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.