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Getting there & away

Getting to the ferry terminal at Shana’a is theoretically feasible by public transport but not very practical as there is no direct service from Muscat. If you are determined to try, however, take the Route 52 bus from Muscat to Sinaw, leaving at 5.30pm (3½ hours, OR2.800). The bus stops in Sinaw and there is no place to stay. You will then have to try to find a shared taxi to Shana’a (2½ hours, OR5) – not that easy late at night. You will arrive around midnight at the earliest. If you’re lucky you can catch a ferry before morning but then the hotel in Hilf will not be open (it’s not manned 24 hours – in fact, it’s barely manned at all!). You may have better luck in reverse (from Shana’a to Muscat) as taxis often wait at the jetty for passengers to disembark. It’s better to drive.

A left turn off the Sinaw–Duqm road leads, after 18km, to Hijj (also known as Hay). Shana’a is a further 45km away along a sealed road. Turn right across the salt flats (which turn a stunning red when the algae is in bloom) at the bus stop. Muscat to Shana’a takes about five or six hours by car.

The trip by ferry (25 5040134) from Shana’a, near the desolate salt flats of Barr al-Hickman, is certainly characterful. The journey to Hilf, the main town on Masirah, usually takes 1½ hours – a lot longer when the boat gets beached on a sand bar, and the cost is OR15 each way per car; foot passengers travel free. Ferries run from morning until evening, but only during high tide.