Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman

A few weeks ago we decided to spend the weekend camping at the stunning Wadi Bani Khalid. I had seen numerous photos of this wadi on Instagram and various Omani travel blogs, even before I left Sydney for Oman. It was at the top of my list of must see places in Oman since I arrived. The wadi is a lot further from Muscat compared to the other wadis we have visited to date, so we had been a bit hesitant to drive all that way. However, with the weather slowly heating up, we thought we’d better make the most of our weekends and visit Wadi Bani Khalid before it gets too hot.

You can reach Wadi Bani Khalid two ways – via the coastal road through Sur, or via the inland road via Ibra. We took the coastal road, as we have driven along this road a few times and really enjoy this route – the landscape is stunning and the road is well built and maintained. There are also some great spots to stop for a picnic lunch along the way, such as Wadi Tiwi or Finns Beach. But in hindsight after speaking to a few people since our trip, we should have taken the inland road as it would have cut almost an hour from our travel time. But it’s a good thing to know for the future, particularly if we plan a trip to Wahiba Sands, which is quite close to Wadi Bani Khalid.

The drive to the wadi from the turnoff is beautiful in itself. The road runs through a valley and then steeply up a mountain, before it continues down to the other side. And like many places in Oman, the landscape is stunning.

As you approach the wadi, you pass through a number of small towns and villages, many of which are encircled by lush green date palm plantations. Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the easier wadis to access, with no need for a 4WD to reach it. The wadi has a purpose built carpark for visitors, the majority of which visit on weekends. We arrived at about 4pm and the wadi was teeming with people enjoying the last rays of sunshine. Luckily for us we had decided to camp near the wadi, so we had the advantage of exploring early in the morning before the day trippers arrived.

We hadn’t really organised where exactly we were going to camp before we arrived. It didn’t look like rain was forecast, so we could have camped in the wadi. (Please note, it’s usually not a good idea to camp in wadis, due to the threat of flash floods). However, we decided against it and drive through one of the villages beside the wadi and found a great spot on the ridge looking Wadi Bani Khalid. There aren’t really any organised camp grounds in Oman and you can basically camp wherever you want, provided it isn’t in someone’s backyard. But we found a spot that looked like it had been set-up for camping by someone – there was fine gravel in the shape of a circle on the ground and remnants of a campfire. The site had a fantastic view over the wadi and was protected from the wind by a rock ledge, so we decide that this was the perfect place to set-up camp. After our dinner, which we prepared before we left home, we snuggled in for the night, without a sound or person in sight.
The next morning we got up early to explore the wadi before the day trippers arrived. We packed our tent and our belongings and headed back down to the wadi. The atmosphere was so different from the previous afternoon – it was so quiet and peaceful. And cool. One thing about arriving at a wadi early in the morning is that you can explore it without worrying about the heat. The walk along Wadi Bani Khalid is quite easy compared to other wadi  walks. But I would recommend you wear sneakers and not sandals, as the rocks can be quite slippery.

Wadi Bani Khalid is perhaps one of the most beautiful wadis I have seen on our travels through Oman so far. As you can see by the photos below, it is an absolutely stunning place. It’s almost difficult to describe how lovely it is – of course the photos don’t do it justice, and like many of these places, you have to visit to really appreciate its beauty. It has a number of deep pools of water, which are perfect for swimming. Just keep in mind that if you decide to swim in the main pool, make sure to cover yourself so you don’t offend the locals. But if you arrive early, like we did, and swim in the upper pools, you can swim quite freely. There is also a cave further along the wadi which you can visit, but the entry is rather dark and narrow, so we decided against it. Enjoying the wadi itself was enough for us.

After having a swim in one of the many pools, which we had to ourselves, and relaxing in the shade of the gorge, we headed back home to Muscat.

We’re heading to Kerala tomorrow, so stay tuned over the next few weeks for some posts from Fort Cochin, Munnar, Thekkady and Alleppey.

