Snake Gorge walk

A walk through the spectacular Snake Gorge in wadi Bani Awf .

This walk can be dangerous and should not be attempted when there is any remote chance of rain in the area and if you are weak-footed.

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Willy Hack took me for the first time into this gorge and his advise and suggestions are included in this description.

I have been many times since and the collection of pictures shown on this website has been slowly growing and gives a good impression of the 'walk', which can be more of a 'swim', depending on how much water runs through the gorge.

From Muscat to the beginning of the walk: about 170 km.

Detailed map of the Snake gorge walk


How to get to Snake Gorge. From Muscat take coastal motorway to the north and follow it to the Barka roundabout. Turn left towards the mountains in the direction of Nakhl. Pass Nakhl in the direction of Rustaq. Some 75 km from the roundabout you will see wadi Bani Awf signposted to the left. Follow the track into the mountains in direction of Hat and Bilat Sait (signposted at junction). The total distance to the beginning of the the walk is some 170 km from Muscat. Leave a car in the village of Mannah (N23 12.966 E57 24.236) and park it out of the way for the villagers. If unsure just ask. Drive to the beginning of the track, which is about 3 km further along the road to Hat (N23 12.693 E57 23.085). Park the cars in the wadi to the left of the road (the drive-in currently is rather steep down.... mind your car). The walk through the wadi is about 3 km and will bring you back to the village of Mannah. With the car left there you can subsequently pick-up the other cars at the beginning of the walk.
 

To bring/do:

Leave early. Rain in the mountains usually starts at 12:00. Leaving from Muscat at around 7:00 in morning will get you to start the walk at about 9:30 hrs.. A fit group can do the walk in about two hours or even faster, but a slow 'family type' group will take four hours or longer.

Do not attempt this walk if there is the remotest chance of rain. People have been washed away and killed in the gorge and others have had some scary moments. Read the stories below

(An alternative route would involve abseilen and using the the steel wires that have now been fastened high up along and crossing the gorge. This needs professional support. The Oman Dive and Adventure Centre can help to organise and organise such expeditions (http://www.omandiving.com/land_activities.htm, DO NOT TRY THIS ON YOUR OWN )

When it does rain, storms are usually very intense.  Because there is hardly any vegetation or soil to trap the water, it runs off the bare rock very quickly into the wadis.  The velocity of the flow is very strong, which is why huge boulders can be swept along wadi beds. Within the narrow gorge you have no chance......

If you don't believe this story just have a look at this U-tube video shot in November 2006: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa4AV7YkKmU

Just to give you a warning read the following (Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland); 7/2/1996)

The shattered sister of Scots flood hero William Love was last night flying home. Student Sharon Love was jetting back from a summer job in Greece to comfort her widowed mum, Beth, and family. Brave William, 28, died on Friday in a desperate race to save his pals when a flash flood hit Snake Gorge in the Gulf State of Oman.  He and two other hikers were picked to run for help by friends who clung to steep rock walls as the torrent grew. But the three were swept to their deaths and five others also died. There were 18 survivors. William's mum was still too distressed to talk about the tragedy last night at her home in Roslea Drive, Dennistoun...

Or: The Mirror (London, England); 7/2/1996; Taylor, Richie

An Irish woman was among eight hikers who drowned in a flash flood in Oman, it emerged last night.  Geraldine Power died with four Britons and two American Air Force men when a wall of water swept through Snake Gorge in the Gulf state.  Police recovered another body yesterday. Reports claimed a Dutch woman was among the dead but these were incorrect, said a spokesman at the British Embassy in Muscat. Ireland's Foreign Affairs Department said it was still wait...

