“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
What makes the Sultanate of Oman unique is the combination of historical settlements, diverse landscape and ecological history, topped off with the warm welcome from the proud locals. In fact, those of us who have visited this Middle Eastern country have shared so many positive experiences, Oman has been listed as one of the Top Tourist Destinations of 2016.
The Capital City of Muscat might be the perfect place to begin your exploration of this country however, adventurous travellers must allow time to head out into the surrounding area and experience the rawness of the dry and sand covered desert.
It is here you will have the opportunity to discover special family friendly areas such Wadi Bani Khalid – yes that’s right, take the kids. Avid junior explorers will absolutely love submersing themselves in the distinctive range of elements and enjoy the freedom provided by the vast open spaces!
Related Post: Desert, Souks and an Oasis – Family Road Trip to Al Ain
Wadi is the Arabic word for valley and is used to describe a river in the desert. Traditionally the ideal time to visit a Wadi is during, or shortly after the wet season, as this is the time you are most likely to see the waters freely flowing. Wadi Bani Khalid in Oman is one exception as here you are virtually guaranteed to see the beautiful green coloured natural pools flow all year round. This explains why you will find it perfectly positioned through the heart of the local Oasis which, during our visit, was bursting with colourful vegetation.
The adventure to Wadi Bani Khalid in the Shargiyah Governorate, begins on the highway which connects the Capital City of Muscat to Sur. Those leaving from Muscat will have approximately 255 kms to sit back and soak up the infinite views of the surrounding landscapes along the way.
The last leg of your journey to the Wadi is on a secondary road which winds through the Eastern Hajar Mountains, complete with breathtaking views of the spectacular and unexpectedly colourful, Oman rock formations. In fact what makes these mountains truly unique and incredibly fascinating is, that although the peaks currently sit at as high as 2,500 meters above sea level, millions of years ago they were below the ocean and formed the seabed.
“A geologist once said that Oman is one big wonderful outdoor geological Museum; its geological stories can be found everywhere“.
The thrill of leaving behind the bustle and energy of the city, to seek out more remote areas deep in the mountains, can’t be underestimated. Although Wadi Bani Khalid is quite isolated there are communities such as Bida village, with stores selling basic supplies. It is definitely humbling to have the opportunity to see and to also expose the children to the simplistic and contented lifestyle these Omani people lead, one which is worlds away from the familiar vibe of our more cosmopolitan lifestyle.
Unfortunately our guide was reluctant to stop and allow us to photograph these glimpses of everyday Omani life. We did appreciate the need for sensitivity towards the local laws and ultimately respected that the privacy of the residents was far more important than our desire to capture the essence of this contrasting culture.
Parking is an approximate 10 minute walk from the main pools of Wadi Bani Khalid. It was thanks to the recent rains, that along the way we enjoyed the added excitement of wading through smaller pools and overflowing (man-made) irrigation channels.
We were left instantly in awe of the brilliance of the emerald coloured water and lush pockets of vegetation which greeted us as we arrived at Wadi Bani Khalid. These new views certainly provide the perfect contrast to the rugged mountains which otherwise dominate the desert landscape.
Minimal infrastructure has been tastefully added to this somewhat secluded area, including practical walkways, convenient toilet amenities and a shaded seated area. It is the perfect space to unpack a picnic and let nature distract you for a couple of hours as you take the time to just sit and soak up the serenity.
Please remember to enjoy Wadi Bani Khalid responsibly and dispose of any rubbish you generate or come across along the way. A place as pristine as this deserves to be respected and left in the same condition, or even better, than originally found. Our list of preferred reusable items which are ideal for travelling can be found here.
We weren’t by any means the only travellers exploring the area and the presence of locals, enjoying what I can only imagine was the most refreshing and invigorating swim, confirmed the authenticy of this as an everyday recreation destination.
The main pool at Wadi Bani Khalid has been measured as being up to nine metres deep and everyone is welcome to enjoy their visit and/or swim free of charge. It is important to adhere to and respect local traditions by covering up and wearing a shirt while swimming – a two piece bikini is definitely out of the question.
It was almost cruel wandering around this spectacular Wadi in the Spring time without having a quick dip however, as we were unprepared, we had to be content to spent the next hour exploring the surrounding perimeter. A different kind of fun aimlessly clambering over rocks and wandering along the water’s edge enjoying watching the excitement generated by our two children instead. There was enough activity in the shallows to keep them entertained with both familiar and unfamiliar critters capturing their attention – a real life biology lesson.
Children have such inquisitive minds and genuine instincts when it comes to slowly exploring natural habitats and it turned out to be a definite highlight just following along behind them and sharing in their many discoveries.
Although we were appropriately dressed and all had on hats and sunglasses to shield us from the glare of the sun, we happily retreated back to the car as the heat began to bear down in the afternoon. Which also reminds me to add here the importance of packing plenty of water at all times of the year when you set off travelling in any part of the Middle East. Can I suggest you travel with an insulated ‘esky’ (cooler box) stocked with plenty of drinking water and ice.
Exploring our first Wadi was incredible as was the growing feeling of anticipation as we drove off towards Part Two of our Oman adventure – overnight ‘glamping’ in the desert.
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Where is your favourite place to explore in Oman. Or perhaps you have a special somewhere you could recommend in other parts of the Middle East. Love to have you join our conversation:
Look forward to chatting to you soon,