So you think you know Salalah?
While you may assume that the glossy pictures shared on magazines or newspapers or even the viral ones rounding the social media speak for what can be found there, they are not always the case. While photos may paint a thousand words, they don’t usually tell the whole story.
Those who frequent the Khareef season may say they know but woe for those who’ve never been there yet as a recent trip organised by Oman Outdoor Adventure led us to discover many things that were not shared by travellers either in print or on social media.
As of August 8, Salalah has been visited by over 586,718 people according to the records of the National Centre for Statistics and Information. This number is 36.7 per cent higher compared to the same period the previous year which if translated in precise figures, Salalah has enjoyed over 157,369 more visitors by end of day of August 8.
One of the top destinations that people were very eager to visit is Wadi Darbat. On our visit last week, we have to sit through a long traffic and even on a regular weekday, the case was still the same.
We compiled the five things people don’t tell you about Wadi Darbat but we really think you definitely should know about before you go.
Prepare for the traffic
We are not just talking about long queues of vehicles trying to climb the hill that leads to the main area of Wadi Darbat but this is definitely something you have to prepare a lot of patience for. Some vehicles are in a rush so watch out for many in-a-hurry drivers trying to cut lines and are usually creating more problems.
But once you’re past this first hurdle, if you are headed further up into the heart of the mountains surrounding Wadi Darbat, you will be welcomed by traffic caused by camels and donkeys.
Khareef season, after all, is not just for humans, it is also time for the animals to enjoy. So as you move around, prepare for the interruption of photo-willing camels, donkeys and if you are lucky, even goats. Some of them will even smile for the camera.
Not just one waterfall
We’ve all seen the news — photos and videos of that awe-inspiring sight where the rainwater from Mekunu created this massive waterfall. The flow of water has already tamed down and the then dirty water is now replaced by a refreshing cascade of clear water that ends up to a waiting sky blue pool before running to an even longer river of bluish masterpiece.
But it’s not the only waterfall in Wadi Darbat. The one on the news requires more than 20 minutes of hiking so if you are travelling with women and kids, it’s a destination not really ideal despite the beauty that awaits you at the end.
So many of the families end up going to the terraced waterfall that is more accessible to the public. This terraced waterfall has several layers with each layer having their respective intensity of water flow. Regardless of whichever waterfall you end up going, you have many options and an afternoon frolicking in the water is up to you. Make sure to take all precautions though — these are, after all, still wild waters.
On top of the world
Consider Wadi Darbat as an entrance to many different worlds with one of its roads leading directly to the sky — at least a good view of it.
Farther up about 30 minutes from the forking road of Wadi Darbat is Jabal Samhan — one of Salalah’s window to the vastness and beauty of its blessed land. From the top of Jabal Samhan, you’d be amazed by the eclectic details of the land formation below. Here, the breeze is stronger and the wind even fresher, a little colder too as we’ve noticed.
If you are lucky, you will be welcomed by the sea of clouds your feet almost touching them as you sit at the edge of the cliff.
We were unfortunate though as we came on a sunny day but if you have time to spare, this is one of the must-have photographs when you are in this part of Salalah.
Kids adore Wadi Darbat. It’s not just because of the cool weather or the lush greenery surrounding it but because there are many different activities they can partake.
Another fork on the road that leads to a calm river had an area with tall trees where families can have picnics. Here, local businessmen have put up tents so patrons can rent canoes and kayaks, pay tickets for horse-rides and even car-races.
Not exclusive to kids, the river canoe ride allows you to traverse the long stretch of the river and see up close the towering trees and mountains. Most kid-centric activities were also child-proofed and we noticed supervising personnel so everyone is relatively safe to engage in outdoor adventures.
Take a hike
There is a lot of off-the-beaten-path in the whole area of Wadi Darbat which are good for hiking and trekking. Because of its interesting land formation, many outdoor lovers usually leave their cars behind and head into forest areas to explore this lush paradise further.
There are a few lakes to just a few metres from the road and are very interesting to check out. One of the popular ones is the green lake located a few metres from the peak of Jabal Samhan. The algal bloom has resulted in the surface of the water appearing green.
While you may be tempted to venture into all of the amazing wonders kept by Wadi Darbat, the secret to enjoying them is to spend quality time with each location. Travels are not just about the number of attractions you can get to but are more about the kind of memories you make while you are on them.
As Ahmed al Jaabri from Oman Outdoor Adventure has suggested, “Pick one spot you are particularly fond of and try to enjoy the moment of being there. You’d appreciate the place more if you keep your eyes and heart focused on the experience.
Yeru Ebuen & Titash Chakraborty