Wadis of Oman
“Wadi” means valley and as Oman is blessed with a series of mountains, naturally there are many wadis as well. Wadis form a unique ecosystem in the otherwise arid landscape of the Middle East and it supports plantations, fishes and other organisms. Over the years, the Wadis have attracted people to live in its fertile banks and the turquoise waters of Omani wadis have become some of the major tourist attractions in the country.
160 kms drive from Muscat (Al Khwair)
Location : Wadi Shab Parking
Wadi Shab is undoubtedly the best wadi that I had been in Oman. Many travelers have posted Wadi Shab as a gem in Oman and I have no better word to add to it. Wadi Shab meets the ocean near Tiwi beach (on Muscat – Sur coastal highway) and rather than the meeting point, one should be interested to look at the path it follows between the mountains, offering spectacular sights to any traveler.
You need to take a turn from the main highway to reach the parking lot, which act as the entrance to the wadi. There is a snack shop as well as restroom available at the parking lot. From there you will need to take a short boat ride (1 OMR per head – two way) to reach the opposite end, from where you can start walking (for about 2.5 kms) into the wadi. Initially we would be walking through the middle of wadi (river bed), as there won’t be water flow, unless it rained in the mountains. Slowly we shall separate from the river bed and start walking on the narrow footpaths on the sides of the mountains parallel to the wadi. The walk isn’t easy as we need to negotiate boulders and sometimes short hikes (better wear a shoe with enough grip). The very first time I went, I slipped and lost some skin. With passing steps, we shall be treated with turquoise pools in between the cliffs and you feel like jumping right into it, however it’s not allowed in the lower pools as its used for drinking. Once you reach the 2km mark, the subsequent pools become more accessible to enter and its allowed to swim/take bath there. The turquoise water is so hard to resist even for a non-swimmer to jump right into it. The water can be deeper at some points so depending on how good you are with water bodies take good care.
Once you venture deeper, you will reach a point where water gets a darker green shade (signaling its depth). Beyond lies the actual beauty of Wadi Shab, a pool with a private waterfall hidden between the rocks. Myself and some of my friends were mute spectators while others swam through the green waters and disappeared into the rocks. Though I can swim, but my legs can catch cramps at awkward times and because of which I have stopped taking risks. If there was a moment when I regretted for not being able to swim, then it was this moment. The guys who went in came back awestruck with what they saw inside, making my agonies much worse. I made a promise to myself to come back again, fully equipped with a life jacket and explore the cave, which I did after a few months. The entry to the cave is not straight forward as you will have to swim with just your head popping out of the water, as the gap is too narrow. So you inch closer, you can hear water splashing into the cave from the waterfall, motivating you to reach there quickly. I was screaming with joy the moment I entered the pool, for I have achieved what I planned and the place was just amazing. For almost 1 hour, we were inside the pool and for once I managed to climb on top of the waterfall and jumped right into the pool. The only downside this time was that I didn’t have a waterproof camera to capture what I saw in there (perhaps next time..).
To come back to the parking lot, you need to walk back the same route you went in. The boat service will be there till about 5PM to help you cross the wadi and reach the parking lot.
Click here for more photos and videos about the secret cave.
Things to carry:
- Small back pack
- Wear sunscreen
- Drinking water
- Cap / hat
- Shoes with grip
- Swimming costume
- Life jacket (if you can’t swim)
Wadi Bani Khalid
250 kms from Muscat (Al Khwair)
Location : Wadi Bani Khalid parking
Wadi Bani Khalid has its own space in the tourism map of Oman and has always been one of the favorites among travelers. Located about 250kms from Muscat, it’s one of the prized jewels of Ash-Sharqiyah Governorate. The wadi is quite beautiful with clear water and there is also a cave nearby. Unlike Wadi Shab, the pools are located quite close to the parking lot (10 min walk) and the amenities are better here (restaurant, restroom, shops right beside the wadi). The wadi offers a great deal to swimmers (again I had to choose a shallow end of the pool).
As mentioned earlier, there is a small cave at about 500m from the main pool area. The cave is quite small and one needs to crawl in (not to mention it’s pretty dark inside). Since we carried LED torches, it wasn’t a problem for us and managed to explore the cave.
Wadi Al Arbaeen (Wadi Arbeieen)
120 kms from Muscat (Al Khwair)
Location: Wadi Al Arbaeen
Wadi Al Arbaeen, located in the Muscat Governorate is relatively less explored by travelers, thanks to the not so easy accessibility and lack of signages. The last 10 kms of road was without asphalt and from there onwards one should drive carefully. I wouldn’t say a 4×4 is required, but it would be a lot easier if you have one (we went in a Kia Sportage , AWD). I would thoroughly recommend GPS/Google Maps though.
Once we reach the wadi, we will be welcomed by a big pool with a waterfall. We parked our car in that area and started exploring upstream first. We found the upstream water to be less deeper, more clearer and less crowded. We ventured into the rocky river bed and explored quite a few smaller pools, took a dip and had a great time. While returning, one of us took a dive into the big pool from a height of almost 7 metres. The big pool is lot deeper and get into it if you can swim well.
Wadi Ad Dayqah
Location : Dayqah Dam
If you want to spend the evening on the background of serene waterbody, I would recommend a 110 kms drive from Muscat to Dayqah dam. The dam is supposed to be the biggest in Oman, standing tall at 75m high with its catchment spread across 8 kms. When I went there the water level was probably at 50% level. There is a park with lush green cover making it a good spot for family picnics. There were many construction activities going on to add more facilities to cater to the tourists and I believe its in place by now.
We spent about 30 minutes there and moved towards Bimmah Sink Hole, which is about 60 kms from there.
Wadi Hatta (Hatta Pools)
Location : Hatta Pools Entrance
75kms from Buraimi
If you happen to be in Buraimi, close to Al Ain (UAE) border, then Wadi Hatta (Hatta Pools) is one of the local attractions here. My classmate, Sadiq lived in Buraimi, so I visited there during end of November 2014. Reaching the wadi was tricky, as there were no sign boards in place. Once you reach the location I have shared above, you will have to take a detour from the main road and take a non-asphalt road, that will lead you to the wadi. We went in SX4 car and managed to reach there, despite the condition of the last few kms of road.
Its a quiet place with few visitors. The water is OK (not as good compared to say Wadi Shab or Wadi Bani Khalid). But what mesmerized me was the geology of the palace with water flowing in between rocky cliffs. Not the best place for a swim, but there is enough place for barbecuing.
Wadi Al Hawqayn (Hoqain)
Location : Wadi Al Hawqayn
Wadi Hawqayn is located in Al Rustaq Governorate and is about 150 kms away from Muscat. The main attraction of this wadi is the waterfall and the place can be crowded during weekends. I wouldn’t count this as a must-visit place as the compared to the above Wadis. I went in the month of November and there was some amount of water in the waterfall. Keep your expectations low about the waterfall as its hardly about 15 feet high. Altogether, its worth an one time visit.