (there was usually a pasta dish or equivalent on the menu).
I should take a moment to mention our driver, Said. Anyone pondering whether to get a guided tour – we thoroughly recommend it. Not just to take up the burden of hours of driving (2-3 hours most days for our trip, whilst we snoozed, chatted, took in the scenery etc, without fear of getting lost or needing to plan our journey). He also planned our days with us (so we never worried about being too early/ late), advised us of local restaurants when needed, told us local history and information, walked us around Misfah Oasis and picked pomegranates for the children to eat. He was great company too – great sense of humour- a pleasure to spend the week with!
To be balanced- here are our recommendations / top tips for future travellers-
1. To save on UK mobile phone charges, buy a SIM card at Muscat airport. We used Ooredoo 8Gb sim (which allowed for 2Gb social usage) and worked well for us. This meant we had internet access throughout the stay. We also needed internet to stay in contact with our driver and the Oman partners who supported our stay here.
2. When in Muscat download the OTaxi app. This works the same as Uber, and is a cheaper and super easy way to get around town.
3. Do not miss seeing the Grand Mosque and Souk when Muscat. Absolute ‘must-sees’.
4. Hotel in Nizwa – awful (westernised) food. We ate out when we could (this hotel was otherwise good though).
5. Wadi Shab – spectacular! BUT not in 40-degree heat with children. This was a difficult day for everyone in coping with the heat. Anyone taking this trip at this time of year should carefully consider their families’ needs and capabilities (Google reviews on the walk etc).
6. Wild camping- Liddy you talked us into this (nicely!) and it’s the kids’ most memorable experience from the trip. But we would recommend upgrading to a bell tent if kids are young. Our 7 year old was nervous and it would have been better to sleep all together.
7. Turtle reserve – we didn’t know until we got there that we could have taken an early morning walk (to see baby turtles going into the water). We did the night walk, which was busier and with little success. In retrospect, we would have got an early night to sleep and gone out in the morning instead.
I honestly could go on and on about this trip. Suffice to say the whole thing exceeded our expectations, and it’ll stay in our memories forever. We will definitely be back to ask for your help again for our next adventure!
Gread (children aged 7 & 9)
Travelled Easter 2022
Hi Liddy. Hope you’re keeping well. We have just arrived back from Oman, after a wonderful two weeks away! Thank you so much for all of your help in organising it. Jeevaka (on the ground in Oman) was also brilliant, as was Fahad, our driver. It was a true adventure, and we really felt like we saw “Oman” (many people we met at the Shangri La had never left the resort!) Sadly, tourism levels remain very low in the country – none of our hotels seemed more than 10-20% occupied, but hopefully that will improve next year.
We thought it might help you (and future clients) to hear a few of our reflections on the trip (in no particular order):
– Itinerary – all perfect, with the right number of days in each location and without it being a rush.
– Nizwa – for families, there is a brand new water park close to the main mall (with a handy Carrefour). Small, but great for 3 – 14 year-olds and a perfect way to spend a couple of hours beating the heat. That said, it strictly requires women to be covered up.
– Women’s swimming attire – S and I ended up buying “muslim” swimming costumes (mine from Ebay before I left, for £20!) and really valued having them. Whilst people were swimming in t-shirts etc, we felt very comfortable having the proper suits, and are glad we did
– Accommodation – all of the hotels/tents were perfect and we wouldn’t have changed anything.
– Ramadan – began on 2 April. The main impact of this was at the Shangri-La – no food served outside and extremely limited alcohol availability (only at one of the restaurants, after 7pm and if eating indoors). This put a slight dampener on the experience for us – whilst we aren’t big drinkers, a cool beer in the evenings and ice cream by the pool are holiday treats and were missed.
I hope the above is helpful! Overall, we had a brilliant holiday and would recommend Stubborn Mule to our friends (indeed A was looking at your Californian Adventure itinerary!) It was all extremely smooth and easy, adventurous and exciting, but with relaxation and pampering (especially at the end in the Shangri La).
Thanks for all of your help!
Harrison Family (children aged 2, 4 & 7)
Travelled Christmas/New Year 2021/22
Hi Helene – Hope you’re well and happy new year! We just wanted to say a massive thank you, we had the most amazing trip, and really really loved every part of it. Stubborn Mule (you!) have been fantastic, and we can’t wait for our next holiday with you guys planning it for us. Thank you again – it honestly couldn’t have been more perfect.
Oates Family (children aged 9 and 12)
Travelled December 2021
Great week thanks just what the doctor ordered. The local agents were really good, very friendly and helpful. The scuba diving instructors from the Shangri La’s associated dive centre were brilliant the boys have now got the bug a very expensive bug!
Birnie Family (with teenager aged 16)
Travelled October Half Term 2021
Hi Liddy & Charlotte. We returned last night from Oman and had a really fabulous holiday. We couldn’t fault it in any way – the food, the people, all the hotels, trips, activities, etc were all great – we had such a fun and interesting time! We wanted to thank you for helping us to organise this trip and for all your amazing advice and tips, it really made the trip outstanding.
