17 march 2021, shine on you crazy plankton

Ras al hadd is a case study in many things. Without electricity until 2001, seeing it now feels like development, paid for by oil, has taken yet another bite out of the world's wonderful wilderness, although the omanis no longer wandering around at night with candles may disagree. Many of the houses are rudimentary, children are in the street asking for chocolate and the local fishermen are paid an absolute pittance for the finest grade tuna that if it could get there quick enough would sell for hundreds of dollars in japan. Tourism, of course, is seen as a solution, but is and will remain a faint dream in this backwater of the coast where the gulf of oman meets the indian ocean. Good thing too, it is easy to think, as you walk through the white sands staring at the greenest of seas in this bucolic village. The big draw is the giant green turtles who swim literally thousands of miles to sri lanka and then come back years later to bury their eggs in the same sand. Seeing them pop out hundreds of ping pong ball eggs, as we were lucky enough to when a local took us there, is itself a wonder of the world you want everyone to see but know that if many more did it would kill them. Already, those village lights create great harm. Whereas once the thousands of tiny turtles that hatch and poke their heads above the sand every night in the season and run to the moonlit sea had a chance against the gulls and foxes, today they see only the bright lights of streets and houses, and almost all die. It shouldn't be beyond the wit of the authorities to fix and fund this through sustainable tourism, but it hasn't happened yet. The turtles are also drawn to the sea by the coast's real star: the legendary but rarely seen fluorescent plankton, and we were even luckier to be there on a night when it shone. Like the Northern lights, it is hard to describe this fabulous freak of nature. As the waves roll in, they become tipped in bright blue light, which glows intensely as the water breaks on the beach. Then, as the tide recedes, it creates a galaxy of bright shining stars on the sand that light up like a reflection of the night sky you always dreamt of seeing. Your feet sparkle, your hands, your eyes. It is absolutely mesmerising, and as long as we spent marvelling at the turtle, we spent five times longer with the plankton. Properly managed, plankton is the future, of this place at least.