Monday, February 5, 2018

Oman, 8-18 February 2017

by Maykel van Gent, Gerjon Ikink and Rob Andriessen

Rob had already been to Oman in 2016 with his girlfriend. After seeing his photos and his stories about how great this country is for going on an adventure, it was not a hard choice where to go this year.
But when he sent over this video of the desert flooding a few weeks before we would go there, we knew it would be a proper adventure.

8 february, arrival in Muscat

Gerjon and I arrived in Muscat early on the eighth. Rob would join us on the eleventh.
In Oman it is possible to camp just about anywhere and we wanted to take advantage of that.
We spent the eighth on getting camping gear and more importantly, firewood and used the evening to enjoy the diverse quisine that Muscat and its many expats offer.

9 february, Muscat wetlands

Since we had a few days in Muscat before Rob arrived we took our time to explore the city and its sights and see if we could find some creatures around.
Al Qurm park was a good start, lots of green and a mangrove system nearby.
A good place for birds, a little less for reptiles. But still, a.o. Indian roller, purple sunbird, graceful prinia, isabelline shrike and indian pond heron made a good introduction to the bird wildlife of Oman.
No herps in the park, but just outside we found our first one, a red sea leaf-toed gecko (Hemidactylus robustus). It did not really want to pose for us, but it felt good to find our first herp.

First winter Isabelline shrike in Al-Qurm park.

First herp, Red sea leaf-toed gecko, Hemidactylus robustus

After a tasty lunch we walked a trail just on the edge of the city. When you get to the edge of Muscat, development stops completely and good herp habitat begins immediately. The Rock Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus rupestris) was abundant here on the rocky outcrop. The trail led to a wadi where some pools had formed from the recent rains. The pools were full of Toad tadpoles. The adult toads seemed to have business elsewhere unfortunately. It was interesting to see how big they got in just a few weeks.

Good views from the trail

Temporary pools on the trail, many with tadpoles

Rock semaphore gecko, Pristurus rupestris

Rock semaphore gecko, Pristurus rupestris, with frills on the tail, used in mating rituals.

Tadpoles are growing quite big already

The water attracts other insects, like this Orange-winged Dropwing, Trithemis kirbyi.

Butterflies, like this Large Salmon arab, Colotis fausta are found around as well.

Some of the more colorful birds, Indian rollers.

These gecko's are calles semaphore gecko's because they use their tail to sign their intent to others, like the bottom one is doing to the top one. This can be for territory or mating or anything else.

10 february, Muscat continued

The mangrove and its many possible birds still called to me and a walk would be good after our lavish dining last night. We decided to approach the mangrove from the beach side this time.
Most interesting were both lesser and greater sand plover, but many birds were vying for attention; a hunting marsh harrier, a whimbrel (was hoping for eastern, but turned out to be our familiar eurasian one), sooty gull, slender billed gull, common greenshanks, marsh sandpiper, great white egret and others.
The rest of the day was spent on proper touristy stuff. Visiting the local market and wandering the city and to top it off and prepare for our road trip starting tomorrow, we found a nice shisha place and enjoyed a leisurely evening.

11 february, Wadi Shab and white beach.

After picking up a tiny-eyed Rob from the airport and putting him to bed for a few hours, all of us were rested and ready to discover Oman properly. Obviously that is best done in a 4x4. So we got our first one, a nice toyota landcruiser.
Our goal for today was one of the bigger wadis along the coast, wadi Shab. It has permanent water, which attracts wildlife and of course many tourists and locals.
To get into the canyon, you actually have to be ferried across the water to the trail. While waiting for the boat, a singing Clamorous reed warbler already greeted us enthusiastically.
After being put on the other side of the water, we had an hours walk to the pools. Walking through the wadi was a treat in itself, but some herps made it even better. Some more Rock Semaphore Geckos on the walls, our first Jayakar lizard (Omanosaura jayakari) and a quite unfortunate Arabian toad (Sclerophrys arabicus), missing half its jaw.

jayakar lizard, Omanosaura jayakari

doomed Arabian toad, Sclerophrys arabicus

The pools itself were wonderfully clear. We could see some freshwater gobies swimming down below. the pools connect to each other and end at a waterfall that you can climb up to the final pool. It was a great experience, swimming in the middle of the desert.

