Oman’s largest island, remote MASIRAH remains largely off the tourist radar. Development here is muted, infrastructure basic and the whole place still sees far more turtles than tourists, offering plenty of unspoiled coastline and beaches to explore for adventurous and well-equipped travellers with time (and a 4WD) on their hands. The major attraction of a visit here is the chance to go turtle-watching, while the island’s somewhat end-of-the-world ambience may also appeal to idle beachcombers and birdwatchers. If you’ve got camping gear and a 4WD, the island’s pristine beaches offer numerous opportunities to sleep out under the stars.
Not that Masirah is entirely untouched. The northern tip of the island has already been swallowed up by industrial and military installations, while ambitious plans for the construction of a 40km bridge linking Masirah with the town of Mahut on the mainland (scheduled to open in 2014 at a cost of US$1.5 billion) are likely to massively accelerate the pace of change, assuming it actually ever gets built. For the time being, however, Masirah remains a pleasantly sleepy sort of place, bordering on comatose.
The ferry from the mainland deposits you at the small town of HILF, the only major settlement on the island and home to a trio of petrol stations, a couple of ATMs and a pharmacy, plus a modest selection of shops in the town’s small centre. There are no facilities elsewhere around the island.Read More
The Baron Innerdale
The Baron Innerdale
Tucked away in the military area at the northern end of the island (and therefore out of bounds, although pictures can be found online) stands a touching memorial to the unfortunate crew and passengers of the Baron Innerdale (or “Inverdale”, as it’s often incorrectly called, including on the monument itself). The Innerdale was travelling from Karachi to Liverpool in 1904 when she ran aground amid the Khuriya Muria islands. After three days, crew and passengers abandoned the ship in two lifeboats. One disappeared; the other (with 17 people aboard) made it to Masirah.
What happened next remains unclear. Probably a misunderstanding led to a fight, during which the stranded passengers were massacred – although there’s no basis for the outlandish rumours that they were subsequently eaten by the islanders. Sultan Faisal responded by visiting the island, banishing the local ruling sheikh and having nine of the murderers executed. He also razed the village of Hilf and forbade the islanders to build permanent houses for 100 years – a ban which wasn’t lifted until 1970.