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Muscat

Adventure Time

Bucket List Experience | Searching For Whale Sharks

October 9, 2017

With a ‘Bucket List’ as long as my arm I’m always on the prowl to seek out new adventures and continue to challenge myself to achieve my goals.
It has been a dream on my bucket list for some time now to swim with the oceans gentle giants, the Whale Sharks. Other random experiences on my Bucket List currently include flying in a Hot Air Balloon, learn to scuba dive and visit the infamous Mount Everest.

Living in Oman offers many incredible opportunities – from mountain to ocean, there is an abundance of natural and unspoiled adventure opportunities to jump head first into. Swimming with whale sharks is one of those life changing experiences that is possible here if you put in some effort to make things happen.

Just a few weeks ago, I had embarked on a boat trip specifically in search of these famous creatures as their migration brought them off the coast of Oman. Sadly wild animals aren’t always easy to track and the trip ended without seeing any whale sharks.
Just when I thought my dream might be over for this season, my luck changed!

The call came in that a pod of 30+ whale sharks was spotted close to Muscat and was I free to join – it was a no brainer – lets go! With all systems go, I dropped everything I was doing, threw the GoPro, sun cream and some water in a bag and made the dash to the marina praying that today would be my lucky day.

After 20 minutes of motoring the boat out to sea, from the Al Mouj marina in Muscat, we quickly reached the area where these animals had been spotted. It didn’t take long for the first dorsal fin to breach the surface of the water. To my untrained eye, I wasn’t sure if these were perhaps dolphins… it wouldn’t be the first time the cheeky dolphins have tricked me with their fins!
To my luck, it was indeed the much-lusted-after sight of a whale shark! We cruised along and watched as the number of whale sharks around us grew to at least 10 at one point with many, many more on the horizon. Never getting too close to the boat, these creatures swam near enough offering us just a glimpse.
The dream of swimming with these majestic animals was getting ever closer and it was now time to get in the water quickly – but gently – before we lost our opportunity

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. Although their size and feeding habits resemble whales, they are indeed part of the shark family. Perhaps just the slower, more chilled out of the relatives. Even though they are documented to be incredibly gentle, it is still a very peculiar feeling deliberately swimming towards a wild animal of this size… especially a shark.
Watching them glide by so gracefully, somehow I lost my inhibitions of the size and the danger of being in the open ocean with a wild animal. As I swam alongside them, I found myself desperate for the experience to last a little longer

After being in the water for around 20 minutes with these amazing creatures, it was time to give them their space and move on letting them feed in peace – not to mention it is hard to keep up at their pace!

This was an experience that will definitely stay with me for a lifetime!

Now to book that Hot Air Balloon, learn to Scuba Dive and tick off a few more bucket list items. What is on your Bucket List?

Fitness

Muscat Marathon 2017

February 6, 2017

You may have been lured in here by an attractive title and the possibility that I may have ran an actual marathon. Sorry to disappoint, hee hee. My little white legs only ran a quarter of that and participated in the 10km event but still an achievement none the less.

Running isn’t something that comes naturally to me so when I signed up 5 months prior to the event it felt like a big challenge and a motivation to push myself to keep training. Inspired by Hitesh, a very cool dude from Run Every City, I knew I had to improve quickly.

Lacing up my running shoes and heading out for my first practice run I was full of enthusiasm with the plan to simply just run and see how far I got before I had to stop. Preparing for a 10km event couldn’t be that hard could it? Well, yes it can.. On that very first run I managed only 3.2km (2 miles) and felt like a melting snowman with lungs bursting at the seams.

Gradually I was improving my distance and feeling less unfit with every week that passed, that alone is a great motivator. Spurred on by my running buddy, Sarah, and my choice of some very dodgy Hip Hop songs we ran on the beach at 6am before the sun was too high in the sky.

One month before the event I ran my first full 10km route, albeit not very fast but managing to reach that milestone was a great feeling and mentally set me up for the challenge ahead.

On the day we ran on behalf of ub-cool to raise money for the very deserving cause of epilepsy awareness.

Running my first 10km event was a great feeling, especially as I managed to complete it in 57 minutes which is a new personal best for me.

With a new found respect for running I don’t want to let that slip so I plan to continue to keep pushing forward. Now the decision is on for next year – do I do the 10km again but attempt a faster time or should I try for the half marathon?!

Have a great day!

Heather x

Adventure Time, Expat Life

Al Sawadi Tower

September 6, 2015

Standing tall and proud above the bay is the tower of Al Sawadi.