A complete Arabian toad, Sclerophrys arabicus

Beautiful connected clear pools.

How often can you take a picture like this in the desert?

natural pool fun

With the sun quickly going down, we returned to the car and drove to White Beach to set up camp for the night. We brought our own barbecue and the food tasted extra good here at the beach.
After cleaning up, we went exploring the surrounding sand and rocky outcrops.
Among many scorpions we found several Carter's semaphore geckos (Pristurus carteri) and Banded ground geckos (Trachydactylus hajarensis). One of the banded gecko's was quite fearless and jumped on Rob and then on me and planned to stay there for a while. After gently reminding it that wasn't a good idea and putting it down somewhere safe we returned to camp.

Carter's semaphore gecko, Pristurus carteri

Banded ground gecko, Trachydactylus hajarensis

A fearless gecko.

Nighttime view from the campsite.

12 february, Salma plateau, wadi Tiwi and Sur.

We woke well rested and after cleaning up camp we set out for our next destination. Close to the beach some Egyptian vultures and an arabian fox were looking around for food.
It is quite interesting to see an arabian fox. It is a subspecies of our european fox, but it looks quite different. It stands higher on its legs and has very big ears, a big help in a hot desert. You wouldn't think it was a Vulpes vulpes.

along the beach there just a quite narrow strip of ground on sea level. After that, there is a steep rise to over a km above sea level. Here we needed our 4x4 to make the steep climb. On the plateau there is very little in the way of human development. This is the territory of the wolf and against our better judgement we went to see if we could find some. It was relatively cool at this height and the herps weren't very active. It is a very open landscape with very little in the way of vegetation and possibilities for finding water. The only mammal we found was a lonely camel that desperately wanted some attention. After it went on its way, we did too.

A curious and lonely camel

The plateau seemed deserted, but then we found some round stone towers. In the middle of nowhere.
It is generally assumed that these towers are burial tombs, but no concrete evidence has been found. There are also no traces of villages nearby, so whoever built them had to climb the mountain especially and go many kilometers inland before they could start building.
Among the ruins were some very dull colored Rock semaphore geckos, some sand partridges and egyptian vultures and scorpions ofcourse, but nothing else was found by us. The view of this seemingly dead landscape was beautiful however and a visit is definitely recommended.
At the end of the morning we descended again and set course for another wadi, wadi Tiwi.

Stacked towers in several states of intactness.

Rock semaphore gecko, Pristurus rupestris

Mostly bare rock on the plateau.

This seemed to be the standard color for Rock semaphore geck, Pristurus rupestris, here on the plateau

Egyptian vultures were the more abundant creatures on the plateau. Power poles were also abundant, because the sultan has enacted a policy that everyone should have access to electricity.

A selection of the many scorpions we found during our trip.

It might not look like it, but it is a kilometer drop back down to the ocean.

Steep trails leading up and down from the plateau are not suitable for all cars.

We made good time on the excellent omani roads and arrived at the wadi in no time at all.
At the entrance awaited a bird that topped all other bird sightings for this trip: A female greater painted snipe, the ninth sighting ever for Oman, just sat there in full view! Absolutely incredible and the most beautiful snipe I have ever seen.

The extremely rare Greater painted snipe.

We drove up the wadi to a village that seemed to balance on the edge of the canyon wall. When we stopped to take in the view, some entrepreneurial youth came up and told us they had a far better place to visit and they had to show us. Saying no didn't seem an option and we were looking for a good lunch spot anyway so we went down the path they put us on. They were quite right. We ended up at a pool with a big waterfall, creating mist that allowed ferns and mosses to grow on the rock walls. We couldn't wish for a better lunch spot. There wasn't any possibility to explore very far, as the pool was wedged in between the canyon wall and a steep drop. We did see some Arabian toads, but that seemed to be all.
After a relaxing lunch we went back up and drove back to the entrance of the wadi.

Good lunch spot.

And then the unthinkable happened. Our car slipped in a pool of water! in the DESERT! Luckily a stone wall stopped our car from running into some other rocks.
 Some locals living there immediately came to our aid and checked if we and our car were alright. We were. Our car was another story. Our front bumper didn't look quite right anymore, but the car luckily still ran. For insurance purposes we needed the police to make a report. They were called, but didn't want to drive out to us.
We were absolutely saved by mr. Mursi. He knew exactly what to do and acted as a translator and guide. We carefully drove our car to Sur, with mr. Mursi guiding us. In no time we had our police report and could exchange our rental for a new 4x4. We tried to treat mr Mursi to some food or anything else, but our gratitude seemed enough for him. We would have had a lot of trouble if it wasn't for mr. Mursi, so if you are reading this, again, Thank you!

Very helpful locals, truly. Rob is still contemplating how the bumper should fit.

By this time it was too late to carry on and we stayed in Sur for the night.

13 february, Sur - Al Ashkarah

After our delay yesterday, we got up early to get to our next destination.

We came upon the entrance to Saleel National park. We knew nothing about it, so we went to check it out.
Upon coming to the gate, we were enthusiastically greeted by the head caretaker of the park. He was happy to give us a little tour of their main facility.
As it turns out, the park is not really open for visitors. The main objective of the park is to reintroduce different antelope species back to the wilds of Oman. It is not easy, as hunting is still a favorite pastime for some in Oman and the funding is not great. They had a plant nursery to sell the local plants for some extra money and a breeding group of Mountain gazelle that would be set free in the park eventually. After us a delegation of civil servants got a tour. Hopefully it helped with the park funding. After this interesting lesson, we continued onwards.

Mountain gazelle, Gazella gazella, from the breeding group at Saleel National Park

From Matthijs Hollanders, who has herped many a day in Oman, we got an approximate area near Al Ashkarah that should be interesting. We stopped near a tiny village with some rocky outcrops rising from the sands.
We didn't expect it near the village, but we hit the jackpot. Our first find was many Least Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus minimus) and some more Carter's Semaphore Gecko. On the sand we also found Arabian toad-headed agama (Phrynocephalus arabicus) a Wadi racer (Platyceps rhodorachis) Eastern skink (Scincus mitranus) and unfortunately a dead Arabian sand boa (Eryx jayakari). 
When we then went to check out the rocky outcrop, we found Ptyodactylus orlovi in a crack in the rock and when turning over some of the smaller rocks, we got some incredible finds, thanks to the rains in the previous weeks. Two species that normally reside deeper underground in the wetter ground layers now were found under the rocks: The Hooked worm snake (Myriopholis macrorhyncha) and Zarudnyi's worm lizard (Dilometopon zarudnyi) . These warranted some high-fives all around. To complete our finds here, we got a glimpse of a Hemidactylus minutus that hid in the hole of a scorpion of all places. So thank you Matthijs for guiding us to this and other areas.

Habitat shot

 Arabian toad-headed agama, Phrynocephalus arabicus

Least semaphore gecko, Pristurus minimus 

Carter's semaphore gecko, Pristurus carteri

Carter's semaphore gecko, Pristurus carteri

Carter's semaphore gecko, Pristurus carteri

Arabian toad-headed agama, Phrynocephalus arabicus

Unfortunately dead Arabian sand boa, Eryx jayakari

Ptyodactylus orlovi

Hemidactylus minutus. The beetle shells are an indication that this is a scorpions lair. 