The highlights were:
– Jebel Shams – what an amazing and slightly hair-raising hike
– We visited Bahla Fort and Misfah on the way to Jebel Al Akdar and enjoyed both
– the Anantara was a welcome and indulgent stopover – loved the room and the views
– we also loved the desert – truly luxurious camp – we did both sand boarding and quad bikes, which were great fun and we would highly recommend
– we visited Sur (quaint and pretty) and Bimmah Sinkhole (amazing to swim in!) on the route back to Muscat, so took a day winding our way back and so glad we did
– Shangri La – great way to end the trip – J got to do some jet-skiing on the last morning so that was the icing on the cake!
As you said, it was really easy to drive ourselves and we felt we made the most of it all.
Looking forward to discussing and booking our next trips with you to Norway (Feb) and Namibia (August).
Juner Family (with child aged 2)
Travelled February 2020
Hi Claire – We had a really lovely trip, thank you! Such a beautiful country and although a week could of course not do it justice, we felt we got a really good flavour for the place. And so glad that we saw what we did rather than just stay in one place as per the original plan. Everything was spot on so thank you for all you work in organising everything. It all went to plan and we never had any problems at any stage – all the check ins at the hotels and transfers were smooth and efficient… Thanks again and will be in touch for the future. I have passed on your details to my friend who is planning a Morocco trip!
Andrew Family (with children aged 2 and 3)
Travelled January 2020
Hi Caroline – Honestly we had such a fantastic trip – an incredible country and really managed to see a huge amount during our time there. The only bad day was the first full day in the mountains at the Anantara – it was raining all day and we were literally in the clouds, so not much to do apart from be in the kid’s centre, but our children enjoyed it! The next day was then just incredible though with the views and such a nice hotel. The time by the pool at the end was really great too.
I think if I was going to do the same trip again I’d extend the time in the desert to two nights – it’s such a different landscape and arriving in the afternoon then leaving the next morning doesn’t give you the full chance to really experience it like by going on a camel trek or dune bashing. It was also a bit difficult to find on the way in – if someone did a video of the drive that was then shortened into a sequence of the key steps it would make it a bit clearer. It was my first time driving in the desert and honestly it was a bit terrifying with the kids in the back and not really knowing if we were going the right way!
Once we got there though it was definitely the highlight of the trip and the drive out, when I was more confident on the sand, was just brilliant.
Corbin Family (with children aged 8, 11 and 12)
Travelled Christmas 2019 / New Year 2020
Dear Charlotte – We returned from Oman yesterday after a truly brilliant trip, which has left us wanting to return. It was the first time we have done anything this adventurous with the children and we all loved it. I think you may have ruined us for future holidays! Our guide, Saeed, was truly exceptional and could not have been better company or more accommodating. We fitted in some extra sights and reordered some things to suit our energy levels each day…. Once again, thank you so much for the planning and help you gave us. We really appreciate it.
van Dijk Ray Family (with teenagers aged 13 and 16)
Travelled Christmas 2019
Hi Caroline – Overall we had a great time and amazed how much had changed but also how much was still the same. The holiday worked really well. The first hotel was great, really nice to have the extra space and they let us into our room when we arrived so there was no need to pay extra for this. We did pretty much everything on the itinerary, which was great. There are lots more tourists now, which is a big change compared to when we lived in Oman.
The tents in the desert camp were fantastic; our daughters were very impressed with their pool. It did rain in the desert!! We drove ourselves, which was no problem at all. We had a very big 4×4, Nissan Patrol (I think the original car that was booked had a prang and was not available).
Wadi Bani Khalid was very busy and a little too crowded for us, we probably would skip that one especially since we did Wadi Shab. (Great to do and we made sure we were there early in the morning).
The hotel in Sur is a little dull and we wondered if we would stay in Sur if there would be other options.
The last hotel was lovely with plenty of facilities. Downside is that it is rather far from anywhere. If we would do this trip again we would probably opt to go back to be in the hustle and bustle of Muscat.
All in all great memories.
Maclauchlan Family (with children aged 11 and 13)
Travelled October 2019
Hi Caroline – I was about to email you today and tell you what a fabulous time we all had! The itinerary really worked for us and we did something new and exciting every day. The hotel in Nizwa worked brilliantly for us, and the kids loved the pool as it is an old fashioned rectangular pool with a very deep end and diving board. The location was ok as we drove to Nizwa and ate at local restaurants, which was fun and a lot cheaper than the hotel.
We did the balcony walk, which is awesome as are the mountains. We did the walk in the afternoon and that worked well as it was in the shade for our return walk making it cooler.
We went, again in the afternoon, to the Beehive tombs in Al Ayn. The Valley is beautiful and quite fertile and looked lovely as the sun went down. In Nizwa we went to the Fort which was really well done for tourists and informative; we also went to the goat market and souk. The local people were really friendly and helpful and we felt very comfortable all the time.
The desert was spectacular and your good instructions (and my husbands satnav) got us to the camp after a fun drive through the desert. The boys loved the camp, especially their own plunge pool that lit up at night!! We walked up the dunes to see the sunset and the beautiful orange glow over the sand as the sunsets. The food at the camp was the best we had and all the staff went out of their way to help and welcome us. We definitely would love to go back to this camp!!
Wadi Shab was next and was another wow as we swam to the and into the cave. We weren’t sure what to expect and loved the spectacle of the whole wadi. It was quite busy but as you swam towards the end it was quieter and just lovely.
Camping on the beach was interesting and the lovely gentleman who looked after us, Basil, was great. Unluckily for him there was a cyclone in the Indian Ocean so the tide was very high and we had to move the tents, which only added to the adventure for us. Basil prepared us a delicious BBQ and had another awesome evening watching the sun going down.
