The sea and the mountains dominate Muscat, giving plenty of amenities for water-related sports and some independent hiking.
There are several birdwatching opportunities in Muscat offering an opportunity to spot some of the 450 bird species that occur in Oman. Contact Birds Oman (www.birdsoman.com) for specialist information. The Qurm Nature Reserve offers the best city location for this activity.
There are some rewarding mountain walks in the Muscat area. Several two- to three-hour walks in and around Mutrah and Old Muscat afford views of the two port areas and take the rambler past ruined villages. These walks are covered in Anne Dale and Jerry Hadwin’s Adventure Trekking in Oman, with good maps, directions and safety precautions. Their Muscat–Sidab route is a one-hour walk that could be added, for those energetic walkers, onto our walking tour of the Mutrah–Old Muscat coastline.
The Ministry of Tourism (www.omantourism.gov.om) has developed a set of walking tours and a booklet describing some great routes across Muscat and beyond. Brown information signs mark the trailheads of some routes, including the Capital Area Hike in Mutrah. Be prepared for rough conditions in remote territory on all trails: stout walking shoes, water and a hat are essential at any time of year, even on the shortest route.
Water sports in Muscat include fishing, diving and snorkelling. There are also boat trips to nearby scenic Bandar Khayran and the nearby sea arch. Stars of the show are the highly popular dolphin- and whale-watching trips. Kiosks along Mutrah Corniche advertise these boat rides for OR17 for a two-hour boat trip, leaving at around 8am and 10am every day from Marina Bandar Al Rowdha. If you prefer less-regulated activities, you can head for the beach in the village of Qantab (a left turn off the road towards Bandar Jissah), where fishermen will take visitors to see the rock arch for OR10 for an hour's boat tour.
Oman is famous for its geological heritage, and you don't have to drive miles to encounter it. Oman's official tourist website (www.omantourism.gov.om) offers a smartphone app that gives GPS coordinates to some of the city's unique geological structures. Information on around 30 geological sites are offered through this excellent free download.