Hooked worm snake, Myriopholis macrorhyncha

Zarudnyi's worm lizard, Diplometopon zarudnyi

Quite satisfied, we continued to our beachside hotel. There was one more location to check after dark. To prevent bumbling in the dark to find it, Gerjon and Rob went to scout the location beforehand.
I went on a futile search for Crab plover on the beach. I did find some long billed oystercatchers, but that didn't quite make up for the crab plover. On the way back I flipped some rubbish and under an old tire was a Schokari sand racer (Psammophis schokari) Which honored its name and quickly raced away.
One more interesting find was a desert mantis (Eremiaphila sp.) They look quite alien with their flattened hindbody and low stance.

Our beachside hotel

Dune habitat, target for the night.

Desert mantis, Eremiaphila sp.

After dinner we went to the scouted location, sand dunes at the beach.
I feel we were quite lucky today already, but our luck continued. We started our tour with some Arabian Sand geckos (Stenodactylus sharqiyahensis), quite beautiful little almost transparent gecko's but then we got one of the big prizes; An Arabian horned viper (Cerastes gasperetti). We kept a respectful distance and it remained quite calm, unlike us internally, and we got to admire it for quite a while.
That is, until we got some headlights in our faces. A few local youth coming back from the beach became curious when they saw our car. They asked if we were okay and then saw the viper. As if by magic, big sticks appeared.
We got some flashbacks to 2013, when in Morocco we were also surrounded by locals with big sticks. But these guys were immediately a lot more reasonable and we convinced them that the snake should be left alone. That was a close one. After that they wished us goodnight and left.
We left the viper alone to contemplate this brush with death.
We found some Carter's semaphore geckos, Dune sand Geckos (Stenodactylus doriae), an East sand gecko (Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus) and a very friendly Crowned leafnose snake (Lytorhynchus diadema).
And then we found another Arabian horned viper. We couldn't have wished for more this day. We returned satisfied.

Carter's semaphore gecko, Pristurus carteri

Middle Eastern short-fingered gecko, Stenodactylus sharqiyahensis

Arabian short fingered gecko, Stenodactylus doriae

A little example of Cerastes movement, trail pattern and digging in.

our first hornless horned viper, Cerastes gasperetti

Crowned leafnose snake, Lytorhynchus diadema

East sand gecko, Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus

At first the second Cerastes was a little shy and tried to hide

But then it did a special pretzel pose for us.

14 february, Al Ashkarah - Wahiba Sands

After breakfast we decided to check our previous nights locations to see if we could find some more in daylight. It was a lot more quiet, but we found some more Least semaphore geckos and a Desert racerunner (Mesalina adramitana)
A bit further we tried if yesterday afternoon was a fluke or not. A promising rocky outcrop was selected and we searched it. A few Carter's and Least Semaphore Geckos were ofcourse present, as well as some Arabian toad headed agamas. Ptyodactylus orlovi was found on the rock and a Hooked worm snake under one.

Dark Carter's semaphore gecko, Pristurus carteri

Desert racerunner, Mesalina adramitana

Carter's semaphore gecko, Pristurus carteri

We probably missed some more sand boa's 

After the rains, the desert immediately comes to life.

We planned to sleep in the actual sand desert habitat that night and we had a couple hours drive ahead of us, so we pushed towards Bidyah to go in.
We expected a lot of Eastern skinks in the sand, but we were a bit disappointed. We saw only two, but managed to apprehend one for a quick photo. Least Semaphore Gecko was also present here.

An absolutely alive desert, where there normally is only sand.

Unbelievably quick Eastern skink, Scincus mitranus. The shovelnose is almost alien.

Least semaphore gecko, Pristurus minimus

The desert is not complete without a picture with a camel in it.

As little boys in preschool feel when they get to play in the sandbox at reces, so we felt in this very big sandbox. And with a bigger 4x4 toy, driving around the place was a great childlike pleasure.

Playing in the sandbox with the big toy. But not too much, because we already wrecked one.

Here in the sand, the effect of the rain was also visible. The sand desert was green, for as far as you can call that place green. An unexpected explosion of life.
At the end of the day we found a campsite nearby with an actual tree for shade and with the help of an old, very dry, door we quickly had a nice campfire going. After a good basic dinner, we wandered around the desert for a while, enjoying the night sky full of stars and the quiet of the desert. A lucky find was a Cheesman's Gerbil (Gerbillus cheesmani)

You can almost call our campsite a forest.