Finally the Hotel in Muscat which was strangely uninspiring after all the fabulous things we had done. We contacted the local agent Jivika and he was very helpful. He swapped our big vehicle for a town car at a reasonable rate and also took us to the airport as planned, which was great. Having a car meant we could go to Mutrah in the evenings for dinner as again the hotel was very expensive, also it was much more fun to go to local restaurants. We also went to Old town Muscat and the new museum there, which was really interesting and very well done.
Thank you, we had a brilliant time and found your organisation and the local travel company to be excellent.
Travelled October 2019
Hi Caroline – Salam aleykum! Thanks for your mail. Funnily enough I was thinking I should send you a mail with an update. Overall the holiday was FAB! We had a really great time and the kids loved it – I asked them when we got back whether they preferred California to Oman, they couldn’t say – they loved both! Hard to think of highlights but probably – the turtles (wow), the desert, Jebel Shams, The Grand Qaboos Mosque, the Wadis, sink hole swimming. The whole holiday went very smoothly. Oman is an easy country to navigate and driving was fine and it was a real plus to be upgraded to a Land Cruiser – definitely worth it for the desert driving and off road driving in the mountains.
Weather – was definitely hotter than expected (average was mid 30’s and one day it hit 40) it was also humid (again wasn’t expecting that) in Muscat and Mussanah. This was OK but it did mean that some of the longer walks that we had planned on doing we didn’t do as the kids would have really struggled.
Accommodation – all great and worked really well having either suites or adjoining rooms – real bonus/necessity to have access to a swimming pool as the kids swam every, single, day!
Driving – Very glad we didn’t have a driver as I think that would have been odd. Met a few brits with drivers and it changed the dynamics in the car and also meant someone had to sit in the back with the kids. The roads were all pretty good and easy (much the road network is being extended so at times it was a bit challenging finding the right route). The map we had (the one recommended) didn’t really show enough detail so the app we downloaded was really useful as was buying a local sim. Top tip here, make sure you take a phone that is not locked to a UK network or a local sim won’t work.
One other tip is when going into the desert I think you probably do need a guide to drive in with you or you need to follow another vehicle with a driver. When we arrived at the Shell garage to let down our tyres we were overrun by locals trying to accompany us. We negotiated a good deal and paid 6 rial for a guide to come with us. The starting price was 20. I would say it’s not entirely obvious where to go and would be easy to either get lost or stuck, 2 vehicles following us got stuck.
I would also strongly advise doing the trip in the daylight and wouldn’t attempt in the dark without a guide. The driving is pretty exciting and we definitely needed the land cruiser/4 wheel drive/low gear ratio and whatever other special suspension trick we had. The land cruiser was also really good up in the mountains as much of the route to Jebel Shams is off road.
Al Hoota caves – we arrived but were told the train was broken and the restaurant shut so it was a 30/40 min walk in the midday sun up the mountain to the caves – we didn’t do it but apparently the caves are amazing.
Misfat and the Falaj – definitely worth the trip, beautiful and en route to Jebel Shams
Jebel Shams – amazing but quite a long drive and if you intend to walk in the morning you really need to leave Nizwa at @5/6am otherwise it’s too hot. Top tip if you want to do the balcony walk do it in the afternoon when the cliff face is in the shade – much cooler.
Turtles – a real highlight and worth staying at the reserve as you get to go in the first groups to see the turtles. It’s also only the hotel/reserve guests who get to go at 5am. Having prepared the kids not to see any there were actually quite a few and when we arrived the chap on the desk was pretty adamant we would see them. We also saw baby turtles trying to get back to the sea – amazing.
Wild Camping – this could have been great, location idyllic and food/staff lovely but tropical storm Kyarr was working its way up the gulf so both ourselves and the other family camping had to relocate our tents in the pitch black as the tide was so high…. it would be good if they provided you with lamps for the tents (we had to use phones). I would also spell out to people that they will not be washing – the sea is it!
We had followed advice and were pretty covered up for most of the time but at the Wadi/sink holes there were plenty of westerners in bikinis. At the Wadi if you walked far enough up the gorge there were very few people. I am sure you would run into issues if you went out in a bikini in the main swimming areas. We also covered up at the mosque but you can hire abayas.
The resort in Mussanah was great and it was just what we needed. The kids loved the zip wire/water wipe out course etc. I would definitely advise people that it’s a top spot to go to if you want to go snorkelling/diving in the Damaniyat Islands – @45 min by boat. We had planned to do that but because of the tropical cyclone there were no boat trips at all which was a real shame. Some families at the resort had gone there explicitly to do their PADIs. We went sailing instead, which was great and cheap. Only feedback on the resort is the litter – weird how they don’t clear up the harbour of all the plastic floating around – it was right next to the inflatable and looked pretty unsightly.
Food – great and the kids were fine, our son is a complete hummus/taboulla addict. We stocked up on large bottles of water/cans/snacks at the big Carrefours that you find outside most of the big towns and this saved money. We also took a small bottle of gin with us and so we were able to have the odd quiet G&T in our room as we were able to buy tonic too! Worth taking a bottle with you as 90% of the time the hotels/restaurants are dry, which was fine as we fell in love with the local lemon and mint drinks – YUM!
