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Snake Gorge< OMAN EXPLORER

An adventurous trek through Snake Gorge  

Warm Snake Gorge is not for the squeamish at heart. Dark legends surround this great fissure in the rugged landscapes of Al Rostaq — about water-filled caves that can only be traversed by swimming underwater for a considerable distance; about death-defying leaps from 10,000-feet cliffs into pools of water just two feet deep, and so on.

But, fortunately, these stories hold no truth.It is true, nevertheless, that the wadi — like any other wadi in the country — can be transformed into a dangerous torrent in the aftermath of a downpour.


Great fissure in the mountains in Al Rostaq
where Snake Gorge runs through —
Pictures by Rhodri Davies


Preparing to jump into a pool

A trek through Wadi Bimah — also called Snake Gorge — is the highpoint of a tour of picturesque Wadi Bani Auf in Al Rostaq wilayat. Jeanina Santiago speaks to Rhodri Davies, a Muscat-based engineer, about his experiences through the Snake Gorge, which he has visited more than 30 times over the last 10 years

It is advisable, therefore, to check the weather forecast before attempting a trek through Snake Gorge.

Even a slight build-up precipitation can be a caveat against the two-and-a-half hour backpack hike through the gorge.

Snakes sightings in the gorge are not uncommon, but like other wild animals in Oman, they shy away from human beings.

Still, keep away from warmer areas of the gorge, especially those exposed to the sun, where they are most likely to shelter.

 

It is also advisable to throw some pebbles into the water to be sure there are no slithering surprises in store, when you take the plunge. Whatever the story about snakes, reports of snakebites in the gorge are virtually non-existent.

In fact, the Snake Gorge walk can be a wonderful day out — as long as you are careful, sensible and heed the warnings of nature. Rhodri Davies, an engineer with Desert Services LLC, has visited the canyon more than 30 times over the last 10 years, thereby earning himself the admiration of fellow trekkers.

It is for this reason that he sometimes leads groups of tourists and even Omani visitors on a three-kilometre walk through the gorge. Some of Rhodri's pointers on trekking are as follows: bring along as few items as possible and keep them in a backpack.

Wear T-shirt, shorts, or if one pleases, swimwear under the T-shirt. For the feet, wear good-gripping trainers with socks.

If possible, skip the spectacles — even sunglasses — unless they have elasticised bands, as it is easy to lose them when taking the plunge through some pools.

Rocket Rhod, as he is also called, cautions against dark-coloured rocks, which can be very slippery.


Furthermore, instead of treading water in waist-high pools, it is advisable to swim across lest one encounters unexpected surfaces on the floor of the pool. The best time to undertake the walk is before midday, he adds.


Rhodri Davies, with his sister and
friend, inside the gorge

The Snake Gorge walk actually entails three kilometres of walking, wading through pools, swimming, and scrambling over boulders in the gorge between two cliffs, to eventually come out at Al-Zamman.

Several pools and small waterfalls are crossed during the walk, including one pool that flows into a pitch-black 30-metre-long cave.


Wading through a narrow pool
between cliffs


Trekkers pictured inside
the canyon

The only light in this cave is that coming from the mouth of the cave. Indeed, the whole journey is both a physical and a mental challenge and thus, should not be taken lightly.

Asked why he continues to make the trek despite so many trips into the canyon so far, Rhodri says: "It's like a roller coaster ride, or like white water rafting — without the raft.

One will never know what to expect. And once the walk is completed, one feels a sense of achievement." According to Rhodri, physical fitness does not have to be a prerequisite for crossing the gorge.

There have been instances when he led a diabetic and a rugby player who couldn't swim. Only two things helped them across the gorge — a streamline flotation jacket and a huge sense of determination.

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