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OMAN, WHAT a FEELING:
The desert rocks, the ocean rolls
in the sunny Sultanate of Oman !


By John Hessburg, General Mgr.
U.S. Dive Travel Network


© Copyright U.S. Dive Travel. All rights reserved.


NOTE: We are sad to report that, for a time at least, our Oman packages will not be offered this season, until further notice. (Main reason: we are not certain of client safety in this volatile region of the world.) Your safety & comfort are our prime directives.

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You've gotta love a country where the cops write you a tougher ticket for driving a dusty car than for speeding happily down the highway.

You've gotta love a country where the national cuisine is a palate-perking blend of Lebanese, Greek, Indian, Pakistani & Arabian dishes. Where children & seniors are revered, & people really do rest on their day of rest. Where education & medical care are free for most citizens. Where robberies, rapes, assaults & chemical abuse are virtually nonexistent. Where the weather is sunny & only moderately humid most of the year. Where nobody goes homeless. Not even the Bedouin nomads who, straddling their sleepy camels, drift the seas of Wahiba Sands like meditative gypsies on Hejira.

OK guys, time to scrap your neckties. Gals, kick off your shoes. Get set for some big fun on the Arabian Peninsula:

(Feel free to finish this Home Page article first, then scroll back to these hotlinks later. Click below on any adventure sport you choose -- to visit a colorful webpage with story & pics.)

Oman diving, Oman scuba diving, Oman diving holidays, Oman vacation, Oman holiday, Arabian Sea diving
Brilliant sealife in the Daymaniyat Islands of Oman.
© Copyright Werner Thiele.

Oman diving, Oman vacation, Oman holiday, 
Oman diving holiday, desert tours, trekking, camping, vacation, holiday, Arabian Sea.
Honeycomb eel grins a greeting.
© Copyright Werner Thiele.

SWEKKING TM   may be the ultimate desert cardio-sport. It's a mix of cliff scrambling, ledge plunging, boulder hopping, gravel hiking & rapids running. Swekking is a soggy-boot mess that'll have you laughing like a banshee as you stride 300 level meters, then swim 300 more, then clamber over cabana-sized boulders, then swim with your pack some more, repeating that rocky mantra for hours on end, always staggering to shore with a backpack spewing 40 lbs of green river water, & canyon walls overhead so colorful they would start the heart of any jaded National Geographic editor. But laughing with your soaked-to-the-bone friends -- laughing & puffing with honest exercise -- that's the best part about swekking.

Yes, I am hopelessly enthralled by these wadis of Oman. Did I mention, there are scores of easier wadis, with gentle rock scrambles & low-angle hikes for the middle-agers & shutterbugs. There's a wadi out there with your name on it, manic or mellow, whatever you need. So whatever you do, watch out for this swekking bug. It's more catchy than you'd imagine from an air conditioned NorthAm armchair.

Muscat, Daymaniyat Islands, Sultanate of Oman, Arabian Peninsula, Omani forts, Wahiba Sands, wadis, Arabian Sea
Omani Bedouins are wise desert rovers.
© Copyright Werner Thiele.

Oman scuba diving, Oman diving, Oman vacations, Oman holidays, Oman holiday, Oman diving holiday, Arabian Sea.
Sunset brushes a dune in the Wahiba Sands.
© Copyright Werner Thiele.

NO MADISON AVENUE MARKETING:
Reality check, funseekers. This place called Oman is not the Madison Avenue fantasy of ad-blotto dive magazines. No hot-air marketing is necessary. This country will sell itself in time. Oman is a nation of people who are honest, responsible & sincere in their hospitality. Oman is a nation so wealthy in natural resources -- clean air, clean water, clean desert sands, & a clean value system -- that I feel embarrassed for never knowing about it before. It's not a perfect country, of course, as such things exist only in fiction. There is no classic democracy here, rather a landed aristocracy. Nobody can criticize the Sultan's policies & all telecommunications from phones to TV to e-mails are firmly under government control. But folks, this is a society that works. It works in every sense. So who are we to judge a social order this decent & easygoing? The cultural chauvinists who currently run many sectors of our North American & European schools have a lot to learn from the Islamic people of Oman. Arabian Sea diving is about more than just chewing a regulator & marveling at fish life. The people here may be the best part of the trip.

