Ad­ven­ture-seek­ing Saudis ready to answer call of the wild

Travel groups gear up to launch virus-safe trips to some of King­dom’s nat­u­ral won­ders

Arab News - - News Saudi Arabia - Rawan Rad­wan Jeddah

Ad­ven­ture-seek­ing Saudi cit­i­zens are be­ing lured by the King­dom’s great out­doors after months of be­ing cooped up un­der the coro­n­avirus dis­ease (COVID-19) lock­down.

Fol­low­ing the par­tial eas­ing of re­stric­tions, which forced res­i­dents to stay at home, travel and ac­tiv­ity groups are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to get back out and about ex­plor­ing the King­dom’s nat­u­ral trea­sures and at­trac­tions. With in­ter­na­tional flights still sus­pended, Saudis and ex­pats are be­ing urged to re­dis­cover the coun­try’s beauty spots through or­ga­nized ac­tiv­i­ties, while still ob­serv­ing safety mea­sures de­signed to stop the spread of the virus. Hik­ing in Abha’s lush green moun­tains, fish­ing in the clear wa­ters of Um­luj in Tabuk province and ex­plor­ing some of its 104 is­lands and stargaz­ing from the red sand dunes of the Na­fud desert are just some of the trips on offer.

One or­ga­ni­za­tion gear­ing up for a re­turn to ac­tion is the Masarat Club. Founded in 2017 by travel en­thu­si­asts with the aim of pro­mot­ing ad­ven­ture and ex­plo­ration to Saudis, the group’s sum­mer tours in the King­dom are set to get un­der­way in mid-July.

Bader Al-Omar, the club’s co-founder, told Arab News: The whole idea be­hind Masarat was based on the love of ad­ven­ture. We made sure our man­date was based on ex­plor­ing new un­touched ar­eas, es­pe­cially in the King­dom. Given the cir­cum­stances, we are re­sum­ing our trips mid-July, but with cau­tion.”

He said out­door ad­ven­tur­ing and recre­ation could have ma­jor psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits for peo­ple after months un­der lock­down. “Masarat Club is not only about ven­tur­ing out and dis­cov­er­ing new un­touched des­ti­na­tions in Saudi, we’re also very keen on sup­port­ing lo­cals around the King­dom by mak­ing the most of their ameni­ties.

“We ex­plore our King­dom and play our role in show­cas­ing the beauty of our re­gions as well as play­ing a role in sup­port­ing those who help us along the way,” added Al-Omar.

Con­sid­er­ing COVID-19 pro­to­cols set by the Saudi au­thor­i­ties, he said the club would be cutting tour group numbers by half, en­forc­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing among ve­hi­cle pas­sen­gers, run­ning health checks on clients, and al­lo­cat­ing sep­a­rate rooms and tents.

Trip­pers will also be re­quired to use their own per­sonal items for food and drink. “This is im­por­tant be­cause we want every­one com­ing along to feel se­cure and stay safe,” added Al-Omar.

The lift­ing of the na­tion­wide lock­down has pro­vided ad­ven­ture en­thu­si­asts not only with the chance to get back to na­ture, but also of­fered an op­por­tu­nity for dis­cov­ery.

A num­ber of com­pa­nies have come up with creative strate­gies to run lo­cal recre­ation ac­tiv­i­ties or trips to des­ti­na­tions through­out the King­dom.

Faisal Al-Mshari, founder of Riyadh Hik­ing, told Arab News that even vis­it­ing fa­mil­iar places would help peo­ple to re­gain a sense of be­long­ing and con­nec­tion with na­ture.

“We chose a sun­rise hike for our first ac­tiv­ity back, to re­ju­ve­nate and kick-start our trips again, fol­low­ing the pro­to­cols pro­vided by the tourism min­istry and rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties.

“It’s im­por­tant to start ex­plor­ing again, not just for tourism and recre­ation but to also get away from our busy lives,” he said.

The club’s main ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude group hikes, stargaz­ing, games, and camp­ing and next on the trip agenda was walk­ing Abha’s moun­tain trails.

How­ever, Al-Mshari pointed out that many Saudis were still cau­tious about leav­ing the safety of their homes and had signed up for trips fur­ther down the line. “We took ad­van­tage of the time we spent un­der lock­down and searched for new ar­eas to visit and cover. Whether it be trails or beaches, it will be a chal­lenge but we are ready to go,” he added.

HIGH­LIGHTS

With in­ter­na­tional flights still sus­pended, Saudis and ex­pats are be­ing urged to re­dis­cover the coun­try’s beauty spots through or­ga­nized ac­tiv­i­ties, while still ob­serv­ing safety mea­sures de­signed to stop the spread of the virus.

Hik­ing in Abha’s moun­tains, fish­ing in the clear wa­ters of Um­luj in Tabuk and ex­plor­ing some of its 104 is­lands and stargaz­ing from the red sand dunes of the Na­fud desert are just some of the trips on offer.

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