UAE & OMAN 2011

ARABIAN PHOTO HERP TRIP
UAE & OMAN

 

Wadi Al Bih, Musandam, Oman

Map of Wadi Al Bih, Musandam, Oman, showing field herping locations

 

The final target species of the trip was the Persian horned viper (Pseudocerastes persicus) which in the Arabian Peninsula is only known from northern Oman, eastern Sharjah and the Musandam Peninsula or Oman. It inhabits rocky plateaus and mountainsides so we set out early to drive to the Musandam Peninsula to search for it.

The impressive Mosque at Dibba.
click on the images to enlarge
Probably the largest hurricane lantern in the world.
Crossing the border in Musandam, Oman.

The city of Dibba is split between the Emirates of Sharjah and Fujairah (UAE) and the Governorate of Musandam (Oman). We crossed from Dibba Al-Hisn, Sharjah into Dibba Al-Baya, Oman to drive into the Musandam Peninsula.

 

A dam in southern Musandam.
click on the images to enlarge
and the curious warning sign that had me scratching my head The entrance to Wadi Al Bih, Musandam, Oman.

North of Dibba is a large dam which was bone dry during our visit, and north of the dam is the Wadi Al Bih, gateway to the Musandam Peninsula and home to several interesting endemic reptiles.

The road into Wadi Al Bih ... a side passage ... ... and caves.

The road is stoney and relatively narrow. It winds north between high cliffs containing numerous caves.

Johannes and Dilan emerge from a gecko hunt in a wadi cave. A posy shot in the Wadi Al Bih.

 

Mark up inside a cave searching for geckos.
photo: Johannes Els

 

... and examining a capture.
photo: Johannes Els

 

We searched the caves for geckos and captured a pair of Musandam leaf-toed geckos (Asaccus caudivolvulus), larger than the specimen we caught at Wadi Al Helo in Sharjah.

Musandam leaf-toed gecko,
Asaccus caudivolvulus

We also found three Dhufar toads (Duttaphrynus dhufarensis) in the small water-holes established for the resident goat community, and Johannes sighted a single Sinai agama (Pseudotrapelus sinaitus) on the roadside rocks. He was surprised we did not see more, nor any of the usually common Wadi racers (Platyceps rhodorachus).

Dhufar toad
Duttaphrynus dhufarensis
Sinai agama,
Pseudotrapelus sinaitus

Eventually we reached the top of the gorge and were able to look out over a vast moonscape of rocky mountains and valleys. We set about searching for Persian horned vipers although the day was probably already too old.

Giant steps are what you take,
walking on the Moon.

I hope my leg don't break,
walking on the Moon.

photo: Johannes Els

 

 

Panoramic views of the moonscape above Wadi Al Bih, Musandam, Oman.
click on the images to enlarge

 

Flipping stones
photo: Johannes Els
and scanning the ground
photo: Johannes Els

But ultimately we were unsuccessful on the snake front.

Taking a breather.
photo: Johannes Els

 

Yet people manage to live up here !

 

.... and so do lizards, the only reptile we found in well over an hour's extensive searching by three herpetologists was the tiny Musandam Peninsula endemic Omani bar-tailed semaphore gecko (Pristurus celerrimus).

Omani bar-tailed semaphore gecko,
Pristurus celerrimus

 

After that we headed back to UAE to recce some locations for a future visit.