Snake Canyon: one of the most beautiful wadis in Oman
Hiking Snake Canyon was not always something I wanted to do. I heard it involved jumping off of things, abseiling, and other crazy stuff. But then, I basically was like, “f*** it” and decided I shouldn’t let my fear of heights stop me from doing once-in-a-lifetime things. Plus, I was terrified of scuba diving and now it’s one of my favorite things to do. I decided I was going to hike Snake Canyon, goddamnit! That said, thinking about this hike literally kept me awake at night and gave me cold sweats.
The road to the wadi is easy to find
You have to use a guide for Snake Canyon, also called Wadi Bani Awf. Unless you are experienced at abseiling and have all the required equipment, this hike is dangerous and nearly impossible. We decided to go with twenty3extreme, the same company Nate used for the 7th Hole adventure. I highly recommend them; they were fantastic. We met our three guides at 7:30 am at the exit point for the hike, and the first thing they did was kit us up with harnesses, life jackets and helmets. Then we drove to the hike starting point, by the Bilad Sayt Audi football field.
View down the wadi towards the beginning of the hike
After hiking for about 15 minutes we reached the first abseil point, which was a six meter drop. This was a good chance to learn how abseiling works, and it was easier than I expected it to be. We slid and climbed down a number of other drops that would have normally scared the shit out of me and were far scarier than the abseils. With the abseils, I was strapped in and there was a safety mechanism to keep me from free falling. With some of those drops, I had to trust that there would be a rock someplace to cling to or step on that I just couldn’t see yet. And that’s scary.
We abseiled down the crevice in the upper left quadrant, and then down off the cliff in the middle of the photo, followed by quick fun slide down the wet rocks on our bums!
We eventually reached the second drop, an abseil of about 30 meters. That was followed immediately by another drop of eight meters, for the majority of which you have to just dangle and slowly lower yourself. After that it was more hiking, climbing, jumping, and swimming.
I used to be wary of jumping off cliffs into water, but this hike cured me of that. Just plug your nose, bend your legs if you don’t know how deep it is, and go for distance! The guides did an awesome job of showing us how to use our arms and our backs to lower ourselves when we were between two boulders and there was no place for your feet to touch. Also, the harnesses had canvas butt covers, so no one was at risk of splitting their pants. It sounds silly, but with the amount of sliding that we did, all of us would have emerged with torn pants had this not been the case
Taken just before sliding off a cliff into that crevice
There was one point where we swam through a cave. Cool, right? Then I saw what looked like a floating natural raft of trash to my left. Turned out it was actually garbage, and the opening to the cave that we exited from was literally full of trash. Apparently when it rains all the water comes through this point, so all the garbage collects there. It had rained the weekend before.
Eventually we stopped for a quick snack break and heard thunder in the distance. Warning bells went off and we hiked out as fast as we could. We got back to the car, took off our kits, and the drivers piled into one car and immediately set off to pick up the other vehicles. The rest of us stayed behind in an area with higher ground. Snake Canyon is prone to flash-flooding and we did not want to be there when that happened.
Had we not been rushing to leave the canyon, I would have spent a lot of time photographing that amazing curved rock
Storm clouds rolling in at the exit of Snake Canyon
After we had waited about 30 minutes for the cars to come back it started pouring rain. We found a goat herder’s “shelter” of palm fronds tied together that blocked the rain a little bit, but as soon as we saw the cars coming back down the mountain, we ran to them and piled in as quickly as we could. The sooner we got out of there the better. The ground here is so dry, it doesn’t absorb rain. Water just runs off of it like you’d expect with pavement. So the dirt road didn’t become muddy at that point, it was just full of huge puddles. Luckily we were all in 4WD vehicles so we didn’t have any problems. But we definitely drove out of there as fast as we safely could.
Storm clouds over Wadi Bani Awf
Rain is such a novelty, people stop to watch the flooding
I’m really glad I had the chance to hike Snake Canyon, and we’re lucky we actually got to go on the trek. We’d planned to go back in March, but it got cancelled due to a lack of water in the canyon, and they replaced it with a Tiwi trek. That got cancelled due to impending rain. Luckily for us the weather was perfect during the hike, and the prior weekend’s rain meant that all the pools were full, clear, and beautiful. This hike will definitely go down as one of my Oman favorites. It was incredible.
Oh, one more thing: I met the guy who writes the blog Beyond the Route. He was tagging along with our trekking guides, helping them with our group. He is a super cool dude and if you haven’t looked at his blog, you should. He provides some of the clearest, most accurate background info on Oman and the culture that you’ll find written by a non-Omani on the internet.