I don’t think there is much else to say other than it was a fab holiday and we will definitely look to use you again and I have already recommended yourselves and Oman to many of my friends.
Sant Family (with children aged 4, 7 & 9)
Travelled Easter 2019
Dear Claire – I wanted to say THANK-YOU for putting together such an amazing adventure to the Middle East for our family! We had a fantastic time. So many highlights. The driving ourselves was exactly as you said it would be, and the itinerary that you arranged made us feel like we’d truly experienced Oman (although we will definitely be planning a return trip as still so much to see and do!).
We spent 4 days in Muscat, and once we adjusted to the midday heat, we got out and did plenty of exploring – cuddly camels (for M & P aged 7 and 4) and khanjar dagger (for T aged 9) from the souk, a morning dolphin watching and snorkelling, a bit of culture at the National Museum, and a fantastic meal out at Kargeen (best to book).
From there we set off in our Toyota Land cruiser with our trip notes and Google maps and headed for the mountains. For me, this was the most unexpected part of the trip – I had no idea how dramatic and spectacular the scenery would be, particularly as we climbed higher. There were “wow’s” from the whole family. Misfah Old House was like something from a movie – a beautiful oasis hidden away in the mountains, it felt quite magical.
Then the adventure started…. For a country where it rarely rains, we had storms and solid rain all night…. So the next morning the wadis were totally flooded! And so were a lot of the roads! But in our 4 x 4 we just drove straight through, with a lot of whooping!
From Misfah we spent a great day exploring Jabreen and Nizwa forts – the kids loved all the nooks and crannies, and tales of boiling date juice being poured on their enemies. And so few people there – at times it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
From Misfah to the highest part of the mountains! Jebel Shams cannot be done justice by the photos, it was awesome. We did a little of the Balcony Walk, but turned back as definitely too perilous with the small people. And then, the desert. We loved the anticipation as we started to spot camels wandering about, and when we reached the desert it was really exciting to leave the road.
We really liked 1000 nights camp and walked up the dunes for the sunset which was beautiful- although the highlight for our children wasn’t the romantic sun going down, it was sliding back to camp on a sand board… video to follow! The last day driving back to Sur was quite a long day, and we wished we’d had a couple more days to explore Sur and spend a bit more time on the coast road back to Muscat. However, we returned home with some fantastic memories of a country that really should be on more people’s radar, it was brilliant.
I would really appreciate if you could also pass on our thanks to Jeevaka, he met us on the first day with our pack, and then checked in every couple of days at the various hotels to see everything was OK which was such a nice touch. We felt confident that if anything had gone wrong he would have been able to help. We also had a small bump in the car on the 2nd day in Muscat…. A car drove into the back of us at some traffic lights, and after we’d got the driver’s details, the car hire guy basically sorted the rest out for us which was such a relief.
We will definitely be in touch in the future for our next adventure. It was so reassuring to know that the itinerary had been tried and tested and that there was support available if we needed it. Your help and advice before we left was also invaluable.
Lodwick Family (with children aged 12 & 14)
Travelled February 2019
Kelly – We had an absolutely fabulous time…our guide was fantastic! To be honest, he was the biggest factor in why we loved the trip so much! I feel like we would have missed out on so many things without him…please be sure to pass along our feedback to his company…his name was Ramadan. The tour itself was great too…we don’t have any complaints! I’m currently considering India or Sri Lanka at Christmas this year and will certainly look at using your company again!
Travelled February 2019
Dear Claire – My Top three things to do were 1000 nights camp and make sure to drive yourself!!! Beach camping. Wadi hike and swimming. Omani people are unendingly polite! There is a politeness whereby people will not say no to a request but will suggest another option may suit you better – what they really mean is: we don’t actually have x but we will get on a bike and find it if you really really want it but seriously this is just as good…
Similarly there are rules and there are rules! Officially quite a few places say no kids but if kids are well behaved many places will happily let them in without hesitation. Case in point the prayer room of the grand mosque in muscat and the opera exhibition at the royal opera house.
Muscat is a car town (tbh so were all the places we visited) everywhere is very spread out – get a car straight away – its worth it. Similarly everywhere has lots of parking in big free carparks nice and close to attractions. Driving is really easy in town with wide, well signposted roads, low traffic levels and slow, generally considerate driving from locals (ok i’m comparing with London but still…).
Beware some petrol stations only take cash. And while there are cash machines all over, the most common ones we saw – bank muscat – does not work with international bank cards – either hsbc or Bank Dohar worked fine and we easily found with a quick google.
Talking of Google, suggest at least one person getting a local phone sim card with included data on arrival – the place is right by arrivals at Muscat airport – so useful for google maps!!
Food is great. Even small dodgy looking restaurants are generally scrupulously clean and serve lovely food. Portions generally large. Try the birianis, they are gorgeous. Kids portions can be magicked up of most things if you ask. When eating at hotel buffets don’t be shy of asking for things to suit fussy kids – they can normally whip up a portion of chips!
When finding the balcony walk be careful to Google ‘balcony walk’ not ‘Jebel Shams’. The latter takes you on an increasingly off-road journey up the mountain ending in a slightly scary gated off area restricted under the omani official secrets act… its also the wrong side of the canyon the the balcony walk. Exciting but a bit unnecessary.
