Have you heard of a wadi? We hadn’t either until a few months ago; but as soon as we started researching Oman as a destination we decided we needed to visit and go ‘wadi hunting’!
Wadi Bani Khalid
A wadi is literally a valley or riverbed in the desert; and a bit like an oases, it can have fresh flowing water, springs and waterfalls.
Ibra is about two hours from Muscat, and we loved the drive to get there. It was an incredible landscape to drive; humungous highways that were the smoothest we had driven in months, passing small villages of iconic white houses tucked up into the barren rock and valleys. We stayed the night at Ibra and woke up early the next day to set out and find our first wadi. We were not disappointed! The water at Wadi Bani Khalid was so clear, fresh, and deep it was surreal to be there.
We swam for a couple of hours, enjoying different areas of the wadi.
Moving up the river path the water is so deep you have to swim in or out, and because the rocks are so smooth that apart from the odd chain there is nowhere to hold on to.
It was like nothing we’ve seen! [Quite possibly agreeable as one of the most beautiful places we have visited].
Wadi Al Shab
Wadi Al Shab is a bit more of a trek to get to (and includes a short boat ride to get there!). We stayed in Sur the night before and once again set out early in the morning to find the wadi. It probably took us about an hour to get up the canyons to the start of the swimming wadi, but it was an awesome walk (as awesome as walking in 38°C can be!).
The path winds up through the old river bed, and for half of the way there is a path; for the other half of the way you need to climb over boulders and hang on to the side of the rock shelves! From the wadi itself we stashed the bags and swam the rest of the way up to the most magnificent caves. Little legs did very well but, it WAS well worth the walk…!
Bimmah Sinkhole and Wadi Tiwi
Not technically a wadi, but structurally a sinkhole, Bimmah Sinkhole is easy to find just off the highway from Sur, and is literally right next to the carpark (no hiking required for this one!).
There are no shops nearby for the sinkhole, so definitely be prepared with food and drinking water. There are some shady tables set up for picnic spots in the park surrounding the sinkhole, and toilets and changing rooms nearby. Wadi Tiwi is not far from either Wadi Al Shab or the sinkhole, and is another awesome drive through traditional Omani villages. We even stopped to join the locals and wash our rental car at Wadi Tiwi!
Where to stay
- Muscat: Ramee Guestline Hotel [modern hotel, easy to find; parking; well set up room with 2 double beds; tea and coffee; huge breakfast included; swimming pool; in-house restaurant (convenient and delicious, though very expensive!).
- Ibra: Oriental Nights Rest House [handy location to arrive early to Wadi Bani Khalid; good distance from Muscat; no town or restaurant nearby, only one petrol station/store so bring basic dinner to make].
- Sur: Leading Wings Beach Apartments [amazing views; basic but spacious rooms with own kitchen and bathroom; very friendly staff; free parking].
We hadn’t booked ahead and turned up and drove around to find a hotel for two nights, ending up at Leading Wings Beach Apartments which was a spacious two bedroom apartment, overlooking the impressive Gulf of Oman.
We rented a car through rentalcars.com and picked it up at the airport in Muscat on arrival. The airport pickup and check in process for the car rental was smooth and really easy! We grabbed a SIM card at the arrivals terminal, our rental car, and found Oman really easy to navigate with the help of online maps and clear signposting in English along the major highways.
One thing that challenged us in Oman:
We didn’t realise how hard it would be to find a suitable shady spot for a picnic!
Ok, this isn’t really very much of a challenge to write home about, but with the high price of restaurant food in Oman, and the lack of choice in small village stores, we set out each day with a picnic to make the most of the wadi’s and the surrounding countryside. It sounded like a great plan to us (picturing shady trees to stop under like we have back home…) but in reality was not quite so straightforward! Still, some days turned in to a bit of a competition to find the most suitable ‘shady picnic tree’ to stop under!
Oman is a Muslim country, and the Islamic traditions and values are reflected in the way men and women dress. The dress code is conservative, and that includes planning for swimming at the wadis we visited. Although there weren’t a huge amount of tourists in Oman fullstop; we felt sad to see that some of them completely ignored the signs and rules for swimming in the wadis. Respect local codes of behaviour and traditions of dress.