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Wadi al Abyad

We have been lazy over the past month or two, spending our weekends in Muscat rather than taking advantage of the cool winter weather to explore the country a bit more. It has been slowly starting to heat up, so we’ve decided to get off our backsides and squeeze in a few weekend trips before it gets too hot to do so.

So a few weeks ago we spent a Saturday afternoon exploring Wadi al Abyad. The wadi is about an hour’s drive south-west of Muscat, along the Nakhal-Rustaq road. The wadi can be reached from both ends – one at the village of Al Abyad (which is about 25km before Nakhal if coming from Muscat), or from the village of As Sibaykha (20km after Nahkal). We followed the Explorer Oman Off-Road guide and entered the wadi from As Sibajkha. Next time we visit, we’ll enter from the other end, as we got into a bit of a fix this time.

The road from As Sibajkha isn’t quite a road, but is rather a mass of loose pebbles and should only be attempted with a 4WD. Although we had a 4WD, we still got stuck along the track due to our low profile tyres which we really should replace. Luckily a local Omani man stopped to tow us out – the Omanis are always more than happy to help whenever you’re in trouble. After finally being able to move the car again, we drove to the end of the track, jumped out of the car and took a walk along the wadi.

We were luck that the weather was overcast and a bit windy – it made the walk much more pleasurable than if it had been hot and sunny. Wadi al Abyad is translated to English as Wadi White, due to the calcite deposits, which create stunning blue pools, as seen in a couple of the photos below. Although there is a lot of water in the wadi, many of the pools aren’t deep enough for a proper swim. Unlike those of Wadi al Khalid, which I will discuss in my next post.

Beside getting the car stuck in the wadi, it was an enjoyable afternoon and I would recommend Wadi al Abyad as a great half-day trip from Muscat.

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Wadi al Arbiyyin, Oman

We had a friend from Sydney visiting us about a month ago, so we decided to take him on a day trip to one of the wadis close to Muscat. The lucky guy is taking a year sabbatical to travel around the world. He has already travelled through South America and Europe, and is now spending time in Asia. He had a week stopover in Dubai, so decided to visited us for a weekend.

Travelling through Oman is all about going off-road to visit wadis and travel through the mountains and the desert. A must buy book when planning any travel through Oman is Explorer Oman Off-Road. The current 2015 edition has 38 scenic and interesting routes to take through Oman. The book can be bought at Muscat airport, bookshops and a few supermarkets.

Wadi al Arbiyyin was our first real off-road experience in Oman. Prior to visiting Wadi al Arbiyyin, we had only driven on sealed roads. But the road, even though unsealed, was an easy drive with absolutely stunning landscapes, as you can see from the photos below. Oman, unlike its neighbour the UAE, is very mountainous. And luckily, roads have be made and maintained, so that visitors can enjoy visiting the mountains and the wadis.

Wadi al Arbiyyin has many small pools along the road, some of which you have to drive through. The pools are shallow, but I would recommend taking a 4×4. The most stunning of the pools is at the village of As Suwayh. This turquoise pool is wonderful swimming spot, and a lovely place to stop after the dusty drive through the mountains. After a dip at As Suwayh, we stopped for lunch at the side of the wadi, on our way towards the highway and the town of Dibab. Packing a picnic lunch and finding a shady spot beneath a tree, is the way to lunch on any day trip. Our small esky has become an essential item.

There are so many wadis to visit in Oman, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to visit a number of them while we’re in Muscat. Wadi al Arbiyyin is a must if you’re after somewhere to visit close to Muscat, with stunning landscapes and a swim in a beautiful wadi pool.

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Essentials:

Getting there:
The entrance to the wadi is along the Muscat-Sur highway, about 125km or a 1.5 hour drive from Muscat. There will be a sign to the wadi, not too far after the town of Quiryat. I’m quite sure that the sign says ‘Wadi al Arbeieen’ rather than ‘Wadi al Arbiyyin’. Like many places in Oman, the name of the wadi is spelt in different ways.