Al Sawadi has been a destination on my to-do list for a long time, Located around 50 minutes drive from Muscat, past Barka, it is easily accessible for the masses and doesn’t take a whole day of travel. In my previous adventure post, read here, I had mentioned that we planned to visit the previous week but the tides were unfavourable – when you read this post you will understand the importance of getting the tides right.

Parking at the beach car park the plan was to wade across the bay to the near by island to visit the tower of Al Sawadi. We loaded ourselves up with the essentials – Water, Camera, Dry bag, Shoes and sun cream etc..

As we left the car park in the late afternoon it was still low tide which gave us a window of a couple of hours to cross and get back safely before the channel would be too deep for us (we are both competent swimmers but always be safe, the currents are very strong) This is a good website to check tide times, click here.

Arriving on the peaceful island we headed for the stairs and began the steep incline – Great cardio in the sunshine! I was feeling very thankful that I had remembered to bring shoes with me as these steps were incredibly hot after a whole day in the baking sun.

001 Sawadi Stairs

The climb to the top is steep and hard going in the heat but the view from the top is so worth the effort. There are plenty of resting points along the way to stop and enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery.

001 Sawadi Scenery

Unfortunately on the way to the tower we seemed to attract 4 creepy young men who followed us all the way from the beach to the top of the rock. I don’t have many pictures of the tower itself because these guys were lingering in every shot and I didn’t want to give them a reason to try and engage us further.

These situations really annoy me because I’m certain that the guys would not behave like this if we had a male friend with us, they seem to think two girls on their own means it’s fair game. They are probably too dumb to understand that it can be an intimidating experience to be followed and outnumbered on an island where there is no one else around – This can happen anywhere in the world but always be aware of your surroundings and let people know where you are going and when you will be back. Better to be safe than sorry.

Eventually, after about 45 minutes of pursuit and annoyance, they got bored and realised that these two chicks were not going to take any sh*t from them without a fight and made their retreat.

001 Sawadi Tower close up

001 Tower Arches

In the picture below I have marked the car park where we set off from with the yellow star to show how far and high we travelled to reach the pinnacle.

001 Sawadi look to car park

After a rest in the shade and plenty of water we started the descent back down enjoying the ocean breeze to cool us,

001 Sawadi descent

Wading back across the channel the water level was up to our waists, deeper at some points. Although we could stand and the ocean looked peaceful the under current was strong and could easily take you off guard.

Back on the mainland we moved to a semi quiet piece of beach, well as quiet as a coastal town in Oman gets at sunset HA Ha!, to relax and cool down in the ocean as we watched the sun set over Al Sawadi.

This is another example of a great adventure in Oman that doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Life doesn’t have to be about expensive brunches and fancy clothes – I’m pretty happy in my shorts with a backpack climbing up a big ass rock somewhere 🙂

Any suggestions of places I should explore next?

Heather x

Expat Life, Family Life

Three Years

September 3, 2015

Three years ago to this date I landed in a foreign land to begin a new life.

It was sink or swim.

I’m not sure if I am celebrating three years in Oman itself or three years of surviving away from the home nest. Either way, today feels like a reason to celebrate. I didn’t sink, I swam and I’m still swimming.

For those who have never made the daunting leap from “home” and everything you have ever known then it probably doesn’t sound that exciting to you, in the grand scheme of life what is three years anyway?
But for those who have made such a drastic life change they may be able to relate, every month and year that goes by is a success – You haven’t failed and you haven’t run home crying. You’ve got this.

01 Sur heart hands

The past three years have been so crazy, weird, wonderful and given us so many oppertunites we would never have had otherwise.

I would love to know what the next step is for us but only time will tell. All I can hope is that for every year that passes we can embrace it and make the most of these crazy adventures in life.

Heather x

Family Life

Penny VS Hornets

September 1, 2013

After only having a day back in our Muscat house and knowing that Colin was off out in the morning I was very much looking forward to having a cheeky long lie. I sleepily put the dog out for a pee, said goodbye to Colin and got back into bed.

Ten minutes later I was disturbed by a 5 stone German Shepherd jumping on the bed and sticking her face in mine with a look of pure panic. I almost jumped out of my skin at the sight of her! Not the fact that she is a massive hairy dog because I’m used to that but the state of her swollen face. It wasn’t like that 10 minutes ago was it?


This photo doesn’t even do it justice!


Jumping out of bed but trying not to alarm the balloon faced dog, she already looked pretty scared. Oh sh*t her face is massive, what do I do? I was currently wearing last nights make up and had to just get dressed and roll with the panda look as poor Penny’s face was getting bigger. Off to the vet we go on a Saturday morning.

