Oh man, is Oman ever beautiful! This tiny country on the Arabian peninsula is often overlooked by travelers, which is a shame. Oman has so much to offer and we found it to be the perfect mix of outdoor adventure and luxurious hotels in spectacular locations fit for a sultan. Most travelers arrive in Muscat, Oman’s capital, and find a cosmopolitan city influenced by Oman’s millennia as a key trading post between Europe and Asia. But not far outside the city are some of Oman’s most jaw-droppingly beautiful sights, which you can discover on a Wadi Shab day tour.
While you could rent a car and make the 140 kilometer drive to Wadi Shab yourself, we found it worth it to sit back and relax in Memphis Tours’ comfortable SUV and let our guide handle the logistics. We immediately learned about karak tea, Oman’s spiced milk tea made with cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and ginger, and stopped off at one of the many roadside tea shops Omanis love to frequent. We’d probably have discounted the tea stands as nothing special and passed them by on our own. We were regaled with tales of legends, the history of modern Oman since Qaboos bin Said al Said became the sultan in 1970, and got a lesson on ordering lunch like a local.
That’s the true value in a good tour guide – getting those insights you might not otherwise discover on your own. Our guide from Memphis Tours whisked us out of the bustling capital on our private guided day tour with stops at the naturally formed Bimmah Sinkhole, one of Oman’s most beautiful beaches and the spring-fed pools of Wadi Shab.
One thing we quickly learned about Omanis is that they love legends, tales and ghost stories. Not surprisingly, Bimmah Sinkhole – or Hawaiyat Najm (as it’s known locally) – has a legend. Omanis believe that a falling meteorite caused the sinkhole to form, hence it’s name Hawaiyat Najm, which translates to “falling star”.
The less romantic version confirmed by geologists is that the limestone collapsed due to erosion from the water beneath. It’s also connected to the Arabian Sea, which is just 600 meters beyond the sinkhole, by an underwater tunnel. The natural depression is from 50 meters to 70 meters wide (164 feet to 229 feet wide), since it’s not a perfect circle and 20 meters (65 feet) deep. It’s filled with a mixture of fresh and sea water, giving the water the beautiful turquoise color.
To protect the sinkhole, the local municipality developed a park called Hawiyat Najm Park with a playground, shaded picnic and barbecue areas under the palm trees and toilet facilities around Bimmah. They also installed a staircase down to the water in the sinkhole so that visitors can easily access it without needing to climb around on the limestone.
If you’re just visiting to have a look, allowing about 30 minutes for your visit is perfect. You can also swim in the sinkhole, which we highly recommend.
Our Memphis Tours guide promised us he’d show us the most beautiful beach in Oman. Having sailed by quite a few coves over our two weeks exploring and diving in Oman, Fins Beach is definitely one of the most beautiful.
We can definitely see why the Omanis love to camp on Fins Beach. Wild and untouched by any development, the Arabian Sea dances along dazzling sea cliffs as far as the eye can see.
We didn’t have time to snorkel, but would have loved to. The water is crystal clear and you can see the color variations of the reefs below. We could easily see schools of hundreds of fish just gazing out over Fins Beach.
Hot as hell and nearing 30 hours of being awake, we were really reluctant walkers by the time we began the 3 kilometer hike to Wadi Shab. But with the promise of one of the most spectacular destinations in Oman, there was no way we were missing out on taking a dip in the azure pools of this wadi.
Don’t let the ugly concrete bridge slung across the entrance to Wadi Shab fool you. As soon as you take one of the small wooden boats across to begin the hike, you quickly forget about the coastal highway and the bridge. Date and banana palm plantations immediately take over and you feel Oman’s wildness engulf you.
Wadis are dry riverbeds in between deep, narrow gorges that cut through Oman’s many mountains. Fed by natural springs, wadis have become playgrounds for locals and tourists alike to escape the heat for some swimming and canyoning.
Wadi Shab, despite there being no road, is fairly easy to access. The path is a relatively easy walk with just a little scrambling over boulders as you near the pools.
Once you reach the pool, Wadi Shab still holds many secrets. From the very first pool, you can swim back further in to the gorge through a series of pools. Each pool is unique and varies in depth. Some we simply waded across, while others were so deep we couldn’t touch the bottom and had to swim across. There’s a lot of algae covering the rocks, which can make getting in and out of the various pools a little slippery and tricky.
Eventually, it appears you can swim no further – until local Omanis urge you to swim through a small crack in the towering sandstone cliff. Heed their advice, because that small crack opens up into a massive partially submerged cave with a waterfall crashing down in to the river. There’s a rope you can scramble up the waterfall on, and locals were doing just that before jumping off the top into the cave pool.
We had no idea what awaited us at Wadi Shab, otherwise we’d have been prepared with our water housing for our camera so that we could have captured it all. You’ll just have to plan a trip to see it for yourself!