The balcony walk is utterly breathtaking. Try to be close to the start/ end at sunset. However bear in mind the 1.5 hours can be much longer if you are not a seasoned walker – ours with two unfit adults and carrying a toddler in a carrier took about 2.5 hours each way – totally worth it though. Remember it’s uphill mostly on the way back so bear this in mind when considering children’s energy levels/ water and snack supplies.
In towns you can rely on great mobile signal. Not so much for out of town. 1000 nights has no data at all :).
The trip out to the 1000 nights camp is one of the most amazing and exhilarating drives i have ever done (the way back is even better!!!). It’s really easy to find the way and while all the potentially difficult bits are signposted and or paved you still get a real feeling of ‘off roading’. A word of warning you get a lot of hassle from ‘guides’ who want you to pay for the privilege of being accompanied to the camp – they will tell you it is difficult and try to scare you that you’ll end up stuck. Seriously anyone with a uk driving license (and a decent 4wd car) will have no trouble – the guides are a total scam.
So having completed the gorgeous trip out to camp we decided to go dune bashing (driven by a guide from the hotel) – at sunset! – this was another level of superb fun. We were able to strap the kids in our own car seats and everyone had a superb time defying gravity up and down the dunes. We then spent a perfect 15 minutes sitting at the top of an awe inspiring dune watching the sun go down while the kids (ok and us adults too) played in the sand. Absolutely unmissable.
The first wadi trip on the list – Wadi Bani Khalid we got a bit wrong. Arriving around 11am the car park was deserted and all the wadi bits near the car park were completely dry – we wrongly assumed that meant the water hole was also dry and didn’t continue on the path there… Googling trip advisor photos showed us later that actually it was still filled with water but you have to walk a fair way to get to the wet bit.
Sur was a lovely little town. We looked at the dhow building factory and explored the old town including lighthouse and the couple of castles. Good low key fun.
We were more successful with the second wadi swimming experience and wow it was wonderful. Trip notes were super helpful both for finding the place and expectation setting – the cave really is for strong swimmers only.
The beach camping was truly out of this world – as well as your own private beach miles from anywhere you also get treated to a sumptuous feast – including great options for my super fussy oldest child – they even managed chips! (Barbecue undersells it massively!!!). Suggest get there early to enjoy a full afternoon on the beach.
Our beach hotel was fine but not spectacular – it’s an enormous site for the number of guests and is heavily focussed on the sailing market rather than being a family beach holiday hotel as its first aim. The staff were incredibly nice and helpful it was just a bit soulless. That said the pools were fabulous (and almost empty for most of our stay!) and the swimming lessons we arranged were very successful indeed.
High points for the beach were the aqua fun, the swimming lessons and the pool. However we were quite happy to move on by the time we checked out for our trip to Dubai.
So… our little add on excursion to Dubai!
We noticed on arrival in our beach hotel that Dubai was only 3.5 hr drive away and figured getting ‘an extra country’ would be fun. Though our original idea of a day trip would have been completely impossible so very glad an overnight trip worked.
UK passport holders get a free 30 day tourist visa on arrival in UAE, however it was a little uncertain whether we needed a new Oman visa to return – information online was extremely opaque (which left me a little bit ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’!)… it turned out to be fine and we were just allowed straight back in with no additional visa needed – suggest anyone planning this trip check out thoroughly online! (We not 100% sure they didn’t just wave us through cos of tired grumpy kids in the back of the car!) The other logistic was needing roaming mobile data to continue using maps – Omantel were happy to oblige on this however!
So while getting there is easy it is worth noting that driving in central Dubai is not for the faint of heart – think 20 lane motorways through the centre of town with people driving at top speed and poorly signposted exits every 100m or so – utterly crazy and super stressful! (Fun though).
The Dubai hotel was terrible service but otherwise fine. (Actually it was probably fine we had just got used to the superb service in Oman…)
Dubai we saw the aquarium, the dancing fountains and light show, the trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa (book as soon as you know you are going as it gets booked out fast), a trip out the the Palm Islands (our youngest was too young for a boat trip around sadly). All great and a total contrast to Oman!
Last night back in Oman was seamless and comfortable.
And we are home. What a trip…
Habib Family (with children aged 8, 9, 11 & 13)
Travelled Christmas/New Year 2018/19
Hi Caroline – We loved our trip to Oman. We love Oman. Thank you for all the great planning. Your local contacts were all great. All the staff we met were lovely. And the (birthday) cake was as beautiful as it was delicious. We were surprised by how good the food was at even the most unsuspecting places. We came home rested and full of stories of our adventure.
We loved our desert experience. It was quiet for the most part. My husband heard some folks in the distance celebrating New Years by driving up and down dunes from midnight for an hour. The kids and I slept through it. We played charades by the fire until we were falling asleep.
The beach was also lovely – we were all excited by the unexpected phosphorescent waters that glowed at night.
We were surprised by how accommodating Omanis are and how easy it was to get around by car.
We got a little confused about our last hotel’s location. It was correctly listed on the paperwork we received from the local guide, but we didn’t look at that too closely. Earlier S had followed the link from our itinerary (online) and it brought him to the Millennium Hotel Apartments. So we had to get back in the car and keep going for another hour. The Millennium Resort was great for the kids. Initially I feared having to pay over 10 euros for zip lining per child and another 10e for the water fun park, but the hotel was generous with the free passes they gave us. The kids had a blast with all of it.
