Arabian Oryx Sanctuary
The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary is an area within the Central Desert and Coastal Hills biogeographical regions of Oman. Seasonal fogs and dews support a unique desert ecosystem whose diverse flora includes several endemic plants. Its rare fauna includes the first free-ranging herd of Arabian oryx since the global extinction of the species in the wild in 1972 and its reintroduction here in 1982. The only wild breeding sites in Arabia of the endangered Houbara Bustard, a species of wader, are also to be found, as well as Nubian ibex, Arabian wolves, honey badgers, caracals and the largest wild population of Arabian gazelle.
Map of Arabian Oryx Sanctuary
Our visit to the Oryx sanctuary was simply unforgetable. The government of Oman at the instruction of the Sultan has set aside vast tracts of land (hundreds of square miles) to preserve the habitat for and to try and re introduce into the wild these rare animals following a scheme of protective breeding. We are fortunate to live in Oman and were able to get the correct permits faxed to us to give permission to visit and camp at the site (we were the only visitors). Whist there, we were treated to dawn and dusk patrols out with the rangers in the back of their pick ups. At night we camped in a most fabulous deserted spot, surrounded by Arabian Gazelle. Truly a lovely experience.
Making a proper visit to this WHS is not a practical possibility for the ordinary “passing tourist”
The Birdwatching Guide to Oman (H+J Eriksen) provides excellent detailed maps for all the best birding sites in Oman but, it says of the Oryx Sanctuary :-
“Jaaluni is the field station of the Arabian Oryx Project located on the flat desert plain of the Jiddat al Harasis. The area is east of the Muscat – Salalah road and north of the Hayma – Al Duqm road. No map is provided as visitors should not attempt to find the area on their own and all access is via mere desert tracks. Birdwatchers wanting to visit must seek prior permission from the project head office in Muscat. …. If the visit is granted, the staff from the field station will pick up the visitors in Hayma or other agreed location and lead the way to Jaaluni, Tour operators in the capital area such as Siw Rantapaa-Buring or Heide Beal may also secure a permit. For resident birdwatchers the easiest way to visit may be to join the Historical Association of Oman on one of their yearly or twice yearly visits”
The boundaries of the site do however cross the main Muscat - Salalah road north of Hayma (see the Advisory Body report on the UNESCO Web site) So if you make that journey you will, in strict terms, have “visited” the WHS!!
The park continues south east all the way to the coast and clearly needs time and expertise as well as appropriate mobility to fully appreciate the ecosystem. Passing through will give some idea of what it looks like.
The attached photo shows the boundary sign which is the nearest you are likely to get to seeing an Oryx!!
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