I first visited Masirah in October 2013 and have been back many times, the island’s simplicity and beauty draw me like a magnet. It’s a complete contrast to anywhere in the UAE and I never fail to relax amidst its rural island atmosphere.
In my fantasy retirement, I could just go rustic on Masirah, wander along the beaches shell collecting, drift around perfecting my bird photography, live off fish, but really I do like the occasional Starbucks, need wifi and even though I profess to hate malls, use them for the parmesan type of buying shop, so, in reality, it’s my place to go to escape…
Masirah (Arabic: مصيرة) is an island off the East coast of Oman, 95 km long north-south, between 12 and 14 km wide, with an area of about 649 km², and a population estimated at 12,000. Most of the population are in the north of the island spread across 12 small villages and the main town and port of Hilf.
The interior is rocky with small mountains and the coastline on the west consists of mudflats near Hilf, down to sandy beaches and some coral reefs from Sur Masirah to the south. On the east side of the island, the seas are wild and rough during the monsoon season, totally beautiful. Endless white sand beaches and rocky escarpments form the coastline, with barely a soul in sight. Electricity only runs part-way down the island, so apart from farms and the odd settlement, there are few people, except fishermen to be seen.
On the East coast one of the points of interest has been a Dhow wreck, right in the centre of a vast beach .. I have photographed it on every visit and so glad I did .. in June 2015 there was a Cyclone and now the dhow wreck is sadly diminished.
Dhow wreck gallery.
Fishing is the main economy here, tourism is in its infancy. The island’s location, 500 km south of Muscat, plus the fact there is very little in the way of attractions on the mainland close by, mean that there is not much else that would tempt people down to this remote paradise.
There is one 4-star hotel on the island, the Masira Island Resort (formerly the Swiss-Bel hotel) and four other smaller hotels. There is no nightlife; it’s a traditional rural and fishing life, only a Turkish restaurant in Hilf, which is good, and several other local establishments for spicy Indian, untried as yet.
The main attractions for visiting are watersports, Kite and windsurfing mainly, during monsoon season and the wildlife, which is spectacular.
Four species of turtle nest on Masirah, loggerhead, green, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles. Each has its own specific nesting season different to the other, so that on every day of the year, one or more turtles will be coming ashore to nest.
Over 130 species of shore birds and, at least, another 200 inland recorded on Masirah in the last few years and its south-western shores are fringed with coral reefs and the associated diverse marine life.
Camping is popular, with so many places it is easy to find a secluded spot on the 95-plus kilometres of the coastline.
There is also a Royal Omani Airforce base in the North of the island which provides economy for the islanders, but the area is restricted and not accessible to outsiders.
My first visit to Masirah was spurred by the fact that the authors of the book “Seashells of Eastern Arabia” had found many specimens on Masirah, and I hoped to be able to find some of them too. What a success, specimen after fascinating specimen lying on the empty white beaches, lapped by turquoise seas … no wonder I return so frequently. Life is simple, governed by the fishing economy, a very traditional way of life led by Masiran families, but so welcoming to outsiders who make the long journey to enjoy their island.
A photo gallery is the best way of sharing Masirah, so many stunning views, beaches, colours, wildlife to be seen ….and for me, shells to collect !!
A separate post for recording and sharing photographs of the unique shells found on Masirah is in progress.
Please visit my photo galleries below to share my Masirah moments over the last three years…
Gallery – On Masirah…
Gallery – Birds, Shells, Fish and weird and wonderful finds…and of course, Camels…
Gallery – Hilf port, Masirah…
Some links below for more information:
Trip information for self-drive from Dubai.
See Google route maps below for Dubai to Shannah port via Mezayed border crossing at Al Ain.
It relieves the boredom of the long drive if Option 1 is used as an overnight route and Option 2 a daytime route.
Option 2 has more of interest in the way of scenery, small towns, unusual camel moments and spectacular geology.
Fuel stops Option 1 and 2 Route: Important, run out of fuel on these routes at night and there are no backup options if you have no backup jerry can, not all petrol stations are 24 hours.
Ferry to Masirah:
1) Oman National Ferry company run a daily schedule from 8 am to 6 pm either way. Cost 16 OMR each way per vehicle with two passengers.
Be sure to check the link below as some ferries during the day can be cancelled, as I have found out last minute at the ferry office (especially Public holidays, it’s chaotic!) and have had to leave on a later ferry.
2) The other option is the local private ferries which make the crossing when full. This can mean quite a long wait and a slower crossing; since a recent sinking I have avoided these. Cost 10 OMR for a vehicle, each way with no extra for passengers. Foot passenger’s go free.
On public holidays, both ports can be chaotic and it’s best to stand your wheels – queuing is not orderly!
Hotels on Masirah:
I only have first-hand knowledge of Masira Island Resort, and can highly recommend it. A small hotel, lovely pool, slightly gentile, but made up for by the lovely staff, good food, comfort and the wonderful view.
Booking.com shows the other hotel options on the island.
Masirah is absolutely perfect for camping, easy to find a beach to yourself. Supermarkets and market in town for local food purchases, but beware, not too many options to choose from. Best bring a cool-box of BBQ food, wood can be found by trawling beaches, alternatively, bring some with you.
For the drive down, I would recommend carrying a jerry can of fuel, if travelling overnight. Most fuel stations are 24 hours, but some are not and it could be fairly disastrous if your chosen one is closed.
Petrol is more expensive on Masirah, fill up in one of three petrol stations in Mahout before driving to Shannah port. Oman Oil is the final one on the Shannah side of Mahout, about 2km out of town.
There is also a petrol station at Shannah port, but it can be busy.
Phone signal is good in the north of the island but dies out towards the south.
Free wi-fi available in Masira Island Resort hotel, but service can be slow.
Skype is blocked in Oman.
All information is up to date on posting date.
Great photos. My father was in the RAF the whole of his life, and when he was in his twenties he got posted to the RAF base at Masirah for a short while. All that was there were a few Nissan hits made of corrugated iron, lots of sand! I wish I could take him back and show him what it was like now.
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Oh, wow, maybe it’s not too much of a change now, it’s still kind of remote, lots of sand, but there are roads, electricity, and.. it’s so beautiful..I’ll keep posting my trips, it’s really my place to escape to…
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So superb Masirah Island is! Real loved it and great pictures you have taken.
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Some beautiful photos! And lots of info should I ever get to Oman… one day.
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