With a coastline that extends over 3000 kilometres, Oman is quite a revelation when it comes to comparing it with its other Middle Eastern neighbours. Middle Eastern mythology says that Sinbad the Sailor was born in Oman and he set sail on his legendary voyages from Sohar, a maritime port in the northern part of the country. On a recent visit to the Oman I decided to explore the water based secrets that this country has and accordingly planned a trip to Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole to learn about the country that rightfully markets itself with the hashtag ‘Beauty Has An Address’.
My first stop was at Wadi Shab in Tiwi which is part of Sur in Al Sharqiyah and the road curved downwards as we approached this place. Interesting graffiti on large pillars welcome you to Wadi Shab that is home a variety of local goats. Interestingly there are many plants here and if you lower the branches, a herd of goats will actually come up to you to eat the leaves! The first sight is picture perfect with the green waters flowing amidst brown hillocks and green swaying palms. This is a water body created with the fresh water that cascades from the top of the mountains meets the briny sea water on its banks. This creates an environmental diversity unique to this wadi (meaning valley). It is best to explore the interiors via a boat that is available here or if you feel more adventurous you can take a hike through the area. The primary attraction here however is the water fall in the cave which will need you to walk for about 40 minutes and swim in a few pools before reaching the destination. While swimming, take care as at times the water level is quite high especially after it has rained. There are ropes in the cave that can help you climb to the waterfall as well. However a boat ride is a great way to soak in the sights and sounds of nature here. Do not forget to admire the old semi demolished houses at one of the cliffs enroute as this was used to house cattle in old days. If you decide to hike make sure you have a sturdy pair of shoes as it will come in handy as you trek on the rocky cliff.
Located in Hawiyat Najm Park, Bimmah Sinkhole translates to Meteor Fall in Arabic and is about 40 metres wide and 20 metres deep. Said to be one of the world most beautiful sinkholes, this one has beautiful clear turquoise green waters that make it an alluring sight. Local legend has it that the hole was formed due to a meteor falling in this spot but scientifically this is a natural phenomenon from limestone erosion and the collapse of the rocks around it. Sinkholes are formed when groundwater travels through easily dissolved rocks like limestone, salt beads and carbonates that eats away at the rock leaving caverns and holes like this. I was told that the sinkhole is also connected to the sea through an underground tunnel, which explains the unique colour of the water. A long flight of 80 steps takes you to the bottom of the sink hole and this is a popular place for a swim. The waters are home to several fish too and a swim here is something that is unique and refreshing. Of course if you do not want to swim, the park is a great place to spend time and watch the biodiversity of flora and fauna all around. This place has become popular as it also featured in a Nike commercial “Make It Count” where the actor actually jumped right in from the top – which is certainly not advisable. The best time to visit this place is in the morning, when it is not very crowded and you can enjoy the scenic beauty in a calm environment. Seeing these attractions in Oman reminded me of W. H. Auden quote, “water is the soul of the earth.”
- Protect yourself with adequate sun-screen and a hat as the sun is quite sharp here.
- Carry swimming clothes and a towel.
- Have a water proof bag handy as it will help clicking pictures inside the cave in Wadi Shab.
This story appeared in the Hindu Metro Plus dated 18th Jan 2018 here.