What to Bring and Wear
Wanting to be culturally sensitive, visiting Bimmah Sinkhole and Wadi Shab was the hardest day of our trip to decide how to dress for. Outside of hotels and resorts, you should cover up your shoulders and legs at least to the knee (yes, both women and men). But we were going to be hiking in 100°F+ weather and swimming, so deciding what to wear was a challenge.
Wadi Shab is a tourist hot spot, as far as tourist “hot spots” can go in a country relatively still off-the-radar of most, and you’ll see a bit of it all here. Though that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be respectful to the culture.
Women will be comfortable wearing a loose fitting short sleeve shirt, preferably something quick drying and moisture wicking especially if you are visiting in the hotter months. Capri length light pants in linen or a hiking capri is perfect. Wearing a pair of hiking shoes is best since you do have to scramble over some boulders and the worn sandstone can be slippery. Wear a swim suit underneath as there’s no where to change once you reach the wadi. I also wore a sleeveless rash guard over my bikini to cover up a bit.
You’ll have to swim and leave your day pack on the rocks, so leave any valuables back at the hotel or locked hidden in the car. You could also bring a small dry bag to put any valuables in and take swimming with you.
There’s opportunity to buy cold water along the way and at the entrance to Wadi Shab.
There’s also a stop for lunch at a delicious restaurant that was packed with locals in the small fishing village of Quriyat. Omani cuisine has Indian influences thanks to the long history of trade. We tried a typical dish of chicken biriyani, which was a sort of fried chicken with two kinds of rice and a vegetable curry that are all meant to be layered on top of one another and eaten as one dish. Fresh fruit juices like watermelon and mango are refreshing and filling.
Don’t forget to bring:
- flip flops or water shoes to wear in the pools
- a small day pack
- a waterproof camera or waterproof phone case
- a dry bag to put any valuables in
Know Before You Go
Our trip to Wadi Shab was in partnership with Memphis Tours in order to bring you this story. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own. This article contains affiliate links. When you shop on Amazon through our affiliate site, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Sara Essop says
Wow, Oman look so beautiful. I really want to go there. I love biryani and karak tea too 🙂
Jennifer Dombrowski says
I am so used to the sweet tea and mint tea from other Arabian countries. I was so surprised to find a type of chai tea is so popular in Oman!
steph and zach dorworth says
What a beautiful place! It’s cool there are different theories about how the hole was created. Thanks for sharing the locals tips about swimming through the crack. Seems like a great day trip!
I have to admit Oman has not really been on my radar before but I have had the experience of sinkholes and they are great to explore, there’s always more to them as you guys found out. I love how there are different local theories to the crator being formed too, can see the locals have some imagination
Jenn and Ed Coleman says
It\’s amazing how hiking up wadis in Oman looks like hiking canyons in Southern California. A friend of my, Alan Cressler is a National Geographic photographer. I saw his presentations about caves in Oman about 15 years ago and was blown away. I always imagined vast expanses of desert sand but there are caves and springs all sorts of life and geology one would never expect. This sounds like a really cool tour and a great way to see the wilds of Oman.
I have been craving for Omani food for long now… these pics have kicked the urge to travel there hard!
Fins beach is beautiful. Can’t imagine the scene is from a desert country.
The sinkhole looks pretty cool. I don’t like the less romantic version of the story though lol. I would also like to try the food.
That sinkhole is absolutely beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it.
oh my goodness! I had no idea Oman is so beautiful. That sinkhole with that gorgeous blue water is so stunning. I’d love to see it for myself someday!
Jeffrey Mendoza says
I never know Oman is that beautiful. I enjoyed your article a lot with all the tips. The Bimmah Sinkhole looks amazing. I have not visited Oman, but I really excited to visit Fins Beach. Is it possible to fish or kayak on the beach? I want to explore Oman. Thanks for sharing it.
Are children allowed to do the hike? We are looking to travel to Oman in December and have a 7 and 12 year old…
Jennifer Dombrowski says
Yes, there were local Omani kids at Wadi Shab and they had to hike to get back to the wadi. As long as your kids are capable of walking the 6 kilometers round trip and swimming, then they can go! It’s mostly flat or very slight grades with a little bit of scrambling over some boulders once you get close to the wadi. Then the depth of the wadis varies anywhere from ankle deep to adults can’t even touch.
How to book this tour?! Because it doesn’t allow me to put the dates and there s any way of finding a contact address.
Jennifer Dombrowski says
We’re an online travel magazine. You can check the availability for the date you need your booking by clicking on the “Book Now” link in the article or by going here: https://www.memphistours.com/Oman/Oman-Excursions-and-Day-Tours/Muscat-Excursions/Tour-to-Wadi-Shap