Type of horses:
Purebred Arabian and Arabian-crosses from the Royal stables.
Nature of horses:
Good temperament, sure footed and forward going, with great stamina.
Height of horses:
14 - 15hh
English tack (some synthetic and some Leather). Horses generally wear snaffle bits, are ridden on a loose rein and respond to light/weight aids.
Oman is one of the last truly Arabic countries in the middle east, free from excessive western influence and the distorting lens of wealth. Here, travellers have a rare opportunity to witness the traditional Arabic charms and Bedouin values of old. Here is a land that has been nearly forgotten by time, with an abundance of natural beauty, ranging from wind-swept deserts, spectacular mountains and pristine coastlines. In this respect, Oman offers a fantastic contrast of riding terrain between mountains, desert and coastal plains. The diversity of the landscape and the wonderful local people make this a truly memorable and one-of-a-kind horse riding holiday.
These unique rides are organised by Emmanuelle Lancon who has been pioneering rides in the area for many years. Working closely with the nephew of the Sultan Qaboos - who has a particular interest in endurance and long distance riding - these trails have gained increasing popularity and offer some of the finest quality riding and accommodation. Oman is a member of the World Arabian Horse Organisation and the Sultan himself has taken a very keen interest in the preservation and development of the Omani Arabian horse. The result is a team of nimble and hardy little horses who are able to cover great distances, over some of the most challenging of terrain with great ease and enormous heart. The complexity of the topography does often limit the pace of these rides, but when the landscape allows, you will find that these royal Arabs have an amazing "turn of foot".
During the trails you will stay in hotel accommodations in Muscat at the beginning and end of the trail, as well as spending one night in a luxurious fixed desert camp retreat near Wasil. On the subsequent riding days you will stay in comfortable desert camps with basic facilities, such as a shower tent and a "mess" tent where your meals will be prepared. In all cases, you will enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the Omani people and be very well cared for by a full team of back-up staff including guides, horse grooms, chef, drivers and camp attendants - it's certain to be one of your more luxurious camping experiences.
Accommodation on the first and last nights of the trail is provided in a hotel in the capital of Muscat. One night will be in a luxurious fixed tent desert camp close to Wasil - these generally have large walk-in tents with proper beds and bathrooms with running water and hot showers. The other 5 nights will be spent in mobile camps in the desert which will be set up by the back-up team before your arrival each evening. These accommodations are more basic, offering smaller walk-in canvas tents with sleeping cots and bedding provided. There is usually a "wash" tent with a bucket shower and water can be heated for you, although you will need to be very frugal. Typically evening meals will be served outside, under the stars, unless the temperatures become too low in which case there is more than enough space to eat in the large mess tent.
Generally the weather is pleasant and you can sleep under the stars if you wish.
Omani cuisine has a great deal of influence from India. Many of the back up staff - as well as hotel and restaurant staff - are originally from India or Bangladesh. Breakfast is generally filling, with bread or chapattis, perhaps boiled eggs or omelettes and is usually served with tea, coffee and fruit juice. Lunch and dinner are both cooked by the camp chef - generally rice with various curries, samosas, chapattis, meat kebabs, barbecued chicken or fish. There is a good supply of bottled mineral water - not only at meal times but also when riding, so that no one gets dehydrated on the ride. The back up vehicles are never far away and can reach the riders at any point.
After riding, a thermos of hot water is usually on the table when you arrive in camp for tea or other hot drinks. Coffee is drunk Bedouin style, in very small cups, often very strong and flavoured with cardamom. Alcohol is not easily available except in some of the bigger hotels. You are welcome to take your own bottle of duty free but please note that the Bedouin are quite traditional and we would ask you to respect their traditions and not drink openly in front of them.
We would highly recommend taking a few days either side of your riding tour in order to discover the delights of Oman.
The capital, Muscat, is an incredibly elegant port town dotted with beautiful old Arabic buildings including the Grand Mosque, the Sultan's palace, the Royal Opera House as well as a whole host of charming souks and markets to discover. When not in the saddle, you may also wish to spend some time on the glorious unspoilt beaches of Oman - miles of pristine sand extending from the port of Muscat to the border of Saudi Arabia, nearly 200km to the northwest.