ONE of OUR NEW FAVORITES:
The U.S. Dive Travel partners have been lucky to visit, & study in depth, a couple dozen countries since 1970 -- on diving holidays to some of the world's most remote adventure destinations. Our network receives more than 20 invitations each month to visit new countries, develop new islands for dive vacations. Most of these calls we politely decline, because like you, we are always scouting for something fresh & compelling, the dive holiday that won't go stale on your memory shelves. Bingo.

Now this diamond in the rough of Southwest Asia emerges -- The Sultanate of Oman. So this new website is about unrepentant juvenile joy; it's about dive vacations far from the ho-hum; & it's more a labor of love than a marketing tool. So if you're not into a Nantucket sleighride of old-fashioned fun, then please click off this page right now, before you start enjoying yourself too much in the Arab world.

I'm well into my 50s now & things change, amigos. In March 2013 our U.S. Dive Travel team celebrated 22 successful years of planning adventure vacations for clients in 30 countries worldwide. Now we find the line between fun & work gets blurry. Work must be fun or we just won't do it anymore. Not after 2 decades of 60-hour weeks, paying the dues & getting the details straight. Oman was great fun for me & it will be for anyone who fits these three criteria: eyes open + mind open + still breathing.

Oman scuba diving, Oman vacations, Oman holidays, Oman holiday, Oman diving holiday, desert tours
Classic Muslim dignity, a mosque in Rustaq, Oman.
© Copyright Werner Thiele.

Oman scuba diving, Oman vacations, Oman holidays, Oman holiday, Oman diving holiday, Arabian Sea.
Old Muscat town, Sultan's Palace & harbor.
© Copyright Werner Thiele.


TIME to QUASH OLD PREJUDICES:
All kidding aside, here's the rub. If Moses himself couldn't do it all the way, who's going to reshape the parched clay of western thinking overnight? One sun-baked Yankee diver prattling on about faraway Oman? Unlikely, but let's try to make a little dent here. There are centuries of knuckleheaded prejudice to overcome, even among open-minded adventurers in Europe & North America. So many North Americans are wary of the Arab World, just as I was, & this article aims to set the facts straight. Relax dive buddies, breathe deeply & take the plunge with your eyes wide open. Oman is a place you need to visit. Let me say this again: if you have visited the Jaded Guru -- Bendar Dundat -- if you think you've truly seen it all, then Oman is a must-see for you.

Air tickets are super-cheap from Europe. Flights from Amsterdam, London, Athens, Frankfurt, are duck soup, one quick day & no fuss. For North Americans & clients from Latino America, air prices & travel times are equivalent to any South Pacific sojourn, nothing intimidating. You need just one overnight in Amsterdam or London on the way over. Sure, this is not a pratfall-easy trip. If Oman was an easy dive holiday, a predictable-as-a-cheeseburger option like Roatan or Cozumel, it would long ago have been stampeded by party-hearty college kids on their annual Spring Break hormone crusades. The flights to Oman are nowhere near a grind, & the rewards are bound to rock your soul.

Since returning from my first diving holiday in Oman -- more than 12 years ago -- one key question dogs me almost daily. What is wrong with our educational system, & with our national doors of perception, that the western world has virtually ignored a country this hospitable & visually appealing -- for centuries? This is dive travel, better yet, adventure travel right out of Robert Frost's "road not taken."

