A few months back, I found a crazy cheap fare from the Maldives to New York and knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Worried that we would get antsy sitting on a gorgeous beach on a private island in the Maldives for a week straight, my friend Anna and I decided we wanted to break our trip up a little bit with a stop somewhere else in the area. I’d traveled to the Musandam area of Oman a few years back and loved it, so I suggested we pick Oman and I am SO glad we did.
On our first full day in Oman, we opted to go on a private tour with Valentina at VS Private Tours. I reached out to her about a month before we arrived in Oman and she was super responsive with her communication which is always greatly appreciated when planning an excursion. The initial plan for our day was to drive with Valentina along the Eastern Coast of Oman to Wadi Tiwi and Wadi Shab and then drive back to Muscat afterwards with a stop at the Bimmah sink hole on the way back. About thirty minutes into our drive, Valentina asked us if we wanted to make a couple extra stops. We were more than up for the adventure, so we got a whole lot more than we bargained for!
WADI DAYQAH DAM
Our first stop was at Wadi Dayqah Dam. When we arrived, we drove through a gate to enter the area of the dam. We went on a Monday, so we had the entire place to ourselves. We parked the car and walked to the edge where we could look over the massive dam and I was in complete awe. Not only was the dam holding this massive amount of water off of the village below which was a sight to see in itself, but because we were the only people there we were overwhelmed with the most incredible silence with this breathtaking view in front of us. It was truly an incredible experience to see.
After taking some photos of the dam and surrounding mountains and village, we stopped at the local coffee shop on the property to have some coffees and sodas before we made our way to the next stop.
Next, we started our off road adventure in Wadi Arbiyyin. Valentina told us that Wadi Arbiyyin is considered a dry wadi. Although there were some areas of water here, the large majority of the wadi was dry as she said. Driving through Wadi Arbiyyin was a lot of fun because we got to use the 4×4 on her car because there are some steep climbs and drops. If you’re a little nervous about off roading, don’t be worried by it! The off roading we were doing wasn’t scary or crazy at all, so even the tamest could handle it!
There was desert and mountains as far as the eye could see and a few little unsuspecting surprises – goats! There were adorable little goats all around Wadi Arbiyyin. We tried stopping near them to get photos a couple times, but they weren’t nearly as interested in us as we were in them!
We would stop every now and then to get a better look at the beautiful turquoise springs that would pop up. This was our first glimpse at how blue and green the water here was an we were completely blown away. I can without a doubt say I’ve only seen water that rivaled the color of these springs in Thailand – it was that incredible. We didn’t stop to swim anywhere in Wadi Arbiyyin, partially because the end goal was Wadi Shab where we’d do our fair share of swimming, but also because a lot of these springs were used for drinking water, so they ask people to not swim in them.
HAWIYAT NAJM – BIMMAH SINKHOLE
We finally reached the end of the off roading in Wadi Arbiyyin when we saw the highway once again. We turned off the dirt roads onto the paved roads of the highway and continued on our journey. Typically, people who go to visit Wadi Shab from Muscat will stop at the Hawiyat Najm Park to see the Bimmah sinkhole on the way back from Wadi Shab, but Valentina asked us if we wanted to stop now since we were fairly close and we decided to go for it.
A few days before we arrived in Oman, I noticed a couple Instagrammers I follow visited Oman and visited what I assumed would be the sinkhole we were planning to visit. When I saw the photos they took, I was SO excited to see the sinkhole because it looked like a dream. When we pulled up in the car to the parking lot for this park holding the sinkhole, I was completely convinced that whatever I had seen in photos couldn’t be here. From the outside, it looked like a friendly park with some picturesque gazebos and benches to keep the heat away, but I thought there was no way this massive sinkhole I had seen photos of would be here. Sure enough, I was wrong! You walk towards the back of the park on paved paths and all of a sudden you reach the sinkhole. I was left in awe wondering how it was possible something so massive was so well hidden from only 60-70 yards back.