Cheesman's gerbil, Gerbilus cheesmani

Wood in the desert burns quick and high, as it should.

15 February. Bidyah - Sayq plateau

We woke up to an unexpected foggy morning. The fog cleared up quickly as the sun climbed up the sky. With the fog clearing up, we were on our way again.

unbelievably fog.

During a quick stop at a rocky creek bed, we found our first Juvenile Bosk's fringe-fingered lizard (Acanthodactlyus boskianus). But with not much further activity, apart from some Carter's semaphore geckos we were on our way quickly.

During lunch I was surprised to see holsteiners here. They are not known for their high temperature tolerance.

Juvenile Bosk's fringe-fingered lizard, Acanthodactylus boskianus. With bonus mites.

The Sayq plateau is a well accessible plateau near Nizwa which seemed worth a visit, if only for the view. So this would be our next camping location. The previous year Rob visited the plateau as well and managed to find several racers there. With our bad luck with catching racers in the previous days, we hoped we would get better results here. We looked in several locations on our way up to the plateau, but alas, no racers were to be found.
Only weeks before our arrival there was still snow here in the Hadjar mountains, so maybe it was still cold for the herps here to be active.

We made our way up to the plateau itself and made a stop at a long abandoned village. Seeing the village, almost looking part of the hillside, one can imagine how people lived here for generations.

European migrant birds occupied the green irrigated plateaus; common chiffchaff, song thrush and common redstarts and maybe even some common whitethroat among the lesser whitethroats.
But herp activity was low. We got back and went looking for some more nice sights and a suitable campsite. We found both.

abandoned village

song thrush

amazing views again.

After dinner it was already dark and we made our way through the canyon looking for some night active herps. Many Arabian toads were present and after looking closely at many of them, we found a Dhofar toad (Duttaphrynus dhufarensis). We expected to find at least some geckos here, but we weren't very lucky this night.

A little banded ground gecko, Trachydactylus hajarensis at our campsite.

16 February. Sayq plateau - Nizwa and the Jabal Shams.

We woke up to the sounds of morning military exercises. Apparently we set up camp about 200 meters from a military base. This explained the bullet casings we found the previous night. We deemed ourselves camouflaged well enough and took our time to have breakfast and break up camp.
We then quickly descended from the plateau, as it was still too cold up there for any herping activity.

Our campsite on the dam. Up on right bank of the wadi was the military base.

It really did get quite cold up on the plateau

Our first stop was near a small village outside Nizwa to flip some stones and rubbish.
First find was a tiny Red Sea leaf toed gecko.  On the next flip we found something significantly bigger; A Yellow-spotted Agama  (Trapelus flavimaculatus) sleeping under a tree trunk. We had to wake it up to put it somewhere safe again as we couldn't put the trunk back safely. We concluded that this agama wasn't a morning creature.
Other finds were some more Banded ground geckos, juvenile and adult Bosk's fringe-fingered lizards and some desert racerunners. 

Red sea leaf-toed gecko, Hemidactylus robustus

Sleeping yellow spotted agama, Trapelus flavimaculatus

Now a cranky yellow spotted agama, not agreeing with us putting it somewhere safe.

Juvenile Bosk's fringe-fingered lizard, Acanthodactylus boskianus

Adult Bosk's fringe-fingered lizard, Acanthodactylus boskianus

Desert racerunner, Mesalina adramitana

Nizwa is known for its forts. The government has spent a lot of money to restore them to their previous glory to attract tourists. So we would be good little tourists today. We visited the Bahla fort and I have to say it looks very impressive, especially because it looks freshly built although a bit empty. It is a huge fort with little corridors, nooks and rooms everywhere. This is on purpose to confuse enemies. We also learnt that the Nizwans are a fan of throwing hot Palm Oil, as all entrances had a hole above it especially for that purpose.
The cool little rooms were apparently also popular with Small Mouse-tailed Bats (Rhinopoma muscatellum). Everywhere where it was dark, we could find them.

