Wadi Hawir: beauty at risk

She laid there screaming, helpless after quite a painful tumble. It took her a few minutes to collect herself and after confirming that she didn’t’ break a bone, she moved even more carefully on the next climb making sure that her feet are rooted firmly on where she was standing on.

It was Riyam’s first time for the year to go on a wadi adventure. Accompanied by both her mother and younger brother in an activity organised by the collaborative effort between interest groups Hiko Adventure and Oman Outdoor Adventure led by cousins Munther and Ahmed al Jaabri respectively, they were advised that the hike can become challenging. Just 20 years old, she knew that she has the energy to finish the hike.
She wasn’t the only one who slipped and fell. There were five groups ranging from five to 10 people each that day, one of the proofs that since the last time Oman Observer visited the place which was almost a year ago, it has gotten even more popular. None of the groups avoided slippage. It was raw nature — you climb on rocks, swim through cold pools all the while staring at the walls of mountains that sandwich you in the middle. Everyone took home a souvenir — if not a tiny bump or small bruise, a cut on the leg or insect bites.
Located more than 200 kilometres from Muscat, at the heart of the Al Sharqiya Governorate, Wadi Hawir has maintained its overall beauty. The cars are still parked in the same open space at the foot of a village surrounded by palm trees. From afar, it was a mesmerising view — one of those views you can enjoy just sitting down watching while having a cup of tea or coffee and whiling the time away.
The waterfalls, five in total, are still there dramatic, astonishing selves. While many prefer the biggest waterfall because they can do a daredevil jump from it, my personal favourite is still the waterfall inside the small cave (or stones that piled up together is the perfect description.)
There are plenty of things to see and plenty of things to do. If you haven’t been to Wadi Hawir yet, consider yourself warned. It is a destination that combines swimming and hiking and factor in a lot of climbing, it’s nature’s natural gym and you’d go home with body pain.
The three-hour hike towards the very end where a natural waterslide can be found is definitely not boring.
“There are much better views far down the road,” one person from another group voluntarily shared the information thinking it was our first time. We just nodded in agreement.
Even Korean embassy intern the group nicknamed Luluah was awe-inspired.
“I really love this view,” she said in between heavy breaths. She’s only in Oman for six months and she’s already used three months of it.
“I still want to see more places like this and so far, I’m really impressed with what I saw. Too bad, I’ll only have until February of next year,” she shared.
All those who’ve seen Wadi Hawir talk generously about its beauty and charming pools. Because of this and with the season already becoming kinder, more and more people are hearing about it. Not many discuss the reality however that it is also full of risks and that slowly, human intervention is starting to disturb its once flawless beauty.

The threat of garbage and vandals
While still generally spectacular, compared to the year before, little changes had slowly taken place. The rains have destroyed some of the walkways that made the trip a year earlier easy. The water which used to be crystal clear was a little bit murky.
But those changes are forgivable and nature will restore everything in no time. What was alarming, however, is the level of neglect and selfishness of the people who visit the place commit.
Garbages are thrown in wanton disregard. After every 100 steps or less, you’d find water bottles and plastics just disrespectfully thrown.
“These plastics take years to decompose. Imagine another year and these will be a total nuisance,” one member of the group mentioned.
Many of the boulders were also now filled with scribbles with the vandals not realising that nature does not appreciate them leaving their names or quotes behind. In no time, they can also become an eyesore while other people go there for relaxation, adventure, and isolation.
Unlike Wadi Bani Khalid that gets lots of police visits, Wadi Hawir is a challenging place to get to and monitor. Self-policing is, therefore, necessary to keep it as a sustainable destination.
“More and more groups are going on wadi adventures now. But unlike us who had been doing it for years now, no strict guidelines are being placed on participants,” Ahmed shared.
“We go out here to enjoy nature for free. It is our group’s ideal to leave our footprints behind as minimally as possible. I really hope other groups would do the same and make sure to strictly enforce the no garbage behind and no vandalism policies,” he suggested.
“With the rise of the popularity of the wadis, not just Wadi Hawir, just imagine what it would be like in the next few years. A plastic bottle today from one person can become 300 or more in the next few years as more and more people visit. We all should contribute to its maintenance and care,” he said.