Lonely Planet Writer

This conservationist is on a mission to show the world the diversity of Oman's wildlife

The Arabian Peninsula may be best known for its high-rise cities, religious pilgrimages, and its enormous sandy deserts. One man with a mission to prove there is more to his part of the peninsula is Waheed Alfazari, a conservationist based in Oman.

An Arabian Oryx in Oman. Image by Waheed Alfazari

While working his day job to protect populations of some of the country’s most iconic animals – Arabian gazelles and Nubian ibex among them – he has also been dabbling with photographing Oman’s wildlife. His beautiful monochromatic pictures vividly capture the wide variety of animals that call the Sultanate home. He told Lonely Planet that Oman had probably the richest biodiversity in the Arabian Peninsula because of its geography and its 3000-plus kilometres of coastline on the Arabian Gulf, the Sea of Oman, and the Arabian Sea.

One of Oman’s Egyptian vultures. Image by Waheed Alfazari

It has islands, a 10,000-foot mountain in Jebel Shams, salt flats, lagoons, desert plains, sand dunes, and wadis. The country is home to 1200 different plant species, 509 types of marine flora, 988 different fish, 89 reptiles and amphibians, 527 birds, and 93 different species of mammal. Waheed said: “of the seven recognised species of marine turtle in the world, five occur in the waters of Oman. Four of these nest on beaches in Oman … loggerhead turtles, green turtles, hawksbill turtles and Olive Ridley turtles. The fifth species Leatherback Turtle is an irregular visitor to Oman where it may feed in offshore waters.

Alfazari found this female sand fox roaming in Oman’s semi-desert. Image by Waheed Alfazari

“[There are] 93 mammal species, including the Arabian leopard, Arabian gazelle, Arabian wolf, striped hyena, sand gazelle, Arabian Oryx, Nubian Ibex, and the Arabian Tahr [a goat-like animal].” It’s not just wildlife of course in Oman and the country is hoping to double tourist numbers from the 2.5 million people that currently visit each year. Among the attractions are four separate Unesco World Heritage sites: the monumental Bahla Fort, the Frankincense Trail, a series of ancient irrigation systems, and the archaeological sites of Bat, Al-Khutm, and Al-Ayn.