The main tourist draw between Barka and Sohar is the Sawadi and Daymaniyat islands (and the adjacent Al Sawadi Beach Resort), one of the country’s leading dive spots, but equally rewarding to visit for a snorkel or swim. The rocky and windswept Sawadi Islands lie just offshore. The largest of the seven islands lies almost within spitting distance of the beach, a large rocky hump topped by a string of watchtowers, while the other smaller islands lie further out to sea. It’s possible to walk across the sand to the main island at low tide, though take care you don’t get stranded when the tide comes back in; at other times boat trips can be arranged by bargaining with the local fishermen on the beach for around 5 OR, while snorkelling trips can be set up through Extra Divers at the Al Sawadi Beach Resort. The beach here is littered with exotic-looking seashells, perfect for a stroll and a spot of beachcombing.
Much further out to sea (30min–1hr by boat), off the coast midway between Barka and Seeb, the Daymaniyat Islands (also spelled Dimaniyat or Dimaaniyat) are one of Oman’s premier dive spots. Virtually everyone who comes here does so to dive, or at least snorkel (see Diving the Daymaniyats). There are nine low, rocky little islets here, strung out in a line from east to west and clustered in three quite widely separated groups, surrounded by coral reefs (you’ll probably fly directly above them when landing at Seeb international airport). The islands have been protected as a nature reserve since 1996 and provide an important nesting site for hawksbill and green turtles, as well as a wide range of migratory birds including the increasingly rare sooty falcon (which can also be found in the Sawadi Islands), one of the few migratory raptors which actually nests and breeds in the region. Given their protected status, access to the Daymaniyats is restricted, and you’re not allowed to land on the islands from the beginning of May until the end of October; the rest of the year you’ll require a permit (4 OR/day), which can be arranged by your tour operator.