For the more adventurous, then why not discover the ancient forts and souks of Nizwa - considered the pearl of Islam - or take a 4x4 safari through the desert to the Wadi Bani Khalid or the green mountains. Or you could take to the water to enjoy diving, snorkelling, boat tours and fishing, surrounded by crystal clear water with intermittent interruptions by playful dolphins and graceful whales.
Languages: English, French and Arabic
Health requirements: All riders should be fit & healthy, able to withstand long hours in the saddle and happy to ride a forward going and often spirited arab horse.
Age limit: 14 + (with plenty of experience and good rider fitness)
Included: Accommodation, meals as per the itineraries, all riding with an English speaking guide, collection from Muscat airport on arrival and all back-up and equipment transport during the whole tour.
Not included: Flights, transfers back to Muscat airport at the end of the ride, lunch in Nizwa, lunches and dinners in Muscat, drinks (please note that alcohol is not traditionally available in Oman, although some hotels do serve it), visa fees, tips and travel insurance.
The meeting point for all trails is at Muscat airport, where you will be collected by a representative from the tour company. We will arrange collection times in accordance with guests flight arrival times - this may mean that you may have to wait for other guest's flights to arrive and be transferred together.
British Airways and Oman Air fly direct to Muscat from London Heathrow each day. A number of other flights are also available from mainland Europe, as well as from other countries in the Arabian gulf.
NB: Entry visas are required in order to enter Oman. These can be purchased on arrival at Muscat airport very simply and cost around £10.
Airport: Muscat (Seeb) International airport
A wonderful ride which takes you into the heart of Oman, a unique opportunity to meet the country's distinct cultures. Including 5 days of horseback riding, the trail is a full crossing of the Wahiba sands - a demanding challenging trail for adventurous and able riders. Enjoy thrilling pacey gallops across the desert sands, on tough and hardy little Arabian horses who are at ease in this rugged environment.
The itinerary will incorporate some wonderful sightseeing tours, as well as the challenging ride. Please note that conditions in the desert can change overnight, so you should be prepared to follow instruction and know that due to the nature of the desert terrain which can be changeable, each ride may be a little different from the specific itinerary. You must also be prepared to ride out early in the morning and late at night if the day is going to be very hot.
The following itinerary is an example and may change at your guides discretion depending on local conditions at the time.
You will be met at Muscat Seeb airport and transferred to your hotel where you will have time to rest and relax after your journey. In the afternoon it is possible to take a visit into Muscat, taking in the market and the historic Old Town. Overnight will be in a 4* hotel in Muscat (Majan Continental or similar). Lunch and dinner are not included on this day.
Following breakfast, you will have an early departure from the hotel, heading to Nizwa - the old capital and principal city of interior Oman. Known as the oasis city, Nizwa is located on the southern edge of the Hajar Mountains, the highest range in Oman. The city's old fort and large tower overlook extensive palm plantations which have been irrigated in the same way for the last 500 years. Nizwa has traditionally been, and still is, a busy trading city with a large souk (market) at its heart, which sells a great variety of items from traditional silver jewellery to beautiful handicrafts. After visiting the market you continue your journey to Bahla which is famous for its fort and pottery. The old Bahla fort has a 7 mile wall which is the oldest in Oman and is believed to have been built in pre-Islamic times. The fort is currently undergoing reconstruction sponsored by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. A short distance from Bahla lies the castle of Jabreen - a huge three-storied building which is a fine example of Islamic architecture with beautiful wooden inscriptions and paintings on the ceilings.
After lunch in a local restaurant, continue onto Wahiba Sands, where you overnight in a 4* desert camp. Wahiba sands is a 4,800 sq.miles desert named after the Wahiba tribe and also goes by the names Ramlat al-Wahiba or Sharqiya Sands. All meals are included today.
After breakfast at the camp, you will have another early start to the day in order to beat the hot midday temperatures. A short road transfer will take you to Al Raaka - the gateway to the desert. The horses will be ready and waiting for you here, having been brought over by truck that morning, in order to start the next 5 days of trail riding through the desert. This route was part of the one followed by Wilfred Thesigner in 1949 and which he documented in his book "Arabian Sands". This is well worth a read if you are planning to take this trip yourself. You will begin by following old sand tracks which have been used by the local Bedu people for centuries; passing their traditional homesteads and camel pens which are still present in this beautiful valley.
