Staying at a desert night camp in Oman was one of the things I was most looking forward to on our trip. Not so much the “camping” part, but more experiencing a traditional desert for the first time, particularly overnight (we’ve all seen the pictures of those beautiful star constellations). I can’t say I’m a camping kind of girl really though; I like the idea of it, but since I’ve grown up, the execution hasn’t exactly floated my boat.
Despite having been assured on multiple occasions that this was “luxury desert camping”, I still had visions of a hot tent, no running water and sand getting everywhere. I was therefore slightly reassured (despite our unorthodox method of arrival at our evening accommodation) when on our approach, I we saw that our tents appeared to have walls, this was my kind of camping!
A Desert Night Camp in Oman
We were in Oman for our honeymoon and had spent our first four nights at the stunning Chedi Hotel in Muscat, before embarking on a road trip around Oman that took us to the Jabal Akhdar Mountains, to beautiful white sand beaches, wadis and the Wahiba Sands Desert.
A Day Trip from Muscat: Wahiba Sands Tour
If you don’t want to stay overnight in the desert, you can also visit Wahiba Sands as a day trip from Muscat. The drive is 240km to the desert entrance, a very scenic journey mostly along the Sur coastal road.
There are lots of things to do on the road from Muscat to Wahiba Sands such as visiting the Bimmah Sinkhole, wandering along deserted white sand beaches and exploring the coastal town of Sur. However, if you are just doing a day trip, you probably won’t have time to make all of these stops as the drive will take you close to three hours each way.
Read More: Oman Itinerary: Muscat, Mountains & Desert
You can self drive, however you need to let your tyres down before going into the desert and be aware there are no discernible roads due to the constantly shifting sands. There were also some places our experienced Omani driver struggled to get the 4×4 through (read what happened to us here!), so I’m really not sure if this is a good idea to even attempt for most.
Instead, take one of the many day trips from Muscat on a Wahiba Sands tour; we booked all of our activities and excursions with Zahara Tours who were absolutely superb.
A Private Camp in the Oman Desert
Set 11km into the Omani desert, Wahiba Sands Desert Nights Camp market themselves as the only true luxury desert camp in Oman. This luxury desert camp consists of 39 Bedouin style “tents”, which on closer inspection are actually individual units dotted around with brick walls and a tented roof.
We tumbled out of our latest 4×4 (see here for what happened with our first one) after a little tour of Wahiba Sands desert and inside into the reception. The welcome is warm and in consistent and traditional Omani style, involves coffee and dates. I had a little wander into the boutique just off reception that contained lots of traditional Omani crafts, similar to those we found in the Muttrah Souq in Muscat.
You are shown to your room via a golf buggy (that our luggage was already waiting in), however, word of warning, the expectation is that three of you will fit in a two seater golf buggy which was a bit of a squeeze! We set off along the camp which is fenced in, but not obviously, with a good distance between each of the “tents”.
Wahiba Sands Desert Nights Camp Room Review
Number 14 right at the edge of the camp was ours for the night; there were rattan chairs (you know the type Americans always have on their “front porch”?) on a small terrace overlooking the dunes next to a heavy wooden door.
It’s takes us a little while to release the padlock and deadbolt and then we are enveloped by air conditioned heaven. We enter into a small living room with an “L” shaped bench sofa with some garishly coloured cushions along the corner, a coffee table and amenity station. There is another heavy wooden door on the opposite side of the room leading back outside, which if I’m being entirely honest seemed a little unnecessary given the accommodation’s rather compact size.
Just off the living room is a small but modern bathroom with a walk in shower (and hot water!), as well as the bedroom which features a king sized bed and another bench style sofa with some more very bright cushions. The decor is simple with light walls and the traditional dark wood accents.
It is dark and gloomy when we walk in, but we work out how to open the blinds and shutters, although the windows are relatively small so it is still a little on the dark side.
Wahiba Sands Desert
We are on a quick turnaround as we are due to return to the camp entrance to be driven up the dune to watch the sunset, one of the two activities included in our stay.
Wahiba Sands Desert Nights Camp can also arrange a whole host of other activities at an additional cost such as dune bashing, star gazing, visit to traditional Bedouin camps, camel treks and other sightseeing tours. Our stay here was only around 18 hours so we decided no to book any extras, plus our driver Mohammed is doing a fab job of keeping us entertained on our little adventure!
Related Post: Luxury Hotel Review: Alila Jabal Akhdar
We head to the entrance sans golf buggy this time (although we have been told that if we don’t fancy walking to just call reception and they send one to us), where a 4×4 has begun ferrying people up to the top of the dune.
We don’t have to wait long and I strap in immediately, it is not a smooth ride around here, reflected by the cushioned carpet lining the vehicle. The guy next to me hasn’t wised up yet though, but does so quickly when only a small bump sends him flying into the ceiling.
