The early morning sun slowly colours the steep rocky slopes of Oman’s wildest peaks as our Toyota Land Cruiser makes its way along one of the country’s most stunning 4×4 tracks via the village of Hatt. Patches of lush vegetation break the dry mineral landscape here and there. Large birds of prey hover in the sky. Chris puts the car to a halt. He switches the gear over to 4×4 as things are getting serious. The Toyota peeps and cracks on the bumpy and steep downhill track along the deep and scenic canyon. While being rocked in the car, slowly a massive dark crack in the rock-strewn slopes, far below us, becomes visible: a crevice so deep that we cannot see the bottom. Or not yet as it is the goal of our canyoning expedition!
Once we reach the crack, we get out of the car, and start to gear up. In the meantime, Chris and his assistant Hamid, certified mountaineers working for Oman’s leading outdoor adventure company study their various weather sources one more time, making sure that no rain is expected in this valley, nor the neighbouring ones: a flash flood in the narrow canyon would turn a fun adventure into a life-threatening situation. Only a few clouds should pack high on the reliefs in the mid-afternoon, leaving us more than enough time to go through the Snake Canyon.
We zip up our brand new wetsuits, tighten our Petzl helmets, swing a dry bag each on our shoulders, and head towards the start of the wadi via a rather wide dry river bed. Soon, the canyon gets narrower and we walk through ankle-deep water. We are protected from the heat of the burning Middle Eastern sun by the comfortable shade provided by the canyon. As we make progress we listen to our sounds wading through, echoing against the sheer rocks towering us, sometimes broken by the clicking sound of a gecko or the croaking of a toad. Soon the Snake Canyon splits: the easy and family-friendly left fork – Snake Canyon 1.0 – does not require any rappelling nor high jumps, and the more challenging and sporty right fork also referred to as Snake Canyon 2.0.
We are faced with our first challenge just after venturing on the right fork. Chris sets up the ropes with confidence and patiently goes over the instructions with us in order to rappel down a waterfall. Once we are secured properly, we abseil down being splashed by the warm water. From now on, our only way out of Snake Canyon is down as climbing the smooth rock surface polished by the water back up is not an option.
Some more abseils follow in the dramatic canyon that one cannot even guess from the dirt track. Enjoying the adventure, we slide down natural toboggans dug by millions of years of erosion, jump wherever possible, or swim across other passages. It is such a pleasure to explore the depth of the wadi and enjoy its rather warm waters! Looking for every possibility to have fun, Chris and Hamid point out to a 7-metre jump. After a healthy apprehension, I jump and enter the water like a nail, feet straight in, hands tightly crossed on my chest. The life jacket rockets me straight up to the surface! Playfully, yet cautiously, we make our way through while continually swapping between sliding, walking, wading, ducking, scrambling and jumping some more.
Three hours later, tired yet satisfied, we see the start of the falaj that irrigates plantations thanks to the water of Wadi Bani Awf of which we have explored only about four kilometres. Another 4×4 is waiting for us on the side of the now wide wadi. We pull off our wetsuits and cover ourselves quickly before driving up the magnificent track and leaving Snake Canyon behind.
As we gain altitude fast on the winding dirt-road, the dark crevice seems to disappear amongst the rocky slopes and it is hard to imagine that the wadi is running through it, providing a fantastic canyoning adventure as well as precious water for the date plantations of the villages along its banks.
Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau (text & photos)
- To live this experience, get in touch with twenty3 extreme, the only insured outdoor company in Oman with professional guides and top of the line equipment.
- The Snake Canyon provides a fantastic adventure for beginners and experts as it splits in two different forks.
- Check out this interactive map (quick tutorial) for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Zoom in on the area of interest, and check out the black pins: each of them corresponds to an article.
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