By mid morning you will stop for refreshment and eventually a tasty picnic lunch before enjoying a siesta under the shade of thorn trees during the hottest part of the day. Riding will then continue in the cool afternoon until you reach tonight's camp which will have been set-up in the desert in time for your arrival. All meals are included today.
Days 4 to 7:
Over the next 4 days you will cross the Wahiba desert, an enormous expanse of nearly 10,000 square km. This trail is a real challenge for all, but the perfect place to spend time with the Bedu who have inhabited this harsh desert environment for centuries. The Bedouin people of Oman are incredibly proud of their heritage and hospitality is an important part of their way of life. You will find that the local people are pleased to invite you into their desert camps, constructed from palm leaves and other natural items found in the desert. Perhaps you will also encounter camel trains on their desert crossings, heading towards the markets and souks with wares to sell. The Omani people are famous for breeding some of the best camels in the Middle East and take great care with these animals who are still an essential part of daily life.
The ride will follow the same route which the caravans use, passing between wells, or "tiwis", where Bedu families still live in order to maintain the water sources for travellers. The most famous of these is Tiwi Amal, owned by a Bedu man named Hamal who is over 90 years old.
In order to avoid the searing heat of day, you will travel as the Bedu do, during the early morning and late afternoon/evening hence avoiding the hot midday sun. Following sun-baked sand tracks, heading south east, with plenty of opportunities for some good progress on your speedy little Arab horses who will demonstrate their great stamina. Every day will offer a different and stunning multi coloured landscape, with numerous wildlife encounters before the heat of the day picks up. Each evening the team of Wahiba Bedu will set up the mobile desert camp for you and prepare the night's delicious evening meal. The last night's camp is close to the sea and hopefully fresh grilled fish will feature on the menu.
At c. 10am, you will load up your luggage and set-off by road toward the coastal town of Sur, famous for its manufacture of "Dhows" - traditional Arabian Sailing vessels. After driving through the labyrinthine streets to view the fine old houses, you continue your journey to Wadi Tiwi - this fertile wadi extends 22 miles beneath the mountain village of Mibam and bananas and dates are grown here. You can view the valley below and the azure waters of the sea in the distance.
After lunch in a local restaurant, you stop at Bimmah Sink Hole - this spectacular limestone crater was created many years ago when a mountain collapsed and filled with blue-green sea water - it is definitely worth seeing! Eventually you arrive in Muscat where you overnight in a 4* hotel, where you also have dinner. All meals are included today.
** It's possible to organise transfer to Seeb airport at additional cost this evening if you are planning to take an evening flight home.
After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to Seeb airport in time for your flight home (additional cost for this) or you will need to make your own arrangements for onward travel. Standard check-out time is 12:00 midday and the transfer will coincide with this.
**If tide times allow, then it may be possible for an early morning ride along the beach before breakfast but this cannot be guaranteed. If it's possible then it's an additional 50 Omani Rial, payable locally
|Accommodation:||Accommodation is provided in a range of 4* hotels and desert camps along the trail.|
|Minimum group size:||4|
|Maximum group size:||8|
|Ability description:||Strong intermediate to advanced. You should have a light independent seat and should be able to control your horse at all paces using a light hand.|
|Type of ride:||Trail ride.|
|Total riding time:||4-6 hours per day.|
2017: 27 December 2016 - 4 January 2017, 14 - 22 January, 28 January - 5 February, 11 - 19 February, 25 February - 5 March.
Other dates are available for private groups, on request.
£2539 per person sharing
Single supplement: £116
Upgrade to desert tent inc. sleeping bag, field bed and carpet: £325
Prices include 8 nights accommodation, all meals (except on Day One), all riding with an English speaking guide, support team and back-up vehicles, as well as a group transfers from Muscat international airport.
Does not include flights, transfer back to the airport on Day 9, travel insurance, visa fees and drinks (please note that traditionally alcoholic drinks are not served in Oman, although some hotels may offer these).