Wolleswinkel Family (with children aged 11 & 12)
Travelled Christmas/New Year 2018/19
Hi Lee. We had a wonderful time in Oman! It’s a beautiful country, friendly people, one feels safe everywhere and the climate in winter is brilliant… We were very happy and will certainly think about Stubborn Mule again in future – we are considering traveling to Brazil early July to visit friends and I will get back on that one.
Regarding the hotels, we appreciated the Milennium Musannah. Although indeed somewhat lacking in atmosphere, it is a good hotel
Sleeping in a tent and having a fully serviced BBQ on the beach was brilliant.
The accommodation in the desert was great too – more comfort than we expected and wonderful fresh food.
The hotel in Nizwa was very good and Muscat hotel an average mid-range hotel and convenient for 1 short night but not much more.
Other things that might be useful to know:
– It is not possible to visit any mosque on Fridays (so we only saw the outside of the Sultan Qaboos)
– As you said, it is very easy to drive yourself although the desert is tricky. Still we appreciated having a driver. His English was very good and we learned a lot about Oman, the relationships between countries on the peninsula and those surrounding it including Iran, all the changes that were initiated to develop the country in the last years etc.
– We thought about the Balcony Walk, but had no clue where to start. Our driver had not heard about it too… so we just drove up and enjoyed the ride and marvellous view.
Kakani Family (with a child aged 4)
Travelled Christmas/New Year 2018/19
Hi Caroline – the trip overall was very enjoyable. We liked the itinerary and the places we stayed as well as the activities suggested. My son could do the distances involved, and he could also do the balcony walk hike as well as the Wadi Shab hike easily.
The only thing that we really didn’t enjoy was staying in the hotel in the Jebel Shams… we just felt that staying in a tent elsewhere would have been more comfortable and pleasant.
The wild camping was a lot of fun, and we would easily have done another night. We really liked the set up with the food that night, it was very impressive and rather like a 1000 Arabian nights feeling!
Overall we are super pleased with our holiday, and we would appreciate it if you could send us suggestions for family itineraries to other destinations, as we want to repeat the experience in a sunny place for December 2019. Many thanks
Quartley Family (with children aged 12 & 14)
Travelled October Half Term 2018
Hi there. Our trip was amazing – our best holiday to date! I will give you a call next week and find some photos as well. We do plan to post something on your Facebook page but we haven’t stopped since coming back!
Hall Family (with two children aged 14)
Travelled October Half term 2018
Hi Liddy – We had a great trip thank you, it was such a surprise how much Oman has to offer – we would certainly consider a return visit.
In terms of positives and negatives:
Our flight was delayed by a couple of hours by fog. This meant that by the time we had arrived and got ourselves settled and had a bite to eat it was quite late. The local company didn’t let us know what time our guide was going to meet us so we had a bit of a late start only to find him chomping at the bit waiting to leave. This meant that the first two days felt a bit rushed.
We were slightly underwhelmed by Misfah Village and Jadrin Fort (younger children and boys in particular may be different) although the views were spectacular from the turrets. We also weren’t quite prepared for the driving distances – it did feel like we spent the first two days in the car rather than exploring sites properly and while we enjoyed our stay in Jebel Shams, we had to make a decision to either do the balcony walk or visit Nizwa Market – I was out-voted, but we all enjoyed the market! Obviously we were time constrained, but slightly fewer attractions and more time to enjoy the mountains and canyons would have been better, particularly in the first few days.
From this point forwards everything was fantastic. The trip to the desert was great and probably the highlight of the trip for most of us. We enjoyed the Wadi swim and were very well looked after during our “wild” camping on the beach! We enjoyed a swim in the Bimmah sink-hole (despite the negativity of the guidebooks!) and found the hotel a great place to relax at the end of our trip (we think we might have inadvertently been upgraded to suites which was a nice bonus!). From here we did a half-day dolphin and snorkelling trip, which was also excellent. We saw lots of spinner dolphins and swam with turtles in a small bay on the way home…
I hope this is helpful and doesn’t sound too negative; we had a great time and are very grateful to you for making it all happen!
McGimpsey Family (with child aged 2)
Travelled February 2018
Hi Liddy – Sorry for my delay in replying – have been in a bit of denial that our holiday is over! It was amazing. We fitted quite a lot in but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. C is at the age where he still naps so it was quite easy travelling around with him in the car. The roads are good and the people were so welcoming of us (which isn’t always the case with a baby in tow). In fact, the chef at Desert Nights Camp even came over to us to ask if there was anything he could make specifically for C.
In terms of the Stubborn Mule service, it was seamless. No issues at all on airport and hire car pick ups and drop offs. The local rep also gave us a call mid-way through the week to see if we were ok, which was nice…. I’d happily visit Oman again (although I’m now starting to think about Jordan for next April…).
Milward Family (with granny and children aged 4 and 7)
Travelled February Half Term 2018
We are back safe and sound, and readjusting to the arctic weather here… We had an amazing time – it’s a really beautiful country and we all want to go back! February was a great time to go – we had amazing weather for the whole 9 days, with barely a cloud in the sky.
In retrospect, I would have paid the extra for the direct Oman Air flights. Gulf Air were fine, we had no issues, but the flight back with a 1am change in Bahrain was a bit gruelling. I would still have taken an overnight flight back in order to have the full day in Oman, but the direct one that left at more or less exactly the same time…
Golden Tulip Seeb: Near the airport, functional, fine for one night, especially if you have an early or late flight.
