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Canyoneering in Wadi Shab, Oman

We first heard about Oman's Wadi Shab when we spent an evening with bedouins in the Saudi Arabian desert. It's a great place for river trekking (tracing), which is non-technical canyoning (you don't need climbing gear, just shoes and a swimsuit). We took our kids on a day trip from Muscat to see the Bimmah sinkhole before hiking through Wadi Shab. I've also got some tips on what to bring on your outing.
Canyoneering in Wadi Shab
The day started with a lazy morning at resort, although we tried to get out around 11, we didn't actually get out of the resort area until noon. We also had a little Google maps fiasco since there are no road signs in these parts, we had no GPS signal due to the mountains, and we weren't exactly driving on highways. Rather than forge onward on questionable roads, we drove back thru Muscat to catch Highway 17. Further along in our drive, we saw a sign for a road outside Al Jabra that pointed back to Yiti...maybe on return trip.

Bimmah Sinkhole
Our route to Wadi Shab took us by the Bimmah sinkhole. got down to sinkhole north of bissah Park ~. Steep stairs.  Swam a bit. Wore aquatic footwear to water. Fish nibbling at my toes.

2) looked for food, nada. Highway doesn't lend itself to anything more than gas station convenience stores, and the rest stop by the sinkhole was still vacant (no food despite sign). Did see our first Omani camels @bimmah?


Wadi Shab Hike
Made it to wadi around 2pm? As you can see from the satellite photo, it's basically a canyon that runs to the Gulf of Oman. But get this: there's an underground waterfall that you can can hike/swim to if you want to. And it's not to strenuous, as our daughters (ages 4 & 7) made it, but you'll see in the photos that there is some scrambling over (sometimes slippery) rocks to get to the waterfall.
Paid 1 Omani riyal per adult to the boatman. Short ferry to trail on other side of river. Satellite photo? First part was cobble stone trail, lots of picnickers. There was a place that could have sold food, but it wasn't open. Maybe seasonal? Delicious grill smells from locals.

Second part was arid Canyon. Irrigation canals?. Could walk along. Feet kinda hurt from small sharpish rocks.
Third part was wet gorge. Don't get in yet, it doesn't go all the way though. Path now Slippery red stone (dust or water?) or rough concrete. Low overhang, obviously no rails. Some younger pickiners. Also cliff jumpers. Snack time. Reminded me a little of Partnach Gorge.

Fourth part was bouldering/scambling. 4-yr old on back a few times, gravel other times. Goats. 30 minutes?
Fifth part was in the water canyoneering? More canals? .

We walked right up and into the water because we were prepared for it. Lots of others either stopped here or left a few things on the shore.
Slippery rocks underwater.
Our kids had floating vests.
Saw one other couple with young kids on their backs, but most folks here were young men. Maybe only 100m of actual water from where we waded in.
Finally made it to cave. Right around 90 minutes after boat launch, taking it very easy on the hike.
Had to go single file thru shoulder width gap in rock, hand holds above, wider below.
Inside, like shipwreck scene from Goonies. tread water or find a place to hold on.
Of course, now is the time my camera case has an internal mechanical failure and becomes difficult to switch between video and photo mode as I'm treading water.
Out of cave around 3:30. All downhill from here. Even found a makeshift water slide on wet rock that emptied into water so deep I went under and didn't touch the bottom. Oh, and remember not to drink the water, because goat droppings. It was a fairly nice walk back, if a bit windy. And of course, wet bodies and wind also means being a little chilly until we warmed up from our walking. Even so, November was a great time to go. At the start/end, there were folks wading across the water, but why get wet at the start/end, just to save one riyal? That area was more marshy (marshier?) than other sections of the hike. Also, we didn't need to pay on return boat ride, but had money for it just in case.
Food options near Wadi Shab
As for how old the kids should be, it was still a little challenging to boulder with kid on piggy back. We made it to car around 5:00, so ~3 hours of activity plus the Y hours driving to and from the greater Muscat area.

What To Bring
Change of clothes, sun still up. Don't want to get stuck there in the dark.
Tried to find food at wadi hotel, no luck (open for snacks only). Photo of on-ramp? Kids fell asleep.
Stopped for gas along the way. Back at hotel around 7. screen capture of three routes w/distances.
  • Swimwear (I suggest something you're comfortable walking in for a few hours)
  • Rashguard or other quick dry shirt, it will keep you warm when the canyon winds kick up.
  • Aquatic footwear (toe shoes, aqua socks, sandals W heels/crocs.)
  • Waterproof baggies for keys/phone/camera/snacks money (for the ferryman),
  • Water bottle(s)
  • A small mesh bag to carry it all (even if your swimsuit has pockets)
  • Foam floats for kids 4-8. The hike is not recommended for kids younger than 4 as you'll have to carry them or help them over some tricky terrain.
  • Towels, a change of dry clothes, and some after hike snacks that you leave in the car.

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