The crystal-clear waters provide one of the most picturesque swims in Oman, says Kate Ginn. Photos by Kate Osowska
Floating in emerald-tinted water with a clear blue sky and blazing sunshine overhead could be the backdrop of many locations in the Sultanate. The only clue that you are somewhere uniquely different is the towering limestone rockfaces looming above, casting shadows across your face.
Swimming in a geological phenomenon is quite something.
It’s no surprise that the sinkhole at Bimmah, a cavernous limestone bowl, is a popular tourist attraction that draws thousands of people who want to take a dip in such a spectacular setting.
What might be more of a surprise is that we’re featuring it on these pages. Our wandering adventurer and Y photographer, Jerzy Wierzbicki, usually prefers to visit locations that are off the beaten track.
But with Jerzy taking a well-deserved break from his travels, we decided to choose something a little easier to find, but nonetheless deserving of our attention.
Found off the Quriyat to Tiwi coastal highway on the way to Sur, the Bimmah sinkhole is considered one of the more beautiful of its kind, with crystal-clear waters carving a hole through the soft limestone.
These amazing creations are formed when groundwater travels through easily dissolved rock such as limestone, carbonates and salt beds. The water eats away at the rocks over time, leaving subterranean holes and caverns.
When the roof of one of these caverns collapses, the land above it falls in too, leaving giant holes. The one at Bimmah is 20 metres deep, a baby in size in comparison with others, some of which are reportedly as wide as 600m.
On arrival, you’ll see that, thankfully, the sinkhole has not succumbed to consumerism and been ruined. It remains a simple attraction with a small park area. What additions have been made – a wall and stairs into the hole – have, in our view, been done sympathetically. And it’s free to use. Take a lunch with you and you can picnic here.
What’s great about this place is that it’s easily accessible, so a great spot for families and day trippers from Muscat. Many combine the sinkhole with a trip to Wadi Shab – it’s a nice place to stop en route. It also breaks up the journey from Muscat to Turtle Beach Resort in Sur, being exactly the halfway point.
You can actually camp overnight – some visitors do – at a wonderful spot overlooking the ocean opposite the site.
To get to the limestone hollow, you have to descend 40 to 50 steps of a concrete stairway leading to the base of the hole. From there, you can walk straight into the vibrant turquoise waters. Above you is the dramatic, soaring rockface.
Muscat-based photographer Kate Osowska, who took these images, took the plunge. But not before she captured some wonderful pictures from the top, looking down into the sinkhole below.
In the shallows, you’ll be greeted by some of the small resident fish nibbling at your feet and toes, a weird but not unpleasant experience. The water is clear and, at deeper spots, refreshingly cool, a welcome relief when it is 40°C at the top.
Swim to the dark, deep waters and clamber on to rock ledges, from which you can jump back into the water – it’s deep enough. Or simply float on your back gazing up at the top and the sky, a great way to spend a few hours and marvel at one of nature’s amazing creations.
While the sinkhole might not be worth a trip on its own, it’s good to visit if you’re passing by or fancy combining it with a camp by the ocean – you’ll find your own little spot of coastal heaven, with empty beaches and soft sand providing an intimate spot to relax.
You won’t be disappointed, I promise you. It’s a memorable experience and unique part of Oman.
From Muscat, take the road to Sur and pass Quriyat, where you can stop if you wish. This quaint fishing village is well worth a look — there’s a fort, too — and a great spot to capture some scenic photographs.
Continue along highway 17 towards Sur and follow the signs to Hawiyat Najm Park. Once you’re close to the exit, there are signposts saying “Sinkhole”.
When you turn off the highway, turn left – don’t follow the direction to Bimmah or you’ll miss the sinkhole. It’s about one kilometre from the main highway.
There are basic toilets and changing rooms. The walk to the sinkhole is less than 100 metres from the parking area.
GPS location: 23° 2’9.81”N 4’19.07”E