The View: Loved, loved, loved it. Definitely our favourite of all the places we stayed. We could have stayed a week there and not got bored. In hindsight I wish we’d had three nights here, sacrificing one of the nights by the beach at the end. It’s also worth paying the premium for the rooms at the front of the hotel I would say. Staff were helpful, food was good, and it was small so didn’t feel too resort-like at all. Drive up there in the 4-wheel drive was bumpy but easy enough.
1000 Nights Camp: Also really liked this place, and we’re glad we took your advice and spent two nights here. The drive there is fun, and easy enough once you have done it once. You do have to look out quite carefully for the signs though, as they are fairly easy to miss. By the time we’d done it 4 times though, Dan was just pointing the car down any old sand dune and having the time of his life driving! I’d also say the Sheikh tents are worth it over the basic tents, which looked pretty hot and stuffy.
Re the trip notes here. Although you are right that it is absolutely possible to do Wadi bani Khalid from the camp in a day trip, I’m not convinced it makes total sense. Better to do it on the way to Sur/Ras al Jinz. It’s about 1hr 15 drive there, and the same back, and as we also wanted to spend some time in the camp that day, we didn’t have as much time as we’d liked at Wadi Bani Khalid. I actually think we could easily have whiled away a day at the camp – the pool is lovely and has plenty of shade, the kids enjoyed clambering up the dunes and sandboarding down.
Ras al Jinz: Sur was nice enough, but there is not much to do there. I would recommend people drive from the desert early after breakfast, stop at Wadi Bani Khalid for the mornin and have lunch there, then head to Ras al Jinz via Sur in the afternoon. The dhow shipyard is nice to see, but it’s quickly done. No need to get to Ras al Jinz much before sunset as there is nothing to do before dinner, and you can’t access the beach after 1pm. the hotel itself is fine. The Ecotents were very nice, although quite close together. Not completely sure they are worth the premium to be honest, as you spend so little time in them. The turtle tour – we did both the night time and morning one. Not sure you need to do both, really, and the morning one was much, much nicer. The night time one was very busy and involved lots of hanging around in the dark. There were far fewer people on the 5 am morning tour (maybe 15-20 compared with over 50), and of course you see the sun rise over the beautiful beach and cliffs, and, crucially, it is light, so you can see the turtles much better. I would definitely advise people with young kids to skip the evening tour, go to bed early and go on the morning tour instead. we saw a turtle both times – perhaps we were lucky, but I got the feeling it’s pretty common.
Road from Ras al Jinz to Muscat: I felt your trip notes were a bit lacking here, as there is so much to see. We had a guidebook, so we were fine, but even so I wish we’d known how great the beaches are along here (Finz beach, for example, was just beautful). In retrospect it would have been nice to camp there – one of your suggestions, which we decided against. It might also be worth mentioning the Bimmah sinkhole, which is well worth a visit and a swim in.
Shangri-la: In some ways this was our least favourite hotel (although the kids would probably disagree!). It was very resort-like, and we felt we could have been anywhere. The restaurants were also eye-wateringly expensive (18 Omani rial per person for the .buffet in the cheapest of the restaurants, not including even soft drinks, taxes or service!). We ended up eating in the cafe most nights but even that was expensive. I’m loathe to criticise it too much – the service was great, they gave us a late check out until 7pm on our last day, which was really good of them. The dolphin-watching tour we went on with them was also great (and very easy – the boat leaves from the marina by the hotel. It also wasn’t too crowded – I think we were 10). The beach was nice enough, and the free kayaks are a nice touch. the kids obviously loved the multiple pools and the lazy river. It’s a great hotel, if that’s your thing – it probably isn’t ours, but that’s not your fault! It was a bit too far out of Muscat for our taste, and we (I?) felt a bit trapped. Not sure we’d stay there again. One tip – it’s worth requesting a room on the upper floors if you are booking for guests. Ours was on the first floor and therefore not that private.
Muscat: Really liked it. Wish we’d stayed closer to town. We ended up taking a taxi into Muscat from the Shangri-La, and then taking the free shuttle bus back to the hotel (the free shuttle only works in the afternoon – I think to ferry guests to the souk). That worked well enough. We had to take a taxi from the hotel to the Grand Mosque, and then from the Grand Mosque to Muscat old town. After that we walked along the corniche to the souk.
Generally – we loved Oman, and feel there is plenty left to see to warrant a return visit one day! The car hire worked well – it’s absolutely worth hiring a 4 wheel drive, and the trip would not have been anywhere as good without it. A driver definitely isn’t necessary – although it would have been nice to have more direct contact with Omanis, and I think a driver would have helped, along with the local knowledge they have. I can see that there are pluses and minuses to this one, but if we went back we would probably drive ourselves again.
…. Anyway, I hope this helps. I am absolutely recommending Oman to everyone, and it was great to get back into the swing of exciting holidays again!
Doyle Family (with children aged 8 and 10)
Travelled February Half Term 2018
Wow loved Oman. Faradh our driver was such a bonus. Proud, polite, knowledgeable and a great driver to boot…normally I’m a terrible passenger but having a driver has made the trip…. we’ve gone places we’d never dared to tread…
We have had such a good holiday thanks to your well thought out itinerary and have realised resort holidays are a thing of the past for us now!