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Sunset on the Dunes
The top of the dune is eerily quiet, disturbed only by the occasional roar of nearby vehicles attempting to fly through the desert at top speed. We walk along the apex of the dune to try and find a quieter spot, virtually the entire camp are up here, but luckily we aren’t lacking desert space.
There is just red-gold gorgeous-ness for as far as we can see, only punctuated by the occasional shrub and the camp below. It is slightly overcast so unfortunately star gazing is out, but watching the sun descend is still magical as not only the sky changes colour, but so does the sand, deepening to a coppery colour.
I have sand everywhere and I’m tired from our day on the road but its so peaceful up there that we stay until we are virtually the last ones on the dune. It’s not hard to see how this is touted as one of the most beautiful places in Oman.
On our return, we head straight to Dune Restaurant, there aren’t exactly any other options in the desert, so all rates at Desert Nights are half board at a minimum. Alcohol is not included, however is available to purchase but can only be consumed inside your room (not even on your deck outside), due to the restrictions on the alcohol licence.
The restaurant is set in a small building to the side of the camp, separate from the main reception building; low level tables surrounded by red cushioned sofas are scattered outside with a few dining tables and chairs set up inside.
There is some traditional Omani music playing, a gentle breeze and the temperature is possibly the closest to perfect you can ever get. Dinner is buffet style with a BBQ outside and a wide assortment of sides inside. The selection is huge, from traditional Arabian to European comforts. Wisely, nothing is too complicated though and some of the meat from the BBQ is delicious. It’s a casual affair and being isolated in the middle of the desert makes the whole experience a bit more magical.
Dune Restaurant is also the location of our breakfast the following morning. An extensive buffet spread awaits us inside, Danny shocks us all by opting for the full English, which unfortunately he leaves most of, again, second shock, a full English is best experienced in England (has anyone actually come across a decent one outside the UK?), but this one really isn’t great. I fair better with some waffles, but our coffee isn’t the best either!
Wahiba Sands Activities
The second activity included in our stay is a camel ride, which I was very much looking forward to! If I’m being completely honest, I am more excited because Danny is so obviously not looking forward to it. He is not one to move out of his comfort zone without significant prodding (usually by me) whereas I throw myself into (almost) everything. Most of the time he begrudgingly admits afterwards he enjoyed whatever I convinced him to do, but every now and again I make him do something I am not sure he is going to like….this is one of those times!
After our breakfast, we head out to the enclosure where we are introduced to our camels for the morning. Now, I spent a lot of time horse riding when I was younger but something about the way camels move makes me think that’s not really relevant…
Another couple join us and we board our camels; they fold their legs under them and lie on the floor so you can hop on, then their back legs stand up and you almost fall off forwards, then their front legs unfold and you need to sit back quickly to avoid being hit in the face with camel. Got it?!
Good luck if you ever try this. Danny getting on his camel is just hilarious, he is not a comfortable guy! Luckily, this is a quick ride, I have to say I don’t find it particularly comfortable but I am glad I did it, you never know with these things unless you try.
I’m a bit nervous about the dismount and it turns out I am right to be; their front legs fold and you genuinely feel like you’re flying forwards, you have to fight it and throw yourself back and hope for the best until the back legs follow. The Omani’s make it look oh so easy. Witnessing Danny’s dismount amuses me somewhat, for a guy that is damn chilled most of the time, the slight loom of fear makes me feel a bit smug!
Related Post: One Day in Muscat: A Complete Itinerary
Final Thoughts: Wahiba Sands Desert Nights Camp in Oman
This desert night camp in Oman is not roughing it by any stretch of the imagination; air conditioning, hot water, decent speed WiFi everywhere and a comfortable bed are not things you associate with camping.
But let’s be clear, while this is luxury on the camping scale this is not 5 star as they profess to be, the staff while polite and efficient only do the basics and the food is average.
I would, however, still recommend it, it’s a different experience and the setting is truly stunning. One night is enough for me though and we head back to the 4×4 ready for the final leg of our Oman road trip back to Muscat!
– Book Wahiba Sands Desert Nights Camp at Booking.com, Agoda or Hotels.com
– Check flight routes and prices with Skyscanner. Oman Air fly direct from Manchester and London Heathrow on a daily basis and British Airways fly from London Heathrow three times a week between October and April.
There are currently no direct flights from the USA, but there are lots of connection options; Muscat is only an hour’s flight from Dubai.
– Click here to buy your Lonely Planet Guide to Oman.
– Apply for your Oman visa here. Read my full Oman Itinerary for more visa information.
– You can check out my full list of tried, tested and recommended Travel Resources here.