It seemed that every car in Sur was decorated in red, green and white- the colors of the national flag. Some cars had stripes going across, some had hundreds of stars plastered all over and others had portraits of His Majesty covering the entire back screen. Life in Sur was busy- people were out on the streets- a sight you don’t come across often in Muscat. We could not go faster than 40 km/h for fear of yet another child zooming across the road fearlessly on his bike. Closer to Ras Al Hadd, the little villas are replaced by scenes of a bay harboring traditional wooden Dows. Ras Al Hadd is the exact spot where the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman meet. The sea there is very rough, cold and somewhat brutal- nevertheless it is the deepest blue you will ever see. It is also home to four species of nesting sea turtles; the endangered greed, loggerhead and the Olive Ridley turtle as well as the Hawksbill variety. Eager to share with Yulya the breathtaking experience of watching sea turtles nest and their youngsters crawl to the sea, I planned this day well in advance. A month before she arrived I called Ras Al Jinx resort (which provides guided tours at night), but they were already full, my second option was Ras Al Hadd, where I have previously stayed in April. Booking the last two double rooms at the resort, I had then called up every week or so to make sure they were still holding them for me. I have a prejudice distrust when it comes to hotels in the interiors, it is better to be safe than sorry. I also booked us for a tour in Ras Al Jinx, which is the exact location where the sea turtles come to nest. 
Just before checking into the hotel, we could not resist stopping for a few shots, these were taken by Yulya:

Ras Al Hadd is a great 3 star property. It is value for money. When you enter the lobby they let you hold fragile little sea turtles in the palm of your hand. They are slimy, green and unbearably cute. The rooms are relatively fresh, always clean and provide the basic comforts. They are also all sea view, can you resist?

 By the time we checked in we were starving, and quickly organized a spontaneous supper of potatoes, grilled chicken, fresh salad and sandwiches. Feeling refreshed and to Yulyas screams of “Hurry we are going to miss sunset!!!” we rushed out to the beach, which is a mere 10 minutes walk from the hotel. The moon was already up, and the sun was about to set- a genuine setting for an aspiring photographer. There were many visitors to the beach that eveing, mostly families with children who got too close to the 1 m high waves and had to be dragged back by their parents. With an attempt to shoot an oversized crab, I climbed too far up a rock and got splashed from head to toe by a wave that hit the cliff violentry. The water was freezing cold. We hastily made our way back to the hotel, after calling Ras Al Jinx about 20 times to find out when our tour is. That would probably be my only peeve during the entire trip-Ras Al Jinx is impossible to reach by the phone. It is in my opinion easier to drive the 400 km there and back- more chance of getting your questions answered. As we later found out, tours take place at 9 pm and then again at 3 am. Anxiously driving along the 9 km winding road to Ras Al Jinx, I could not supress the same panic I faced in April. There are absolutely no lights on that road. It is a 15 minute drive into pitch darkness, with the occasional ‘Beware of Camels’ signs, and foxes running across the road. As per the statistics, over 2,000 tourists flock to the area every month would it hurt them to make the roads a little safer?

Ras Al Jinx is a modern turtle conservation center. I have nothing but praise for their facilities and employees. The groups and tour guides are very organized, they dealt calmly and professionally with the 100 people that gathered in their hall that evening. People from all corners of the world pateienly waited for the tours to start and were divided into 5 separate groups to make their trip a little more enjoyable.
The reason Sur is my Happy Place lies solemnly in Ras Al Jinx Beach A. The 15 minute walk, under the full moon, on the cool sand is equivalent to a jar of Nutella Choccolate or 100 hours of Yoga- if that is how your get your kick. Every whisper echoes off the surrounding rugged mountains, and you cant help but settle down and you can literally feel your thoughts calming. See, I suffer from what Elizabeth Gilbert calls ‘monkey mind’ -the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl.” Hence when I manage to find a cure, to just for a minute or two get the monkeys to settle down and reflect- I am at my best. Sur is the only place that seems to do it for me, away from the noise, away from the errands- it is just me, the beach and the rolling waves. Never mind that there are 100 other people there- I don’t feel them.
Once the tour guide comes to a sudden halt, he looks into the distance, flashing his infrared flashlight at his colleague further ahead. He waves him over and we quietly follow. A short wait later, he points out a black dot on the white sand. Some 50 meters ahead, a green sea turtle has emerged to nest- she is now slowly but surely making her way across the beach. The guide gestures for us to sit down, we circle him and watch as he draws on the sand a demonstration of how the turtles choose their nests. I faintly remember that it has something to do with the temperature and the humidity of the sand. He also says that over 30,000 turtles nest on this exact beach every year. However, only 1 or 2 out of thousand baby turtles ever make it to adulthood. At any given time, the mother turtle disposes of 200 eggs, and buries them a meter deep into the ground, digging another “fake nest” nearby to throw off the predators. It is enticing, the details and the processes that nature has so carefully arranged. No matter how saddened we are by the enormous fatalities amongst the sea turtles, the guide shakes his head and says “it is a circle. We must not intrude”. He is hopeful to show us baby turtles that night, he takes a few steps into the distance and gestures for us to follow. Suddenly sitting down, he begins to carefully clear the sand away with his hand. Me and Yulya have front row seats. Sitting on our knees on the cold sand, we lean over right into the hole is clearing. I cannot believe my eyes when I see movement under the surface of the sand. A little head emerges, then the front flippers push the body to the surface. A second baby turle follows right after. “Experience” is what our guide refers to when asked how he found the nest to precisely. Somewhere in the crowd, people begin fidgeting. The guide goes over to them to make sense of the excitement. I cautiously stand over the two baby turtles that are still crawling out of their nest, I have an intense urge to pick them up and carry them to the sea but a rude tourist hisses at me when I stretch my arms to them. By the time I pull myself away from the two helpless wonders, everyone is already “ouuing” and ” awwing” over the sight of hundrets of baby turtles and their dark silhouettes crawling towards the flashlight of the guide. He walks ahead, leaning the source of light on a rock, and we witness an incredible spectacle- little flippers working hard to make their way to the flashlight. They are silly like that. We are then forced to tear ourselves away from them and let them be. They will now use only their primary instincts to reach water, and not all of them will even get that far. Two hours later, it is already 11:30 pm and the guide urges us to head back, inspired and bewildered we make our way back to the hotel…my happy place has not failed me.