Highlights – so many but the two days in the desert and the Anantara hotel in the mountains has to come top… Shangri-La curiously (as was the part I was most looking forward to) coming bottom! Too many people, over inflated pricing. That said enjoying our last day by the beach and already thinking ahead to future holidays!
Wrigley Family (with one child aged 19 months)
Travelled February 2018
We had a great trip, thank you, we really enjoyed it. The driver was great and made the whole trip very relaxing. We especially loved the hotel in the mountains so really glad we added that to the agenda – you were right though, it was a bit chilly up there.
Fletcher Family (with children aged 7 and 9)
Travelled October Half Term 2017
Dear Kelly. We had a fabulous trip – a huge success so thanks so much. Some highlights of the trip included tour of Green Mountain, Grand Canyon of Oman together with driving through the floor in a 4×4, a visit to our tour guide’s own farm and family camel ranch (including camel ride!), a Bedouin meal (eaten with the hands – a particular highlight for the kids who never want to use cutlery again), snorkelling with turtles, visit to Grand Mosque in Muscat, relaxing at Grand Hyatt in Muscat including the most fabulous “Friday feast”. Our guide was fab – he really went above and beyond to show us the sights and teach us about the country.
Vaughan Family (with children aged 5 and 7)
Travelled Easter 2017
Hello Liddy! Thank you for your email. I have actually been meaning to contact you to say thank you so much! We had an amazing holiday and really loved it! The kids say their favourite part was the Al Waha – the pool and lazy river were big hits, as were the chicken and cheese sausages in the buffet! We thought the hotel was perfect for families. Lots for the kids to do and the kids club was very relaxed, which we liked.
With hindsight it might have been helpful for us to consider a half board option as we found the food quite expensive, though everything was very good, and we had thought we might venture into Muscat more than we did but there didn’t seem to be many restaurants around the souk so we only ate out of the hotel once.
The View was in a stunning location. The deck lounge chair had a thin green mattress that we used on the floor with a spare duvet and pillow to make an extra bed for our little one so that worked out. We walked the Jebel Shams balcony which was stunning though we were unlucky to have a rock slide scare when there (all fine, just nearby)! We visited the fort and the cattle market in Nizwa which were great.
The desert was my favourite part! The sunset over the expanse of those endless dunes is an amazing experience. The tent was very smart and the food was great. I would say that it would have been handy to know the camel riding details before arriving – the morning slots were all prebooked for the proper rides and so we just did the 5min photo op one at the camp, which perhaps was enough for the kids.
We drove back through Sur and stopped at the Wadi Shab – we only went to the first pool but it was beautiful.
The driving was fine – N had a ball with the 4WD on the mountain track and the sand – though I would recommend the Sat Nav – we didn’t get it but ended up using N’s phone as one and found that really helpful as I found it tricky to navigate with the map we had and the directions we got from Tour Oman were a bit vague (though they were lovely and helpful with tips).
All in all a great holiday so thank you again! I hope you had a lovely time in South Africa. On my bucket list for the future so would love to hear about it.
Viegelahn Family (with children aged 2 and 5)
Travelled Christmas/New Year 2016/17
Just a quick message to say that we had an awesome time in Oman. We had two different drivers – the first was very pleasant but had to go home after the first day because of some problem at home. He was replaced by Mustafa who was a complete star. Such a nice man and a very careful driver. In fact we teased him because he went so much slower than other drivers but we were very glad of it in the mountains. I usually get quite sick on mountain roads but didn’t at all in his hands. So there’s a lesson there!
One thing I would recommend to remember when organizing any future trips – the people working in the Turtle Reserve mentioned that it is these days very unlikely to find turtles in the early morning and that evening is the better time. Our driver was able to get us in so we saw the turtles but I thought it would be helpful to know this so you can request evening viewings
Otherwise, we felt very supported by your local partners – Jeevaka called us in the hotel upon our arrival and also towards the end of our journey, which was very nice.
So, a great trip all in all. Loved the turtles but were sad not to have been able to stay actually on turtle beach. The hotel we had in Sur was fine but a little functional but that’s our fault for booking at the last minute!!!
Thanks for arranging it all. We’ve recommended you to some friends so I hope that they will be in touch soon. We’ve told them to try to book a bit further in advance so that they don’t have the same problems finding availability so hopefully they’ll listen.
Wrangham Family (parents, two grandparents, children aged 9, 7 & 4)
Travelled October 2016
We’re back, after a WONDERFUL holiday! Thanks v much for all your help and efforts organising it. Do you want feedback on different bits, and on all the extra stuff we did (lots and lots more swimming in different places, and some shuffling of days)? Almost everything positive, though a couple of minor hotel gripes.
Peters Family (with two children aged 8 and 11)
Travelled October 2016
We had a marvellous time in Oman. We all loved the Al Waha – what luxury and we were very spoilt. The family room was perfect so thank you for securing that for us. The staff here were outstanding and although our restaurant bill was eye watering (we splurged!) it was well worth it. Highly recommended. We also loved the desert camp and arranged a dawn camel ride on my birthday which was very special. Beach camping also great fun – we passed a stretch of beach where there were lots of other people and were very glad when Omar kept driving and we got to our lovely deserted stretch of beach! Thanks for everything.
Paterson Family (with two children aged 11 and 13)
Travelled February 2016
The trip was wonderful. We had an outstanding time and would return to Oman in a heartbeat. Thank you!
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