Wadi Hinna

March 2010


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Fatboy, obese, upside down, Baobab trees 

Dhofar, Salalah, Oman

Dhofar, Oman's southernmost province, is known for being an oddball in the Middle East. At the edge between the Indian Ocean and the Arabian deserts it benefits from the rains during the summer monsoon season, which impacts only this southern corner of the Arabian peninsular. During the summer (June to September) monsoon, the southern mountains turn green with vegetation in a soft rolling landscape more like Scotland than the Middle East.

The mountains home a rich vegetation of which the frankincense tree is best known. The real oddball is the Baobab tree. With its fat stem rapidly thinning upwards and thinning branches it looks like an gigantic upside down carrot.

These exotic trees trees are found as a small group together in a small area just northwest of Mirbat, high-up against the steep slope of the Dhofar Mountains in Wadi Hinna (Hannah). Their nearest relatives are found only in East Africa. This means that either these trees represent the remnants of once a much more widespread population or, more likely in view of age-old trade connections with East Africa, that somebody took a seed and planted it near the nearby A'Cher spring (Wickens, 1982).

Baobabs can live for thousands of years, but grow very slow. Their horizontal roots extend for tens of metres from the tree.

For more on plants in Dhofar check out Arnhem, 2007

Google Earth map. 
Tracks can be downloaded as Google Earth kmz file.

How to get there:
A weekend to Salalah is easiest when flying from Muscat on Wednesday evening and returning of Friday evening, giving you almost two full days to explore.

Most roads described are accessible by normal car, but for the steep 'slopy' gravel tracks down to Wadi Hinna a four-wheel car is currently still a must.

Wadi Dirbat, Tawi Atayr, the Taiq Sinkhole and Jabal Samhan are easy accessible from the main road between Salalah to Mirbat. The road from Tawi Atayr to Mirbat passing Wadi Hinna (Hannah) and through wadi Al Ghazir is currently being built. This will provide an easy route down to the coast. The baobab trees are easily recognisable about halfway down the slope and a track leads further to the A'Cher spring. Because the road was still under construction further down we had to return to Tawi Atayr and take the road to Wadi Dirbat and Khor Rhori

Tracks can be downloaded as Google Earth kmz file.

All coordinates and tracks are with reference to WGS84, UTM zone 40.

'Fatboy' Obese trees

Even without leaves these majestic Baobab trees rise impressively above the woods

Gigantic Baobab trees, looking like an upside-down carrot. Roots extending for tens of metres horizontally. We did not see the largest one, which is reported to be some 30 metres high and with a trunk diameter of 15 metres.

One concern. The new road will open this area for easy day tourism, which can be more destructive than thousands of years battling the elements. Many of the trees already show the signs of carved names.
Enjoy these giants. Take nothing but pictures and leave them in peace.
The A'Cher spring, some 200m down the track, is also a beauty spot with green ferns and fig trees, with roots tightly embracing the rock below as if they are afraid to loose them.

The large concrete basin collects the water but warning signs indicate that it also homes the snails with parasitic worms associated with Bilharzia (snail fever).

Have a look up as well to see the delicate dangling weaver birds nests.
Many thanks to Shirin, each time climbing into the back-back seat, Jandam for finding the right gear on this dusty road and Cyrus for relaxing despite us.

References (Visitor)

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@ J. Schreurs March 2010