How else to see the country but on your own two feet? Paul Oliver from Absolute Adventure shares treks that we can all handle.
Secret Staircase Grade 1 ‘This is an easy-going trek that starts at the back of Dibba beach, heading into wadi Khab Al Shamsi by 4x4. After a 30-minute drive into the wadi, head to one of the secret staircases that have been handbuilt by the Pakistani goat-herders who live at the top of each part. The staircase leads to a tiny settlement where a goatherder lives alone.
The views from the top are incredible, and there’s an ancient graveyard nearby with graves decorated with petroglyph carvings of necklaces, palm trees and geometric patterns. No one is really sure how old the rock carvings are, but this village has been here for hundreds of years. At the top we meet the goatherder, who spends six days a week looking over the wadi; he’s been there for about 15 years. He’s a very interesting, welcoming man who usually invites us in for a cup of cardamom tea. After that, we drive on and explore another village at the top of the wadi, take in the views before rolling back to Dibba.’ Three hours of trekking
Wadi Warrayah Grade 2 ‘Meaning the ‘wadi of reeds’, this lush area is going to become a WWF protected area very soon. It’s home to the tahr, an endangered mountain goat with thick, long horns similar to an antelope – it’s believed there are a few in that area, so we keep an eye out for them. There are a lot of animals around there – frogs, snakes. We see vipers and wadi racers and there’s a cave that’s home to about 40 bats. Wadi Warrayah is also the site of the UAE’s highest perennial waterfall and we start the trek from that waterfall. That area has been ruined by picnickers’ trash and graffiti – that’s why they’re making it a protected area. The recent rain has flushed out the inner parts of the wadi so it’s a little cleaner at the moment. From there, we head further into the mountains and get to a place where the wadi suddenly becomes very narrow – where the rocks have been carved by the water itself. We do have to wade through the water, which can be a couple of inches deep or, after rain, even up to the hips. We call it canyoning because there’s always water there and there’s no option, but to head through it.
At one point there’s a big pool just to the side of the trail, you can see that it’s very clean, clear water, so we swim there for a while. Then we get out and continue walking, sometimes climbing above the wadi a little way before we stop for lunch. From there we start the trek back. We have to clamber up small waterfalls to get further into the wadi so it’s definitely canyoning rather than just normal trekking. Wear trainers or trekking shoes that you don’t mind getting wet.’ Four hours round trip
Aqaba-Lima Grade 3 ‘Aqaba lies on the Musandam peninsula. We start from Dibba harbour by boat, usually heading out at nine in the morning, taking a local fishing boat 45 minutes along the coastline and stopping at some lime-stone caves along the way. From the fishing port of Aqaba, we start along a coastal pathway that goes from that to the next bay around. We have to walk along small ledges (pictured, right) to get around the bay, which are only about a metre or two above the water – we often see dolphins and stingrays swimming beneath our feet here. After that there’s a steep climb up the trail to the main town of Aqaba, situated at the very top of the peninsula, 250m above sea level. This town was abandoned 50 years ago when they first discovered oil in the region and people migrated down to more comfortable towns with water and electricity. There are about 80 small abandoned houses here, a mosque and an old graveyard.
It’s completely deserted and a lot of the houses still have ceramic pots, old jars and chests inside them – you get the sense that people just packed up and left. All the time we have these spectacular views onto the harbour and Lima, one of the bigger towns in Musandam. We follow a path down the steep slope on the other side to reach the first of the date farms in Lima where we have lunch next to a freshwater pool. There’s often African parakeets and Indian rollers in the almond, tamarind and henna trees in the plantation. We head down to the harbour at Lima bay to meet the boat that dropped us in Aqaba, and head back to Dibba, stopping along the way for snorkelling. The only difficulty with this trek is that it’s a steep trail, the distance isn’t that great but there’s a steep ascent and descent.’ Usually 9am-4pm, with three hours of trekking
Grade 1 Easy: little physical activity involved.
Grade 2 Moderate: trekking over flat ground with a few small inclines.
Grade 3 Difficult: some steep or exposed sections, good physical fitness required.
Grade 4 Strenuous: continued physical exertion over several hours, usually five or six hours of constant walking.
Grade 5 Extreme: full day adventure requiring technical skills and excellent physical conditioning.
Absolute Adventure offers more treks, which Time Out will cover over the next few weeks. To book a trek call on 04 345 9900. Prices vary, call to discuss harder grade 4 and grade 5 treks