Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman Overview
Wandering the desert landscape of Oman, looking for a nice oasis to cool down and beat the heat? Well, look no further than Wadi Bani Khalid! Located in the Ash Sharqiyah Governorate, this beautiful valley is one of the most popular wadis in the country and is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Unlike other wadis in Oman that are dry in the summer moths, Wadi Bani Khalid is known to have a constant flow of water throughout the year.
Wadi Bani Khalid is made up of two sections. The northern part is a leisure area which has palm trees, pristine pools and rock faces for picnics and swims, while the southern part (also known as Wadi Hayer) has a rocky terrain that is perfect for trekking and bouldering. It even includes Muqil Cave which is part of a cave network in the area that opens into a small waterfall.
This area has become fairly commercial in recent years. Numerous cafes and restaurants have sprung up, offering food services as well as clean public toilets to wash off after swimming in the pool. A typical buffet here costs OMR 4 per person which is quite a reasonable price ? you're sure to be hungry after a good swim!
Wadi Bani Khalid is great for groups and families. Not only is it a beautiful place to enjoy an afternoon, but in terms of distance and travelling around the wadi, it's fairly simple terrain. Unlike other large wadis in Oman, the distance between the car park and the main area here is quite short, so almost anyone can keep up!
Wadi Bani Khalid is located approximately 255 km from Muscat and 120 km from Sur, close to the highway linking the two towns. It is just north of the town of Al Kamil. If leaving from Muscat, reaching Wadi Bani Khalid is a three and a half hour drive mostly on the main Route 23 highway. On reaching the district of Romail, you will have to take a secondary road for another half hour. The diversion here is sign-posted well in advance, so there's no worry about missing the turning. This secondary road makes for a pretty drive with fascinating green and red rock formations and date tree plantations on each side before you reach the wadi car park. From there, reaching the wadi requires a ten-minute walk.
Imagine leaving your car in the hot Oman sun, manoeuvring through crumbling rock-filled paths and steep slopes, only to find a beautiful desert oasis before you! Indeed, Wadi Bani Khalid paints quite a sight for sore eyes. There are palm trees lined up on each side and a slippery rock path that leads you down to a gorgeous pool of blue-green water. There are cafes offering food and beverages as families enjoy their picnics in the shade of the trees and some people go for a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear water. On weekends, Wadi Bani Khalid becomes very crowded. When visiting, try to avoid the afternoons for it is almost unbearably hot and the tree cover is limited.
The further you go in, the deeper the pool is. In fact, the deepest areas are believed to be 9 metres (almost 29 feet) deep, so be mindful when wading in. Better yet, these pools are home to tiny fish that nibble at you as you enter. It's an odd sensation, but it feels no different than a fish foot spa ? for free! As with any place in Oman, be respectful of clothing when going for a swim. Bikinis and two-pieces on women and Speedos on men are generally frowned upon. However, if you search well enough along the stream a short distance from the restaurants and commercial area, it's possible to find a section of the pool that is hidden from the public eye.
Along the sides of the pool are rock faces that stretch tall above you. The highest rock faces are almost 15 m (nearly 50 feet) high. Some adventurous individuals even enjoy diving off these rock faces into the pool below. Though they are fairly rocky, certain areas of the rock face are flat enough to allow for setting up a tent and camping at the wadi. It can get chilly once the sun sets, but the rock face offers protection from most of the cool winds blowing in the night.
In the southern part of the wadi, the rocky terrain provides a fun trekking experience. To those who are adventurous enough, the rock walls along the sides make for good rock climbing spots. There are little pools to wander into, but if you were to explore Muqil Caves, it opens into a large swimming pool with a calming waterfall to beat the heat. When exploring the caves, remember to carry a flashlight and comfortable shoes. It's a medium to small-sized cave which is known to have bats and can be claustrophobic for some. There are children around the wadi who offer to guide the cave exploration for a tip, and this can be useful to avoid getting lost in the cave system. This area is a popular stop for adventure junkies travelling towards Wadi Tiwi near the coast.
Although it is possible to visit Wadi Bani Khalid for a day trip, it can get quite exhausting. It's recommended to include this visit in a longer trip around the wadis of Oman for a better experience. It's a peaceful, pretty place to enjoy a swim, take in the sights, hang out under the trees, enjoy a meal from the stalls, and spend a calming few hours in a one-of-a-kind desert paradise in Oman.