Or: Muscat Daily 7 April 2014:

Taking a weekend break in Oman's beautiful wadis is usually a great deal of fun but for 11 tourists from Dubai, the journey turned out to be an unforgettable nightmare.  Finally, as they came across rescue personnel after spending a night on a rock at the Snake Gorge in Wadi Bani Auf, one of them said it was as if 'we were born again'. Narrating the 18-hour ordeal, James Pugh, a Dubai-based UK national who was one of the 11 from various countries in the group, said, “It was a fine day on Friday when we set out to the Snake Gorge at around 2pm. But just after 40 minutes, it began to rain and that was the beginning of the ordeal. We could not go back as the wadi water had began to flow and that was when we found a small rock on which we gathered.” Pugh, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the rock was too small and that soon forced them to shift to a bigger one nearby – a daunting task. “Getting there was a bigger challenge as it was on a higher side but we made it after quite a struggle. But that was the right decision because if we had not moved to that rock, I wonder where we would be now.” By then, it was around 5.30pm and the rain had stopped. “As the water kept rising, we just sat there and waited. The only thing we could do was  comfort each other, talk to each other, give courage to each other. It soon became dark and we had to face the cold weather, too, as our clothes were wet. We didn't really have anything extra to wear since we had expected to be back after a few hours.” That night, Pugh said, was the longest ever for most of them. “We had one torch which we shared among ourselves to check the water levels. But luckily, the water didn't reach where we were. However, in the morning at around 5am, it began to rain again and we were so worried. Luckily, it was just for half an hour and the sun started to rise.” At 6am, the group decided to try to walk back through the overflowing wadi after they noticed that the water levels were not so high. “We began trekking back but it was difficult in that terrain, with the cave-like rock. Also, the water flow had pressure and that made it difficult too. But in the end we made it though. After two hours, we reached the mouth of the canyon where we found ROP personnel and citizens waiting for us and we felt like we were born again.” See Muscat Daily

Check for clouds on arrival. Abort and think about alternatives if there are. The walk is only some 3 km and most groups take about 4 hours (including stop for lunch): 10:00u - Start of walk 14:00u - Drivers drive back to start point to collect cars. Drive back to Muscat (estimated arrival time: 17:00). Better if you can make it before 12:00 out of the gorge.

Attached is the full story of Chris Marsden who was with one of the groups that got washed away on that fateful day in 1996. He has given this story not to scare but to make you aware of what can you wrong, A story that should not be forgotten. To use his own words: "It has been difficult to come to terms with exactly what happened that day, but by passing on some knowledge and experience to those of you wanting to explore Oman, hopefully it will in someway go towards helping me and the other people who survived, in coming to terms with the tragic events that happened on that day in July 1996. Get out there and enjoy the adventures that Oman has to offer, but please treat the environment with respect and with caution..."

Attached is a story (in Dutch) about a near-miss in July 2003. This particular group was lucky to get out as they did with rain all around but for them luckily not in the gorge. Een stukje touw door Apollo Kok


 

The start of the snake gorge trail. You will soon be in the shade and in the cold water. Once you jump in there is no return. Check the clouds before you do.

The gorge joins another one halfway coming from the right and another one (again from the right) near the end. Always follow the left branch, down slope. Check for shallow rocks before you jump into pools. The noise of a group normally keeps snakes away. A fast group could surprise snakes bathing in the sun, mostly near shallow water on rock-steps. Only jump if you know it is save. If you have never made the walk just assume it is not safe when in doubt.


Some places it is better to use a rope,
'the point of no return'

You definitely need to swim

and glide

more gliding, ducking your head away from the rocks

and swimming

and more sliding, check before you do whether it is safe (water depth)

you need floating bags (empty plastic water bottles are fine)


The narrow gorge can cause traffic queues
photograph courtesy of Arjan Tjalma September 2006
(joined trip Tjalma, Forbes, Rovira, Brandenburg)

 


even through a real cave

be prepared for junk floating in the cave, blocking your way, not for the claustrophobic if the water is high, not for small children if there is a lot of floating crap, nor for the feeble hearted with plenty of imagination of what may hide between the crap

think about all of the water that can rush through here

the end of the walk

 

 

A bit of a rest in Mannah,
warming up while the cars are being collected.

We have visited this gorge many times in 2006 and 2007. It keeps changing, sometimes with huge blocks gone. One realizes how violent it can be in there when water runs. Respect nature. Take care!!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa4AV7YkKmU

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@ J. Schreurs updated September 2006, 2007, 2008, April 2014