We were only supposed to stay at the sinkhole for a quick look, but we asked Valentina if it would be possible to swim because the water looked way too inviting to pass up. Valentina was happy to let us swim. Whatever you do, if you visit, you HAVE to take a swim. You will absolutely regret it if you don’t! When I asked to take a swim, I fully intended to only swim around for 20 minutes or so. However, we were having the best time of our lives swimming around and ended up staying close to an hour and a half. Sorry Valentina!!! The water is fairly shallow, until it drops down maybe 20-30 feet from the shore to who knows how deep. I wish I’d brought a snorkel mask or some goggles so I could look below to get a better idea of how deep it was. The water was the perfect temperature – I could’ve stayed in there for days. When you get in the water, you get a free fish pedicure! For anybody who doesn’t know what that is, you’ll just have to find out! All the little fish were obsessed with us and kept coming over to us. Once you got off the shallow section, the little fish mostly left you alone. There were some areas with rope across from where the stairs were where you could do a mini cliff jump (I’m talking maybe 8 feet). If you don’t have the upper body strength to climb out of the water on a rope (I definitely don’t!), you can maneuver your way around over by the stairs – I didn’t do it myself, but a bunch of kids were doing just that, so I know it’s possible! In an area kind of behind the stairs, you get a more secluded experience, so I highly suggest going around the back side of where the stairs are where you’ll be under the lip of the sinkhole!
After we spent way longer than expected at the sinkhole, we drove to a little restaurant in Tiwi Village to have a verrrrry late lunch. We even passed some camels on the way! I wish I had gotten the name of the restaurant, because the food was incredible! I’ve never had such delicious hummus in my entire life. After that, we quickly headed over to the parking lot for Wadi Shab since we were running way behind schedule! Once you park in the parking lot, you take a boat from that side to the other side to begin the 35-40 minute hike (or for people who like to take a lot of pictures, closer to an hour!) to the area of Wadi Shab where you start swimming. And don’t be discouraged when I say hike, it’s a really, really easy hike and it was breathtaking the entire time. You’re surrounded by these enormous mountains on either side of you, with beautiful turquoise water at your feet. It’s a challenge to balance looking up at the mountains, looking down at the turquoise springs, and trying to pay attention where you’re walking so you don’t trip! I wore sandals, but I would suggest maybe waterproof sneakers or maybe sandals that can get wet and have a strap on them so they’ll stay on your feet with no effort.
After about an hour, we reached the entrance point for the swimming portion of our journey. Valentina brought life jackets for my two friends, but they’re definitely not necessary if you’re not afraid of deep water and can tread water. If anything, they’re more so an option if you’d prefer to just float with no effort, but the water isn’t rough or anything to warrant absolutely needing a life jacket. The swim/walk towards the cave in Wadi Shab is something where footwear becomes important. Remember how I said you should bring waterproof sneakers or sandals that have a strap to stay on your feet? Well, we went without shoes and boy did my feet hurt at some points. Sometimes you’d be swimming through pretty deep water, but then you’d hit sections where you walked through small rocks with water passing through. Let me tell you – these rocks hurt your feet! It’s doable without shoes, but you’d definitely be MUCH more comfortable with shoes, so make sure to bring them!
It was super relaxing swimming through Wadi Shab. I would float on my back and just look up at the mountains above me in complete disbelief of what I was experiencing. Once we finally made it towards the end of the spring, we came to the tiny gap you have to swim through to get behind the rocks to see the waterfall. Now, I know a lot of people are thinking “NOPE NOPE NOPE” when I talk about swimming through a tiny gap. I get it. But if you go, you have to do it. It was probably 2.5-3 feet wide, so my shoulders fit across and then some, but the rock ends basically at the water, so your legs have free reign to swim as they will through the gap. What you see through the rocks is totally worth the 10 second tight squeeze! On the other side of the crevice is a gorgeous waterfall and the most unique carvings into the limestone – the limestone next to the waterfall almost looks like a tree! If you’re brave enough (and can find it), there’s even another crevice you can swim through that allows you to get behind the waterfall which was really cool!
After a short stay, we started swimming back as it was starting to get dark and we still had a hike back to get to the car! We swam all the way back and met up with a really nice German girl, her tour guide, and a police officer from Tiwi Village and all decided to walk back together because we were the last ones there and it was best to stick together because it had already started getting dark. We hiked back fairly quickly this time because there was no use in taking such dark pictures! It got dark very fast and we ended up hiking through the pitch black, but we all made it back! We then drove to the same restaurant we stopped at in Tiwi Village on the way there to have some coffee, tea, and hummus (of course!). After that, Valentina drove us back to our hotel in Muscat about 1.5 hours away.
We had the most magical experience with Valentina and I could not recommend her tour company any more. She was so kind and full of information about what we were seeing. I truly believe our experience wouldn’t have been the same if we had visited with anybody else! If you’re going to be in Oman, you can reach her at the below links to set up a once-in-a-lifetime experience with her!
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