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Hike Description

This hike fast-tracks you through the beautiful palm-lined Wadi Shab to the hidden cave at its heart, where you’ll find a waterfall and a stunning turquoise blue pool. The hidden cave can only be reached by swimming through a small gap in some boulders. There’s plenty of wildlife – birds, fish, crabs, lizard, dragonflies and butterflies – to spot along the way and lots of opportunities to hurl yourself into the refreshing water from various heights.
Total walking time is around 2 hrs (1 hr each way) but count 4-5 hrs to really explore and enjoy the wadi 

What to wear

  • Teva sandals or sneakers / light walking shoes
    Terrain is uneven. Tevas or similar sandals are ideal because they are stable enough to walk in and also waterproof so you can swim/wade in them too
  • Swim gear, quick drying shorts (or just wear board shorts) and rash vest
    This is a wet walk! If you’re sun-phobic or female (it’s a conservative country after all!) stay covered up with a rash vest when swimming and it’ll be dry in no time on the walk back.
  • Sun Protection
    Waterproof sunblock, sun hat, sun glasses..

What to bring

  • Money for the boat ride
    0.200 is the official price but often they’ll ask for 0.500 per person each way
  • Snacks and plenty of water
    You could also drink the wadi water but lots of people swim in it.. bleurgh
  • Waterproof Camera
    Yeah, you’ll look like a douche but the photos will be worth it!

Warnings

  • DO NOT BRING ANY VALUABLES – On the swimming part of the hike you’ll have to leave your stuff behind unless it’s in a dry bag (and who wants to lug a bag around when you’re jumping off waterfalls!)
  • Can’t Swim? This isn’t the adventure for you.
  • FLASH FLOODS:  It’s best to avoid the wadi if it’s raining or has just rained as there is a risk of flash floods.

When to go

November – March is the most tolerable time of year but the refreshing water makes it attractive in the hotter months too.
If you can, go on a weekday as the new highway has made the wadi a very popular weekend getaway for Muscatis. Alternatively, plan to enter the wadi no later than 8am and you’ll have it mostly to yourself on the way in but experience a different atmosphere on the way out as the parts closer to the road fill up with people.

Getting There

Take the Highway 17 from Muscat towards Sur. After 1.5 hours, start looking out for the exit marked with a brown “Wadi Shab” sign (multiple signs to the Wadi Shab Resort on the way will make sure you’re ready for it). Take the Wadi Shab exit, cross under the highway and drive south towards Tiwi. You’ll cross over a dam/bridge as you get to Tiwi and you’ll see the highway overpass going over the entrance to the wadi. Take a right after you’ve crossed the dam and you’ll get to the parking area under the overpass.

Directions

1. River Crossing From the car park, walk to the mouth of the river and look for the boats that ferry people across. The official price is 0.200 OR but expect to be asked for more.
Alternatively you can also consider swimming across or when the river is low it’s possible to wade across at certain points.

Boat over the river

Boat over the river

2. Beaches Walk up the canyon with the river on your left. The sandy “beach” by the river becomes a wide pebble beach. There is no obvious defined path but just make sure that when the canyon narrows again that you end up on the right side, to the right of the river.

Walk up the "beach"

Walk up the “beach”

3. Catwalk Walk along the river and look out for rough concrete steps that denote some sort of path. You can also follow the black water tubes snaking up the right side of the wadi and you should end up on a catwalk that climbs up the right side of the canyon. You’ll soon find yourself on a catwalk above some deep pools of turquoise water. The small caves on the right are often used as picnic spots.

Wadi narrows and concrete steps ahead

Wadi narrows and concrete steps ahead

View from catwalk (looking back)

View from catwalk (looking back).

4 Double Cross The path will start descending. You’ll see a mini weir/waterfall. Cross the stream at this point on the big boulders downstream of the weir, and then cross back again after it. You’ll soon come to a narrow point in the trail and then some concrete steps. It’s time to start looking out for the next step…

Crossing the stream (note: walker on way back)

Crossing the stream (note: walker on way back)

5. Red Arrows Start looking for the big boulder with a red arrow on it. Follow the arrows across to the left side of the wadi. Keep your eyes peeled for more red arrows, they will guide you through the boulder field.

Spot the first arrow (bottom left of pic)

Spot the first arrow (bottom left of pic)

Another arrow

Another arrow

6. Falaj Highway The red arrows take you to the water channel (falaj in Arabic). You can walk on this rather than scrambling through the boulder field (although that can be fun too!). Keep your eyes peeled for the red arrows which continue to guide you.

Falaj highway

Falaj highway

7. End of the Road The arrows deposit you at the end of the boulder field. You’ll see a ramp-like rock formation ahead. You can either go around or over it and you’ll soon arrive at a pool. This is a decent place to stop walking and start swimming! Ditch your gear and shoes (unless you’ve got sandals) and wade into the cool, cool water. Make your way up the wadi, swimming and wading through a series of pools.

Start swimming here

Start swimming here

8. Through the Keyhole You’ll soon make it to a longer pool that is fairly deep. Swim the roughly 30m to the rock wall that blocks the end of the pool. It looks like you can go no further but in reality you’ve made it to the best part! Look for the big crack in the rock and the small arch at the base of it. Depending on the water level, you will either have to swim under the arch or it may be possible to pull yourself through the it with your head above water. The tunnel is only 3-4m long.

Tunnel is at the base of that big crack (ahem)

Tunnel is at the base of that big crack (ahem)

Tunnel isn't always submerged

Tunnel isn’t always submerged

9. Hidden Cave You’ve made it!
You can climb on to the ledge on the side to take a rest. If you’re confident you can climb the rope by the waterfall. You’ll find another pool at the top or walk round to the left and onto the rock balcony that overlooks the cave below. Some people jump from this ledge but it’s best left to the very adventurous (it is very slippery and you need to jump far enough to make it over the rock bulge into the pool). Jumping from the waterfall on the way down is a more accessible kind of fun!*

Looking back towards the keyhole

Looking back towards the keyhole

10. Way back The way back is simple – just reverse the directions. Or, better yet, explore some more – check out tracks higher up the wadi, look for fossils and wildlife. It’s hard to get lost in a valley after all!

 

 

 

* this is true at time of writing. Obviously employ caution and check for rocks before jumping!

3 thoughts on “Self Guided Hike – Hidden Cave of Wadi Shab

    • Hi Monica!
      You will have to rent a car to get there. The driving directions are under “Getting There” in this post. The other alternative would be to find a company that does a guided tour and will drive you there.

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