Oman's Wadi Shab - Natural Swimming Pools
On Visiting Oman
If you visit Oman, one thing is for sure - you will be hot. The temperatures on average range between 25-40°C (77-104°F). Annual rainfall in Muscat (Oman’s capital) is about 100mm a year (London is 601 mm and Vancouver is 1153 mm!) But of course, you’d expect this right? Being that this is an arid desert region and that Oman is in the Middle East. Being in Oman in April was actually one of the better times to go, as the region is cooler, and we were able to go in the sun without frying (still wearing 50 SPF!)
Of all the places we visited in the country, the natural Wadis were our absolute favourite, the highlight of our trip and a must-do. “Wadi” in Arabic means a ravine, which is usually dry, expect when the rains come. You see them everywhere across Oman, but some contain water year-round, and are great spots to go swimming.
Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi - How to Get There
Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi are two such hotspots to visit in Oman. Easily accessible from Muscat (100km drive along a perfect highway), you could do the wadis in a day trip, or continue down to Sur and spend the night (we did, and to be honest, it wasn’t that exciting….) You could also stay nearby and head towards the desert sands, which seemed a much better option. We hired a car from Muscat airport - the petrol is actually cheaper than water in Oman, and the rental car prices weren’t too bad. You could leave at 8:00, be at the Wadis by 10:00, spend the day swimming in the pools, with a picnic lunch, then head back around 16:00.
Go to Tiwi and follow the signs to Wadi Shab. You’ll see it under an overpass, and you can get to the entrance before the overpass, or after. You can park your car, and pay a small fee to cross the water to a hiking trail. You can’t really get lost! Also wear shoes that are good for walking, and if you have them, ones for your feet in the wadi. There are lots of little pebbles that can hurt your soles.
What to Bring and What to Expect
The hike into the wadi takes about 20 minutes (for fit people), and 45 minutes for those who are a bit slower. It’s not really steep, but there are a lot of rocks to manoeuvre but the trail is made to help. Wear a hat and sunscreen, and bring water!
Will my phone get wet?
We were panicking about bringing our expensive DSLR or Iphone because everything we read made it seem like the phones would get wet. This is not the case. You can bring a small bag, and take photos the whole way to the wadi. You can leave your things safely on the side of the rocks (in view!) without them getting wet. The only time you'd need to worry is if you want to enter the cave. We brought lots of plastic baggies for our iphones, but didn't use them in the end.
What to eat/drink
We'd recommend getting food from the supermarket (or other) in Muscat or a major town, as there isn't really anything around at the Wadi. There is a small shop that sells sodas and junk food, but that's about it. You can instead bring things yourself (that you can carry), sit alongside the Wadi pools and have a BBQ or picnic. There are no garbage cans so please remember to be kind and bring your rubbish back.
Is it safe to swim?
Yes! The water is warm and clean, and moving, so little risk of getting sick. The whole wadi has a calming quietness to it. The sheer rocks of the mountains are also incredible. We couldn’t get enough!
You can also walk/swim along the wadi for quite a ways (seven pools in total), and then swim under the rocks into a cave, where there is a waterfall. This is where the Red Bull Cliff Diving Championship was held in 2012. Pretty awesome!
If you have any other questions about going, just drop us a comment below. Happy travels!
PS - a note to always back up photos. We sadly lost our memory card somewhere on the trip along with most of our photos. We had some that had been transferred to our ipad/computer, but most were lost forever. Thanks to Jack, Geoff and Catherine Gaskell for sharing their with us, we love you! xx