Al Wusta Wildlife Reserve is part of the previous Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in the region. It is a 2 824 km2 tract of wilderness, beginning just west of the coastal town of Duqm, in Oman’s central Al Wusta Governorate. Within its boundaries are found several rare fauna and flora species, including a handful of the magnificent – and now protected – Arabian Oryx.
The first thing visitors should know about this place, is that it is an ‘off the beaten track’ eco-tourism destination. Visitors need to be well prepared before travelling to this wilderness area, and prepared to let the desert life reveal itself on its own terms. Those that do will be richly rewarded.
The reserve encompasses an open tract of sparsely vegetated limestone desert, including part of the elevated Al Huqf escarpment to the east. This is pristine desert wilderness at its best.
The reserve is home to the Arabian Oryx, which was re-introduced into the region in 1980. These days, there are several hundred Arabian Oryx in the reserve’s field headquarters, as well as a number of herds in the wild.
Visitors keen on an ‘express visit’ to the reserve will be able to see captive animals (like the Arabian Oryx and Arabian Gazelle) in the reserve’s Jaaluni breeding enclosures.
There is a local information centre, with interesting info on the region’s geology, animals and plant life. The more you know about the place, the more you’ll enjoy yourself!
Visiting groups keen on longer stays are required to hire a local guide, and will need to be self-sufficient with their own camping gear and supplies. Take note that to fully explore the region, a four wheel drive vehicle is necessary. Thankfully, the reserve management are willing and able to arrange this (contact them for the daily rates).
Prominent species here are the Arabian Gazelle, Arabian Oryx, Nubian Ibex, Striped Hyena, Yellow-spotted Agama, Ethiopian Hedgehog, Sand Gazelle, Mountain Gazelle, Sand Fox, Red Fox, and a variety of bird species. Camera and binoculars? Bring them!
Unfortunately, during the late 1990s, due to excessive poaching, many Oryx, Ibex and Gazelle were lost to this region. But with a handful of conservation programs in place in the area right now, things are looking up. In January 2013, a Sand Gazelle project was launched in the region, with the aim of establishing a population of these rare animals in the area.
It’s possible and convenient to make an evening stopover at the reserve during a drive down to Salalah, from Muscat, or on a return trip back to the capital. A night spent camping under the stars here will be an unforgettable Oman experience.
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