Thankfully the vet saw her straight away, not that she was happy about that. It’s amazing how a huge dog who scares grown men suddenly turns into a whining little baby trying to sit on her Mummy’s knee as soon as we get to the vets. The nice vet made sure that there was no fever – cue the dreaded thermometer, sorry Penny! He said it is most likely to be a sting right on the nose from a hornet in the garden when I put her out for her pee. Right enough we do have quite alot of those in the mornings. 

The vet gave her a shot of anti-histamine to take down the swelling and a steroid to make sure that the hornet venom/poison/whatever didn’t affect her breathing at all.

Thankfully by around 6pm that night the swelling was almost gone and she looked normal again. Lets hope she has learnt her lesson and no more chasing hornets.

Hornets 1 – Penny 0
Expat Life

Crime in Azaiba

May 28, 2013


The stories of the rise of petty crimes in my neighborhood have been on the grape vine for a few months now. There has been nothing too major as yet but last weekend something quite scary happened.

Azaiba is generally a pretty safe area of the city to live in, the whole of Muscat is a pretty safe place really, but there will always be someone who wants to ruin that. The neighborhood (North Azaiba) is a mixture of large family villas and apartments with nothing that particularly attracts crime to the area.



In a nutshell without giving too much information into an ongoing police investigation- a house had an intruder for the second time in the space of a few weeks where a man jumped the outside wall and approached the house maid. He had a rag in his hand which he proceeded to attempt to smother her face with it, possibly drenched in a substance such as chloroform. Luckily she managed to get away from him and he escaped without further harming her or the family inside the house.

It’s crazy that someone would attempt to get into the same house for a second time but this time he came back with an attempt to quieten the house maid. Whatever way you look at it, this guys intentions were not good.



My protector heard the commotion the night before and ensured that she stayed on full alert into the next day, no getting past her!



Please be safe people, look after one another and ensure that you lock your home. Or maybe get a guard dog like me 🙂

Would you mess with these teeth?!

Expat Life, Food & Entertainment

White party at the Hyatt

May 28, 2013
Telling my husband that we were going to a “white party” didn’t go down too well, he questioned the point of the whole thing. I explained that it is just a bit of fun and an excuse to get together with friends. “Well I don’t have anything to wear” he retorted sounding more like me rather than himself. I had already preempted this situation and taken the liberty of laying his clothes on the bed for him, what a good wife.. I did let him off with wearing jeans in the effort of not turning him too into a Miami Vice extra 😉
My original outfit included white jeans but now the summer temperatures are rising, tight jeans just weren’t practical for me to wear at an outdoor event. I chose thin black & white leggings from 
H&M and a loose white blouse. 
So off we trotted to one of the many events to celebrate the Grand Hyatt’s 15 year anniversary. We met our friends in the lobby of the hotel to compare outfits, and yep everyone was dressed in white funnily enough. This is important as entry to the party was free if you wore white, yay for us!
Here we are with our good friend, Peter, wearing our white outfits.
The party was outside on the Marjan terrace by the pool which is always a lovely location for a party. The event was run by the Coco Latte promotion team and they did a fab job with the music and event.
Unfortunately the temperature outside was a sticky 38 degrees and high humidity making it a bit uncomfortable to be outside for too long, I could literally feel my make up sliding down my face which is never a good look. Many people moaned about the cost of water at such a hot event at 2.6 rials/£3.84 for a bottle of water people were fading fast. A little crazy when water is more expensive than beer. Hopefully next time they have this sorted..
I showed Colin this picture of us that i had uploaded onto Instagram thinking that I was being all cute, his reply “why have I got hearts and sh*t all over me?” Men!!! haha.
A good night was had by all as usual and I was sure to drink plenty of water when I got home, these outdoor events are sadly calming down now due to the summer heat – Roll on winter time!
Expat Life

Change the law – Compulsary car seats for children in Oman

May 26, 2013

As a child I hated car journeys with my family, being the middle child of 3 we always sat in order of age. That meant my older sister was on my left nudging me and my younger brother on my right wiping bogies everywhere – I was stuck squished in the middle. Yes we had fights and drove our poor mother crazy but the main thing was we were sat on our chubby little bottoms strapped into the car and wearing proper seat belts. 


The fact that our parents loved us enough to ensure that we were as safe as possible in the car is a life long lesson that I still live by – I won’t move my car two inches without wearing my seat belt on.  Being British this is normal for us, these days British mothers are not allowed to leave hospital with their newborn children until their babies car seat has been inspected to be safe and installed properly in the car.


An example of a child in a supportive & safe car seat..