HOW DO YOU GET to OMAN?
Where in the world is Oman, you ask? The Sultanate of Oman is a country shaped like a mirror image of California, but a little bit smaller. Oman is nestled right at the "bottom right hand corner" of the vast Arabian Peninsula, a safe & sound 1500 miles from the mess in Israel & Lebanon. Oman is just southeast of our friends in Saudi Arabia, south of the legendary Rub al Khali desert, & also due east of the laid-back United Arab Emirates. Oman's classic Arabian capital, Muscat, is home for a bit more than 1 million Muslim souls. Muscat for centuries has been the multi-cultural gem of the Arabian Sea. Some European travel pros have called Oman the "Switzerland of the Arab World." Time we took a deeper look into Oman vacations, donít you think?

Oman diving, Oman vacations, Oman holidays, desert tours, Arabian Sea.
John
Hessburg.


WHAT ARE YOU THINKING, THEY WONDERED?
At first mention, close friends & family assured me I was nuts to even think of visiting the Arabian region that month. November 2000 was flashpoint for one of the worst "intifadah" outbreaks in Palestine since the Six-Day War. Most of the Arab world was infuriated by Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Tensions were high across the Middle East. Furthermore, I went to Oman just a few days after the USS Cole incident in Aden, Yemen. This seemed not exactly prime time for some lanky Yankee to be tooling around the Arabian Peninsula in search of outdoor bliss.

A father of two little boys, & senior partner in a fast-growing firm, I have a pretty conservative strategy when it comes to choosing new destinations. As Woody Allen says, "I have this low threshold of death." No more 20-something bravado in these 50-something bones. I went to the Arabian world expecting at best a cold shoulder everywhere, & at worst -- visions of Molotovs dancing in my head.

Oman alive was I wrong. Big time wrong!

After 30 years of high-voltage adventure travel on five continents & across the South Pacific, I'll admit that I blew it by pre-judging the Arabian Peninsula to be risky for North American & European travelers. Oman erased four decades of misconceptions that western culture has engrained into urban white guys my age. Oman blessed my life with a geographic & spiritual journey never to be forgotten. Take a few minutes to walk with me through this truly wonderful land.

Here is a summary of what was learned on a 14-hour-per-day, two week photo-blitzing itinerary across the Sultanate of Oman. Here below are some TLC glimpses, via text & pictures, into some of the delightful lessons learned & visions enjoyed on this Oman dive vacation.

Oman scuba diving, Oman diving, Oman vacations, Oman holidays
At dawn, laid-back camping from 4WDs in the Wahiba Sands of Oman.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


( Please click on these hotlinks below to read more about: )

Oman diving, Oman trekking, Oman vacations, Oman holidays
The canyon narrows, walls loom
in Wadi Shab, a classic gorge
in the Hajar Mountains.

© Copyright Werner Thiele.

Oman scuba diving, Oman diving, Oman vacations, Oman holidays
Trekking is mellow along scenic Wadi Mistal.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION on OMAN VACATIONS
or to MAKE LAND & AIR RESERVATIONS:

Please contact -- Susan Hessburg & John Hessburg, Mgrs
U.S. DIVE TRAVEL Network
PMB 307 / Suite # 116
15050 Cedar Ave. S.
St. Paul, MN, U.S.A.   55124-7047

Rez Line: 952-953-4124
E-mail: divetrip@bitstream.net

Website: www.usdivetravel.com

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Oman scuba diving, Oman diving, Oman vacations, Oman holidays
Exploring a cool side chamber of Al Fallah Cave.
© Copyright Werner Thiele.

Oman scuba diving, Oman diving, Oman vacation, Oman holiday
Ivory white stalagtites rule the
Grand Chamber, Al Fallah Cave.

© Copyright Rob Gardner, DAC.

IMPORTANT NOTE about PRICES & TARIFFS:
First things first for your Oman scuba diving holiday. Please remember that you will need to secure a formal visa from the Omani Consulate closest to your hometown, before you will be allowed entry into Oman. Visas for most U.S., Canadian & European citizens are very easy to secure, & take only a couple weeks. The Oman Embassy staffers in Washington, DC are exceptionally gracious & helpful. They are geared up to encourage eco-responsible tourism; this is quite evident. Visa fees are nominal & paid via cashier's check to the Omani Embassy or Consul General nearest to you. Make sure you prepare well for your Oman scuba diving trip.

