James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

Expedition Update: Members

So the Members fire has finally got back to the sunny UK! Our last few days have been really interesting and memorable, and hopefully our contribution to the overall expedition objectives will prove valuable.

After our scrumptious dry rations one night we sat on the beach and watched an impromptu lightshow from bioluminescent algae. As each wave broke on the shore a green-blue neon light shone out in the darkness, rolling along the sea front. A passing fishing boat also produced the same effect in its wake. Most of us had not seen this before, and it unfortunately only appears for one night.

The new sport of  hermit crab racing was attempted as there were large numbers of these entertaining beasts on the beach. Unfortunately they have little sense of  direction and don’t appear terribly competitive so even with significant shepherding most appeared content to run round in circles or simply crawl back into there shells. Not a contender for the Olympics this year then…

The next day we continued checking camera traps and also carrying species surveys on birds and butterflies. The birds identified included Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Osprey, and Western Reef Herons. Interestingly both different colour phases of this last bird – black and white -were seen around the pools and shoreline.

16 species of butterflies were ticked off, including one of the smallest butterflies in the world – the grass jewel. One individual was photographed with a body length of just 5mm! Work on both these groups of fauna are being continued by the other fires.

Our final morning at the Wadi broke fine and clear, and it was time to gather all required belongings for the boats’ return. All unused food and other useful gear was left for the other fires’ to use and we clambered aboard for the 20 minute sea trip back to Rakhyut village. Although we didn’t see dolphins or turtles this time, we were entertained by a number of terns and gulls flying alongside us – evidently expecting our boat to be fishing enroute.

From Rakhyut we drove back to Salalah via the new South Coast road which has been cut out of the solid mountains – spectacular views and interesting driving conditions! A visit to Lulu (the hypermarket opposite the hotel) allowed certain members to fill up at KFC and Pizza hut -not very ‘expedition’ but after some time on dry rations, maybe understandable.

We spent an interesting day exploring Mirbat – a lively fishing village which was also the site of a memorable stand by British forces in the Dhofar war in the 1970s. We also had time to visit a major archaeological site at Sumhuram dating back to 500 BC – an early frankincense trading port.

Flying back we dropped off members at various points, some flying by other routes, some staying on in Oman, but the remainders arrived safe and well albeit slightly shocked – having left in 35 degrees and arriving at Heathrow at -1C !

If the members trip is repeated next year maybe some of us will return!


Charles Tomalin

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.