Sadly this is not the case in Oman, there is no law yet to ensure that babies & children are securely strapped in the car.


Personally I have witnessed so, so many cars on the highway with children jumping all over the back seats, sitting on the dashboard, heads hanging out the window and even climbing over their parents while driving at 120 km/h. No matter what nationality you are or how many children you have surely it is common sense that you cannot concentrate on the road while you have children misbehaving in the car.


If this is the impact a child in a safe car seat sustains at 90 km/h, imagine what a child without a car seat would be like at 120 km/h on the highway.



The worst thing I ever saw was a father driving with 4 children fighting in the back of a Nissan Sunny, a baby on his lap while driving at 120 km/h on the highway and texting at the same time. That is serious multi-tasking but the worst bit in my opinion is that, he was the only one wearing a seat belt. In my brain that tells me that he only cares about his own safety and sending that text message and not his children.

This week’s Y Magazine in Muscat has run a double page spread to raise awareness of the safety concerns. They are working with the National Youth Commission (NYC) to bring Oman in line with the UAE who have already made it compulsory.



Please take the time to sign the petition online here: http://www.facebook.com/ytabloid?sk=app_454522871303124&app_data


To learn more about how choose, install and use a car seat for your children then run a simple Google search – it is that easy! Or check out this interesting blog: www.thecarseatlady.blogspot.com



As adults why should we protect ourselves with a seatbelt and an air bag but we don’t protect our children who can’t and don’t know how to help themselves?! Think about it!

Food & Entertainment

Sssshhhhhh! Secret Party in Muscat

May 21, 2013
Last weekend I had the fun experience of attending my very first ever secret party. How fun is that? I’ve never been much good at keeping secrets so maybe I’m not the best person for secret parties?

Myself and a group of friends all met up in the bar before hand, afterall we didn’t have a clue what kind of a party we were attending. Strength in numbers and all that 😉 All we had was an invitation via Whats App, we could have been walking into anything…


There was no charge to enter the event and the only rule was “Don’t invite anyone that you would not like hanging out with, because we probably wouldn’t like hanging out with them either”. This sounds like my kind of party!

That was pretty much all we knew or all the information that we had been allowed to know.



All dressed up and ready to go party!

Members of the party had to sign in at the door using the computers provided, entrance bands secured round our wrists and then make our way through the solid wooden door. Who knew what was going to be on the other side?!




Shhhh secret party….



Unfortunately I can’t tell you anymore about the secret party because then that would be telling, wouldn’t it?!


The girls at the event


It was alot of fun, with lots of dancing and we are told that there are plenty more to come through the summer. What might be next? I don’t know because it’s a secret but I’m hoping for an email soon to explain more!
That might be the most exciting thing to happen this summer, the temperature is heating up and my activities are dwindling…Boooo! 

Adventure Time, Expat Life, Family Life

Indoor Climbing wall in Al Khuwair

May 21, 2013

A few weeks ago I attended a charity event located at the indoor climbing wall in Al Khuwair. Doing my bit for charity and taking my brother along for an indoor activity to get away from the heat sounded like a good idea.

The place is run by the “Muscat Diving and Adventure Center”, you can check out their website here for their full range of activities and adventures.

I had a real struggle to find this place and there were no helpful searches online to guide me and conflicting phone numbers so hopefully this post will help a little if you try to find it for yourself.




This is what the place looks like from the outside, the crab on the sign doesn’t exactly scream “indoor climbing wall”.
 
 


Basically, If you know where the Badr al Sama hotel or the Radisson Blu hotel (with O’Malleys bar) is in Al Khuwair then your on the right road. There is a strip of fast food joints with Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Papa Johns – look to the left of these and set back from the road is the building you are looking for.

The building is set back from the road across a dusty car park




This is the contact information that I found online, not that it was much use when I was actually driving up and down the street looking for it.

Mail: Info@holiday-in-oman.com
Tel: 24 484 559 Al Kuwair




Once we finally found the place it was a surprisingly good set up indoors with knowledgeable staff and good equipment.


We tried our hands at abseiling..
 
 

 

Graham enjoying the climbing wall…
 
 
We also tried the bouldering room where you could climb over the walls and ceiling to test your ability and strength. Check out the instructor who could maneuver his way around like a spider..
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I’m not sure if this place is aimed more at children than adults but this price list was on the wall, it seems pretty steep at 8 OMR (£13.70) per hour for children under 14.
 
 
 
So we had a fun couple of hours at the charity event for “The Children of Jebel Shams” and hopefully they raised enough money to make a difference to these children and helping to educate them.
 
 
A final picture of me and my brother, Graham. We are so cute 🙂