While the rugged shores of Oman's largest island have claimed many salty seafarers in years past, today they are a draw for tourists wishing to catch some swell, observe sea turtles, or just soak up the sun.

Located in the Arabian Sea off of Oman's Barr Al Hikman region, Masirah is Oman's largest island. It stretches 95km from north to south and 13km from east to west, to cover approximately 649sqkm. Fishing and traditional textile manufacturing continue to be the main sources of economic income on the island, although in the past shipbuilding was an important revenue source. People interested in traveling to the island can rely on the ferry between Shannah and Masirah, available six times a day and run by the National Ferries Company.

Land ho!

On September 21, 1835, the USS Peacock grounded on a coral reef off the coast of Masirah. S.B. Haines, Commander of the East India Company's surveying brig Palinurus, speaking at the time, said; “I conceive the United States ship of war Peacock run aground, as have many British ships in previous years, on and near the same spot…” With rugged terrain, rough coastline, and strong currents, it is quite common to come across wrecked dhows along the island's beaches, especially given that the salt water and extreme heat conditions preserve most of them well.

Surf's Up

Although the strong currents are not good conditions for sailors, many kite surfers take it as a blessing. During summer, strong winds also create big waves, an attractive sight to surfers from around the world. Monsoon season, also known as khareef, brings impatient wave and wind riders to these waters as they are considered the biggest and most thrilling waves in the Middle East. Many tourists enojoy the shores' other, slightly less daring, attractions, such as turtle watching. With 20,000 turtles finding refuge on the coasts of Oman every year, the country is one of best spots in the world to observe this particular miracle of nature.

Military Operations

During the 1930s the British used a small base in Masirah as a fuel store for flying boats, a type of seaplane. During WWII, the British paid GBP18,000 for the use of the facilities. In 1945, the British then proposed a 99-year acquisition of the island for transit facilities; however, this accord only extended until 1977, when the Royal Air Force of Oman took over the base. The US also had a base on Masirah during WWII and has used the island as a staging area during the unsuccessful attempt to free hostages in Iran in 1980 and operations in Afghanistan in 2001.