Bahla fort, looks like new after restorations, even though it is at least six hundred years old.

Small mouse tailed bat, Rhinopoma muscatellum

We weren't satisfied with castles yet. Bahla fort was worth it as a six hundred years old castle, but nearby Jabreen castle, from the seventeenth century is known for its intricate design, so we made this a double castle day.

The rest of our afternoon was spent driving around and unsuccessfully checking around some wadis, until after dark, we arrived at a little river running through a village. Here were again some Red sea leaf-toed Geckos and our first Rough-tailed Gecko (Cyrtopodion scabrum). These geckos feel right at home near humans and are actually spread around the country by human activity.

One of the orange tips, Colotis liagore, for a little color among the brown

Rough-tailed gecko, Cyrtopodion scabrum

Red sea leaf-toed gecko, Hemidactylus robustus

Red sea leaf-toed gecko, Hemidactylus robustus

After this we retired back to our hotel for a hot shower (quite necessary) and a hot meal.

After we showered, we figured the herps couldn't smell us anymore and we would have a better chance at finding some near our hotel. So we set out once again with our flashlights.
Arabian toads were present as always and a single Tessellated Mabuya (Trachylepis tessellata) skittered over the rocks. The rest must have smelled us anyway, as this was our total score for this excursion.

17 January Nizwa continued

Today was the weekly cattle market. People from all around come to Nizwa to sell their goods. All is centered around the cattle auction. People show their cattle by walking a circle around the potential buyers. After some negotiating, you can take home your new purchase. There is also a permanent market, with some tourist shops there, as the industry is growing. But the severed goat heads next to it were still an indication that it still is local business. We wandered around the market and tried some Halwa, some sort of sweet pudding in many flavours. It was delicious. Do try some when you are there.

The cattle market, here showing of a sheep for interested buyers

Our afternoon program consisted of a hike along the Jebel shams Grand Canyon. The grandest Canyon in the world, after the American Grand Canyon, at least according to the Oman Tourism Promotion Books. It definitely was an impressive sight and a long way down. Even more impressive, after an hours hike along the canyon wall, there was a little abandoned village in the rockface here. One would not expect people would live here, but the ability to make plateaus for agriculture and a permanent source of water in a cave above the village explained a lot.
And even better, in this village lived some Bar-tailed Semaphore Geckos (Pristurus celerrimus) among the Rock Semaphore Geckos. These bar-tailed geckos are longer legged than their other Pristurus relatives and therefore a lot quicker. Observing them well was therefore a lot more difficult.
We made lunch in the cool and wet cave and enjoyed the view before walking back to the parking lot. This hike is well recommended for most people that do not have a fear of heights.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but the grand canyon was definitely grand.

2 bar-tailed Semaphore Geckos, Pristurus celerrimus, one very pale

and one very dark

What raiding party would ever find this village.

The big reason the village could exist here on the edge.

For our last night in Oman, we decided to find another Wadi to make camp. One near Tanuf looked promising and had a little campground. The Wadi still had running water, but that water was all channeled towards the agricultural fields near the entrance of the wadi.
After a good hot dinner, we set out into the now dark wadi. Near the original bedding of the river, there was little herp activity, but near the channel was a lot greener and the channel itself seemed walkable for quite some distance. When getting up on the channel herp were suddenly found a lot easier. Ptyodactylus orlovi was now out and about, Banded rock geckos and Rock semaphore Geckos were almost abundant and we finally managed to photograph a Dhofar toad among the Arabian toads. We also found our first and only Hemidactylus hajarensis quickly shuffling of and one of the more beautiful geckos I've seen: a Flat-snouted leaf-toed Gecko (Asaccus platyrhynchus) shuffled along the wall. But the main prize for tonight was an eye-to-eye (litterally, as Gerjon climbed head first to a plateau where one was waiting) with an Oman saw-scaled viper (Echis omanensis). Both got a bit of a fright and backed of quickly.
Unfortunately for us the viper backed of into a bush, making it too hard to photograph properly.
But a big surprise awaited us back at camp. no more than 15 meters from our tent lay a second Oman saw-scaled viper. This one was a lot more obliging for a picture luckily.

