Turquoise blue pools of water surrounded by mountains with a secret waterfall at the end. This is my time hiking to Wadi Shab.
Unlike its nearby Persian Gulf neighbours, Oman has an abundance of natural beauty. Wadi Ash Shab is arguably the highlight of it all and was 100% what drew me to the country. Images of its teal blue water pools surrounded by dry mountains certainly stand out.
That said, when it came to planning my trip, I found information online a bit confusing. Even tour company website information varies. As such, I have compiled a list of things to know before visiting Wadi Ash Shab in Oman learned from my time hiking, swimming, and sweating my way to it.
What is Wadi Ash Shab?
Wadi is an Arabic word referring to a valley. In some areas, it also refers to a dry gorge or ravine that contains water in the rainy season. Oman is blessed with several of these gorges and Wadi Ash Shab is, arguably, the highlight of them all.
Freshwater runaway from the surrounding mountains mixed with salty seawater creates turquoise blue pools lined with vegetation. This gives the area an appearance unlike anything else. Wadi Ash Shab is highlighted by three pools of this turquoise water with a waterfall hidden inside a cave at the very end.
Wadi Ash Shab is located roughly 150 km southeast of Muscat near Tiwi. The drive takes about one hour and 40 minutes depending on traffic. From the trail head entrance, it’s about an hour hike to the first pool.
Hire a Guide or Self-drive?
Driving to the trailhead is very straightforward. The Wadi Shab parking lot is listed in Google Maps and just off the highway. Parking is free and easy to find.
That said, having a guide has a few benefits. The major one for me was being able to sleep on the ride back. After a long day in the sun, this was well worth the cost. I was gassed after the hike and the heat took a lot out of me so I was very happy to have a driver. Also our guide carried an extra backpack and put my water shoes in it along with a towel and extra water. This made the experience that much more enjoyable.
Group tours start at around $125 per person and typically include lunch, hotel pick up and drop off, and a visit to the nearby Bimmah sinkhole. If you have a group of four I recommend you hire a private guide through ToursbyLocals.
Either way, don’t forget to say hi to the friendly goats but be warned, they will go after anything they deem edible! Also note, there are public bathrooms in the parking lot. There are no other facilities beyond this point so use them before continuing on!
To access the trailhead, visitors have to cross the river. There are boat taxis on hand to take people across and cost 1 Rial per person. Note, they only except cash so come prepared. If you have hired a guide, this will be covered for you.
Hiking Wadi Ash Shab
I had read mixed opinions on the hike, with some people saying it’s very difficult and others downplaying it completely. As such, I decided to air on the side of caution and prepare properly. This meant proper shoes for the hike along with plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. I also brought water shoes that I bought at the souq in Bahrain.
This turned out to be a great purchase and the other two guests in my group were envious as they did not have shoes to wear in the water. Also, one of them was in flip-flops which I would definitely not recommend. There are sections to scramble and the area can be a bit slippery so it would be very easy to hurt yourself in sandals.
Although the hike is relatively flat, there are some steps and light scrambling to do. Our guide definitely downplayed the hike and the other two guests on my tour were a little unprepared because of it. After doing the hike I would say it is moderate and will take you 45 minutes to an hour to get to the first pool. The biggest factor is the heat which makes any walk more strenuous regardless of elevation change or terrain.
That all said, the walk itself is beautiful. You follow the river valley hugging a cliffside path and walking along (and on top of) an irrigation stream. There is little relief from the sun so again, be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen and pack plenty of water.
Swimming Wadi Ash Shab
On the positive, there is a reward for the sweaty hike in. The first pool is where you ditch all of your stuff and dive in. From there, you are in the water or walking through a stream the rest of the way. This provides a welcome relief from the heat. Still, I wore a shirt in the water to avoid burning my pasty skin.
NOTE: Be sure to wear your bathing suit for the hike. There isn’t much privacy to change once at the pool as one of the guests in our group found out. Also, don’t bring anything you don’t have to as you’ll have to leave it at the waters edge. I ended up leaving my camera bag on the rocks with the rest of our group’s stuff and in retrospect, I would have left it in the car if I had known it would sit out. Worst case, you can pack a wet sack if you absolutely need to have the items with you.
The first pool is the busiest so I suggest heading out from there and away from the crowds. After passing through a scenic stream with tall grass you will be at the second pool. A few more minutes of swimming and you will be at the third and deepest pool.
Wadi Ash Shab Waterfall
Swimming and floating through the pools really is something else and is definitely worth the hike on its own. The waterfall, however, really is the cherry on the top.
At the end of the third pool, you’ll come up to a crack barely wide enough to squeeze through. Those that are claustrophobic may struggle with this. If that is you, I suggest going with somebody and diving under the pass it is as it is wider under the water. Once on the other end you will be presented with a waterfall spilling into a deep pool inside of a cave.
NOTE: There is limited space to sit inside of the cave so be prepared to tread water. You can grab onto the cave walls in certain spots to rest. As such, I suggest strong swimmers only do this portion of the trek.
There is a rope along the side of the waterfall for those that want to climb up. The rocks are slippery as one of the members of my group found out so be very careful when climbing down!
Along the way you will see several small fish and, for those daring enough, can you can feed them…with your feet!
Sitting between the second and third pool stream I let my feet dangle in the water and within seconds, tens of these fish swarmed them. Budget pedicure anyone?
What to Pack for Hiking Wadi Ash Shab
As mentioned, the hike to the water is tougher than some lead on. As such, I suggest being prepared with the following:
- Proper shoes
- Water Shoes – These ones are cheap and come in a variety of colours!
- Bathing suit (something you can double and wear on the hike)
- Quick DryTowel
- Warterproof dry bag – These ones come in a variety of sizes and colours.
- Waterproof phone case – I have this Pelican one and works great!
- GoPro! – I used mine to get some good video clips. I will share to my Instagram account soon!
A Great Day Trip From Muscat
In a way, Wadi Ash Shab is what brought me to Oman. I am happy to report that it did not disappoint. The mix of turquoise blue water and the airid rocky mountains makes for an incrediblely memorable experience. Visiting Wadi Shab should be on your list should you be lucky enough to visit Oman or the region. Pair that with a stop at the Bimmah Sinkhole and it makes for a great day trip from Muscat.
What say you?
Thoughts on these Tips on Visiting Wadi Ash Shab?
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