Splashing out

Take a dip in one of Oman’s wild swimming holes for a refreshing change of pace.

There’s something exhilarating about swimming in the wild. It’s that moment when you ponder whether anyone has ever been submerged there. Oman is peppered with these special places – places where stone and water intersect unexpectedly, offering the perfect spot for an unforgettable dip.

Some are reasonably well known and easily accessible from the seaside capital of Muscat; others are further afield but are home to some of the finest wild swimming experiences anywhere. Head south-east from Muscat towards the ancient port town of Sur, and you’ll pass a number of them on the way.

Bimmah Sinkhole SEP15 - Copy

About 125 kilometres from Muscat, the Bimmah Sinkhole is astonishing. This collapsed limestone crater has a pool of brackish water its base that shifts colour from light turquoise to black-blue in its eerie depths. Accessed by a long staircase, the pool sits some 20 metres below the sinkhole’s circular rim, whose 40-metre diameter adds to the drama of the theatre-like setting. Just how deep the water is at the base of the cliff is anyone’s guess. Float out into the centre, look down and see for yourself.

Further along the coast is Wadi Shab, a spectacularly narrow mountain gorge between vertigo-inducing natural walls of stone that rise from a ribbon of fresh mountain water and palm plantations at their base. As the ravine narrows, access is by foot along a ledge that can be followed upstream for an hour or so past abandoned villages, bottle-green rock pools, caves and canyons ideal for a well-earned and refreshing dip.

Visit Wadi Bani Khalid, inland from Sur and, save for the odd goatherder chatting to his or her flock on the stony ridgelines above, you will likely have the broad emerald-green pools to yourself. Swim upstream into the narrow reaches and float quietly. Or leap into the deep green liquid from the rock ledges along the banks and listen to what the landscape does to the sound.

Wadi Bani Khaled

We could also describe here the 3000 kilometres of Oman's shimmering coastline - from the monsoon-kissed beaches of Dhofar in the south, to the kite-surfing playgrounds of Mazirah Island, the Damaniyat Islands in the sparkling waters off Muscat, all the way north to the astonishing fjords of the Musandam Peninsula. But that's an entirely different kind of wild.