OMAN VISA PROCESS -- Passport & visa required for all tourists, & for all Oman dive vacations. Tourist/business visas for multiple-entry issued for stays up to 6 months & valid for 2 years. Both business or tourist visas require a special official application form & cholera immunization if arriving from infected area & a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of passport by mail. To clarify any details regarding your Omani visa, please check with the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman to see what rules apply -- 2535 Belmont Rd., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008 (202/387-1980, -1981 or -1982).

All package prices listed here for Oman diving holidays are subject to possible change in this steadily evolving travel market. Land prices are traditionally stable, while air prices may fluctuate for Oman vacations. Until air tickets are issued, all airlines reserve the right to change airfares without notice -- a longtime industry standard, per FAA rules. We at U.S. Dive Travel will price-protect you to the utmost of our professional ability; & that has been our pledge for one decade now. We normally secure excellent discount air tickets. Remember please, the federal government has deregulated airlines, so only they control their pricing -- not any travel professionals. But our lodging & Oman scuba diving contracts are set for one year at a time, & therefore are rock solid nearly all seasons.

Unless specifically noted, these above packages are prices for only the land-based or vessel-based portion of your Oman scuba diving vacation, in most cases reflecting double-occupancy rooms. At most Oman vacation resorts there will be no triple-occupancy rooms offered. Some exceptions may be noted. International air tickets & commuter "island-hopper" airfares are always extra above these land costs. Nominal service fees are also extra for air tickets & the lodging + diving components of all Oman vacations. The baseline tariffs for all clients will be $35 per person for the land portion + $20 pp for published-fare air tickets. Late-booking clients may receive slightly higher tariffs on the lodging + diving.

For our U.S. or Canadian clients, the preferred payment mode for all lodging, diving & side tours -- for your Oman vacations -- is by cashier's check or wire transfer in U.S. dollars. All clients living outside the USA or Canada will need to pay only via direct wire transfer in U.S. dollars -- no exceptions please. No personal checks will be accepted for the lodging or land-tour portions of any Oman dive vacations, please. Thank you for your gracious understanding. Our service level is the highest & our prices the lowest in this industry, & thus we need to preserve a reasonable margin to keep the Ship of State afloat, thereby ensuring that your Oman diving holidays will be brilliant & affordable.

For published-fare air ticket bookings on your Oman diving holidays, USDT always accepts Visa & Mastercard, even from non-U.S. clients. For discount wholesale air tickets, however, USDT accepts only cashier's checks or wire transfers, please, since we are giving you exceptionally low net rates, below the lowest published discount fares available. Virtually Oman vacations will require air tickets in excess of USD $1,000 for most North Americans, most seasons; & about half that for our European clients.

Remember, all clients on Oman vacations will be asked by local officials overseas, upon departing the airport on your final day, to pay a nominal government departure tax, usually between USD $35 - $45 per client. USDT cannot collect this tax beforehand, so you simply pay it down there, in your host country. Be sure to stash away a little cash for this final moment at the Muscat airport, so you'll get your exit visa stamped quickly with no fuss; & away you go. Best of luck with your travel plans. We hope your Oman dive vacations are safe & satisfying adventures. Blessings & best wishes.

Best fishes too!

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John Hessburg, General Manager
Susan Hessburg, Operations Manager
Founding Partners, U.S. Dive Travel Network.


Oman scuba diving, Oman diving, Oman vacations, Oman holidays
View after dark, Sultan's working palace, Muscat.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.


Oman scuba diving, Oman trekking, Oman vacations, Oman holidays
5-star Al Bhustan Hotel, nestled near coastal peaks.
© Copyright John Hessburg, USDT.




© Copyright U.S. Dive Travel. All rights reserved.



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