Muscat: The luxury travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveller published by Condé Nast Publications Ltd, has listed the best Oman's best swimming spots.
A vast crater cocooning a 20-metre-deep natural swimming pool, Bimmah Sinkhole is an excellent option for first-timers looking to dip their toes. Around 50 meters in diameter with stone steps leading down to the water’s edge, the sinkhole is easily accessible, with a car park and changing facilities nearby.
Along Route 17 lies Wadi Shab and another popular wild swimming spot. Tucked into the Hajar Mountains, the wadi sits at the bottom of a huge limestone ridge and is surrounded by caves including the Majlis Al Jinn, one of the biggest caverns in the world.
During the cooler months, rainwater seeps through the rock surface and merges together as a flowing spring that gushes into the pools below. The only way to reach the wadi is to take a boat across a deep lagoon, followed by a 30-minute hike to a cave waterfall and natural pools.
With its string of turquoise pools and thick plantations, Wadi Tiwi is just 3km from Wadi Shab, boasting equal swimming potential. Named after Tiwi Village, the wadi is rich in vegetation, with emerald pools flanked by palm trees, though it requires a little more effort to get to than its more popular sibling. The wadi opens to the sea at the shore end of Tiwi village. Besides palm trees, several fruit trees thrive in Wadi Tiwi, with birds and butterflies frolicking among their branches.
Best approached from the top, the gorge challenges adventurers to work their way down a series of cliff jumps, natural waterslides, and underground pools. Located two hours from Muscat in Bima’s Wadi Bani Awf, the canyon is best accessed with a guide, a rope, and nerves of steel as you leap from pool to pool with no exit points until you reach the bottom. Ranging from nine meters to half a meter in width, the full experience takes up to five hours to complete.
Masirah Island - With its craggy interior of palm oases spilling onto remote sandy beaches, Masirah is the typical desert island paradise. Renowned for its warm, crystal-clear waters, the Arabian Ocean is a haven for swimmers, the hardiest of which may attempt the 19km stretch from island to coast. Located a five-hour drive from Muscat, plus an additional 90-minute ferry journey, the island’s remote location serves it well, with nothing to be heard aside from the gentle crash of the waves.
The looming Hajar Mountains rise from the emerald waters of the Musandam Peninsular like titans, guarding this remote and pristine enclave on the northeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Dubbed the “Norway of the East”, the fjords are a playground for wild swimmers who share the clear waters with humpback dolphins, Arabian angelfish, blacktip reef sharks, jellyfish, and rays. The only way to access the crystalline waters is by boat, with several local companies offering day-long cruises through the fjords.
Wadi Bani Khalid
Located 200km south of Muscat, Wadi Bani Khalid also lies close to the city of Sur and boasts a constant stream of water throughout the year. The water pools here are also lined by lush palm trees and surrounded by rocky valleys, while steep slopes are a magnet for climbers and extreme hikers. After parking up, you’ll walk around 10 minutes before reaching the main pool, though the more adventurous may want to venture further up the narrow valley for more remote waterscapes.
Open annually from May to October, the archipelago of nine rocky islands is located 42km from Muscat and accessible by boat. Swimmers will need to book a trip with a tour company to apply for a permit to visit the protected nature reserve, with most vessels taking around 45 minutes to reach prime swimming areas from the coast. Make sure you take a snorkel to see shoals of colorful fish and keep your eyes peeled for turtles in the shallower waters.