Base camp initially appeared imposing; a natural amphitheater flanked by large dunes with few signs of life. On closer inspection, however, lizard and what were hypothesised to be cat tracks were identified in the immediate area around our camp. Aware that our camp’s illustrious array of personalities would now scare off most visitors, we knew that in order to establish the presence of life in the Empty Quarter we would need to go beyond our natural clearing.
First thing the next morning we set out to put in place a couple of camera traps before the sun became too strong. We knew that our days would consist of early rises before resting between the hours of 12 and 4 in order to escape the sheen of the Winter sun (43 Degree peak), so we were out of base camp by first light. At first glance the surrounding area appeared desolate and deprived of vegetation, let alone life. As we walked, however, we found further evidence of lizard tracks before stumbling across the tracks of a camel and her calf. At this point we decided to lay our first camera trap, a remote camera triggered by movement, in order to hopefully obtain some footage of the pair if they return. As the day progressed and we laid another trap, we began to realise that the Empty Quarter is, contrary to our first impression, a surprisingly biodiverse area that, because of its’ unforgiving nature, has been left for us to explore.
Over the next few days we intend on setting further camera traps, along with pitfall and small mammal traps. Tomorrow we are also expecting the arrival of 4 Omanis, who will remain with us for the duration of the expedition and no doubt aid us throughout. After that we will begin our trekking phase, before returning to base camp to collect our cameras and hopefully be rewarded with visual evidence of the tracks we have seen.
We hope to blog again tomorrow with more information on how everyone is holding up, but as of yet all is well.
This article was originally published over on the BSES blog. If you would like to support conservation in Oman then there are lots of ways you can help. If you found this story interesting, then why not tell a friend and help make more people aware. Better yet, we’re returning to Oman next January and you or someone you know could get involved – find out more here.