I was sitting next to one of the deep pools near the Moqal Cave not far from the source of the ever flowing spring water that feeds Wadi Bani Khalid. The fish, three different species I guessed, which live in abundance in theses pools, where swimming in and out of the shallows or feeding on the brown algae that covered the stones that sat just below the surface. I had read about this before I came, I’d just heard some other visitors talking about having done it – their friends sceptical of sharing the experience. I hesitated a moment longer but this was a long established tradition; it was likely that I would never return to this spot, it had to be done.
Having removed my socks I gently lower both feet into the fresh spring water. Briefly, but oh so briefly, the fish darted away from the disturbance. It was only a momentary response before I knew it I could feel the sensation of 30 to 40 small fish all attempting to remove the dry skin from my feet. Despite having prepared myself and even though the feeling was not unpleasant, the combination of unusual touch and the sight of black and brown fish swarming around my feet produced a knee-jerk reaction and my feet were hanging in the air. Steeling myself, I once again lowered each foot into the water, once again the fish darted away only to return and start to feed within an instance. This time I managed to keep my feet below the surface.
The pools near the source of the spring water that feed Wadi Bani Khalid also provides visitors with the opportunity to cool off with a swim and changing facilities are available. While I went off scrambling over the rocks with my camera, other members of the family dived into the pools. They reported the swim to have been both enjoyable and refreshing – and no the fish did not seek to clean their feet.
It’s a lovely area to visit and if, as we did, you arrive on a quiet day the walk from the car park is a short one and the area is quite tranquil. I understand that at weekends and particularly on public holidays the pools are so popular that the walk from the car would be significantly longer and the area bustles with people – especially those seeking to benefit from the services of the local feet cleaning denizens.
The cafe serves reasonable local dishes or a burger options but the steps up and the building itself were I felt a bit of a disappointment in such a beautiful setting, especially when efforts have been made enhance the areas attractiveness. Also be careful crossing the metal bridge which spans the small gap between the two nearby pools, one of the rails is coming loose.
For me the only disappointment on our visit to the area was the litter that could be found here and there amongst the rocks. It wasn’t excessive but it was still disappointing to see in such a lovely spot. My impression was that the cause was a mix of the tourists and locals (one of the villages on top of the cliff near the car park definitely has a problem with rubbish spilling over onto the side of the cliff). I mention these things as it’s been my experience here in Oman that a great deal of effort is made on maintaining public spaces.
However, the Wadi Bani Khalid gets a strong recommendation from me to all travelers visiting northern Oman. It’s not just the spring waters and the fish that makes the journey worthwhile; it’s also the journey to the Wadi from Muscat. Your road trip takes you through mountains dotted with Wadi’s which will first draw your attention. But gradually you begin to notice how the mountain landscape continually changes. It’s a journey in which you discover just how many different colours mountains and rocks come in from black and brown, through green, grey and blues, onward to white, red and yellows. The view changes continually, sometime it seems as barren as the moon, suddenly the rocks are dotted with clumps of green, within another kilometre small trees and more shrubs fight to cover the landscape.
Rather than taking the same route back from Wadi Bani Khalid its worth taking the road through the mountains to the coastal town of Sur and then follow the road along the coast back to Muscat.
A few more images of Wadi Bani Khalid: