Category Archives: Out of Austria

In search of Dolphins off the coast of Muscat, Oman


We were warned more than once that there was a 10% chance that we would not see any dolphins and for a while it seemed our trip was destined to be part of that minority of boats that return with disappointed passengers.

Despite the caution our guide seemed optimistic as we set out from the harbour. The talk was of encountering our first dolphin(s) within 10 minutes – the trip was scheduled to last two hours. As we bounced across the waves everyone on the boat was scanning the sea and ignoring the rugged beauty of the Oman coast. In the distance could be seen the occasional small one person fishing boat and on the horizon cargo vessels and oil tankers.

The shout went up from one of the passengers and the boat was swiftly turned in the direction of the outstretched arm. The excitement rapidly dissipated as people realised the call had be a false alarm. Turning once more our boat sped across the water.

For another fifteen minutes we criss-crossed the choppy sea but with no sign of our quarry our guide pulled the boat up alongside one of the small fishing vessels and asked about sightings. It was clear that the fisherman had not recently seen dolphins in the area and as we once again began our search the guide turned to his mobile phone and began to contact other boats of sightings.

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As we reached the hour mark things did not look good. Conversation with another fishing boat and additional calls on the mobile phone had failed to help us find our elusive quarry. Many of my fellow passengers had abandoned the vigil and I was beginning to share the growing mood on the boat, we were not going to see anything on this particular trip.

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Suddenly the guide swung the boat around with purpose, there in the distance was another tourist boat, a fishing boat, gulls and most importantly the sea around them seemed to have a different pattern. Within moments our boat was rolling quietly on the waves whilst all around us were a pod of around 50 dolphins hunting (I’m definitively guessing on the number as the action was so fast it made counting difficult).

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The next 30 minutes were wonderful. The chance to observe these magnificent mammals in their natural environment, it was an event will stay with me. Northern Oman has many sights and experience that make a visit worthwhile but its seas also offer much for the visitor.

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On our way back we passed our holiday resort and also had a chance to take in the landscape of the coastline.  

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It’s not every day you get your feet cleaned by fish!


I was sitting next to one of the deep pools near the Moqal Cave not far from the source of the ever flowing spring water that feeds Wadi Bani Khalid. The fish, three different species I guessed, which live in abundance in theses pools, where swimming in and out of the shallows or feeding on the brown algae that covered the stones that sat just below the surface. I had read about this before I came, I’d just heard some other visitors talking about having done it – their friends sceptical of sharing the experience. I hesitated a moment longer but this was a long established tradition; it was likely that I would never return to this spot, it had to be done.

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Having removed my socks I gently lower both feet into the fresh spring water. Briefly, but oh so briefly, the fish darted away from the disturbance. It was only a momentary response before I knew it I could feel the sensation of 30 to 40 small fish all attempting to remove the dry skin from my feet. Despite having prepared myself and even though the feeling was not unpleasant, the combination of unusual touch and the sight of black and brown fish swarming around my feet produced a knee-jerk reaction and my feet were hanging in the air. Steeling myself, I once again lowered each foot into the water, once again the fish darted away only to return and start to feed within an instance. This time I managed to keep my feet below the surface.

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The pools near the source of the spring water that feed Wadi Bani Khalid also provides visitors with the opportunity to cool off with a swim and changing facilities are available. While I went off scrambling over the rocks with my camera, other members of the family dived into the pools. They reported the swim to have been both enjoyable and refreshing – and no the fish did not seek to clean their feet.

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It’s a lovely area to visit and if, as we did, you arrive on a quiet day the walk from the car park is a short one and the area is quite tranquil. I understand that at weekends and particularly on public holidays the pools are so popular that the walk from the car would be significantly longer and the area bustles with people – especially those seeking to benefit from the services of the local feet cleaning denizens.

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The cafe serves reasonable local dishes or a burger options but the steps up and the building itself were I felt a bit of a disappointment in such a beautiful setting, especially when efforts have been made enhance the areas attractiveness. Also be careful crossing the metal bridge which spans the small gap between the two nearby pools, one of the rails is coming loose.

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For me the only disappointment on our visit to the area was the litter that could be found here and there amongst the rocks. It wasn’t excessive but it was still disappointing to see in such a lovely spot. My impression was that the cause was a mix of the tourists and locals (one of the villages on top of the cliff near the car park definitely has a problem with rubbish spilling over onto the side of the cliff). I mention these things as it’s been my experience here in Oman that a great deal of effort is made on maintaining public spaces.

However, the Wadi Bani Khalid gets a strong recommendation from me to all travelers visiting northern Oman. It’s not just the spring waters and the fish that makes the journey worthwhile; it’s also the journey to the Wadi from Muscat. Your road trip takes you through mountains dotted with Wadi’s which will first draw your attention. But gradually you begin to notice how the mountain landscape continually changes. It’s a journey in which you discover just how many different colours mountains and rocks come in from black and brown, through green, grey and blues, onward to white, red and yellows. The view changes continually, sometime it seems as barren as the moon, suddenly the rocks are dotted with clumps of green, within another kilometre small trees and more shrubs fight to cover the landscape.

Rather than taking the same route back from Wadi Bani Khalid its worth taking the road through the mountains to the coastal town of Sur and then follow the road along the coast back to Muscat.

 

A few more images of Wadi Bani Khalid:

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Filed under Oman, Out of Austria

Beautiful cathedral with no bishop but some strange rabbits!


On a recent visit to friends in Königslutter am Elm, Lower Saxony in Germany, I had a chance to look around the newly restored Kaiserdom (a cathedral that never had a bishop).

While the grandeur of the building……

….was matched interior with its arches and beautiful colour of the interior….

…..but it was these external carvings that really grabbed my interest. First the a rather traditional dog attacks boar….

…and then huntsman with rabbit…..

….but this looks like the revenge of the rabbits….

I’ve posted m0re pictures of the Kaiserdom here

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Filed under Germany, Lower Saxony, Out of Austria

Michael D Rocking in the President’s Office?


I’m a long standing fan of the Irish band The Saw Doctors. In years gone by they recorded a song about the then Irish Culture Minister who was a bit of a hero to those in the creative arts in Ireland. Here’s the link to ‘Michael D Rocking
in the Dail’:

http://soundcloud.com/sawdoctors/michaeld

Michael D Higgins has just been elected as the ninth Irish president 🙂

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15488067

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Filed under Ireland, Out of Austria

Eden – Discover Europe’s hidden treasures


With the summer holiday season coming to an end conversation in our household has already turned to thoughts of future destinations. If you too are wondering where to go and what to do when the grind of work becomes too much and the holiday entitlement has been replenished then have a look at the EDEN website.

The intro blurb says ‘EDEN is the acronym for European Destinations of Excellence, a project promoting sustainable tourism development models across the European Union’. What the site provides is some really interesting ideas for places to visit which may not have been on your radar.

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Filed under European travel thought's, Out of Austria

Harmstock update


Update on the festival, courtesy of @ThoroldArms:

Momentum picking up and beer flowing well at #Harmstock sun is shining! #realale

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Filed under England, Lincolnshire, Out of Austria

Are you in the Lincoln (UK) area this weekend?


In or within reach of the Lincoln area this weekend and wondering what to do? If you enjoy good beer and live music then I’d recommend heading for the village of Harmston and the Harmstock festival:

http://www.thoroldarms.co.uk/page9.html

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Filed under England, Lincolnshire, Out of Austria