Our first Oman saw-scaled viper, Echis omanensis, definitely out of reach without proper capturing equipment.

Flat-snouted leaf toed gecko, Asaccus platyrhynchus

Hemidactylus hajarensis

Ptyodactylus orlovi

Dhofar toad, Duttaphrynus dhufarensis

Our second Oman saw-scaled viper, Echis omanensis, which was a lot more patient than expected.

A bit more close up.

After happily observing this stunning viper for a while, we closed up our tent properly for another good nights sleep.
And luckily in the morning, we saw that the viper had only moved a few centimeters.

A very patient Oman saw-scaled viper, Echis omanensis

18 february, back to Muscat

It was our last day today. We were flying back around midnight, so luckily there was still some time left. To complete the top 3 of forts of Nizwa, we visited Nizwa fort itself. An interesting fort, with a lot of information about the history and development of the region and the castle itself.

Before visiting the fort we went through the wadi and up the channel one more time.

and found some pools which may or may not be permanent.

The pools were teeming with fish however, so they probably don't evaporate quickly.

Also arabian toads, Sclerophrys arabicus, were content with the pools.

Nizwa fort

The view from Nizwa fort, a very large oasis.

We had now seen 4 of 5 Pristurus species. The last species was reported from the ruin town of Manah. We are always up for some nice ruins, so Manah was our next destination.
The ruins of Manah were up for restoration as well and therefore were unfortunately mostly closed of to anyone. We sniffed a bit around the town, but only found some Rock semaphore geckos. We only learned later that the last Pristurus species is arboreal, a small oversight. We only checked around and under rocks, making finding Pristurus gallagheri extra difficult for us.

What is left of old Manah town.

random insect: Mediterranean Blue, Tarucus rosaceus

home invasion of a Ptyodactylus orlovi.

We arrived back in Muscat late in the afternoon. We had some food and relaxed a little at the previously discovered Shisha place. But we had some more time to kill and we had one more location to check on our list. The last sand dunes of Muscat city. For we had only one more wish. A living sand boa. And I don't know by which deity, but our wish was granted as we found a stunning adult Arabian Sand Boa gliding over the sands. We had many admiring looks and were surprised by how smooth this snake felt. After seeing it move away as smoothly as it looked, we left it to catch some more Red sea leaf-toed geckos that were also present here.

adult Arabian sand boa, Eryx jayakari

Smooth movements

Oman is a rich country, not only in money, but also culture and nature and we have now only seen a little part of it. Another visit is definitely warranted. But for now, we caught a plane a lot richer as well, in memories and pictures.

Final view

Oman species list:

1:   Sclerophrys arabicus
2:   Duttaphrynus dhufarensis
3:   Asaccus platyrhynchus
4:   Trachydactylus hajarensis
5:   Cyrtopodion scabrum
6:   Hemidactylus hajarensis
7:   Hemidactylus minutus
8:   Hemidactylus robustus
9:   Pristurus carteri
10: Pristurus celerrimus
11: Pristurus minimus
12: Pristurus rupestris
13: Ptyodactylus orlovi
14: Stenodactylus sharqiyahensis
15: Stenodactylus doriae
16: Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus
17: Phrynocephalus arabicus
18: Trapelus flavimaculatus
19: Acanthodactylus boskianus
20: Mesalina adramitana
21: Omanosaura jayakari
22: Scincus mitranus
23: Trachylepis tessellata
24: Diplometopon zarudnyi
25: Myriopholis macrorhyncha
26: Eryx jayakari
27: Platyceps rhodorachis
28: Psammophis schokari
29: Lytorhynchus diadema
30: Cerastes gasperetti
31: Echis omanensis

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