Shaquel al Balushi heads into the unknown, to a stunning wadi where he finds crystal-clear waters and a pristine landscape.
I have to say that I’d never heard of Ain Al Zam until recently spotting a beautiful picture of it on Instagram – the water was incredibly blue and the rocky landscape looked like a great challenge for my Destination feature this week.
So I rounded up my buddy Imran, who was also keen to explore Ain Al Zam, to join me for the trip and we set off at 6am from Al Khoud.
Of course, we underestimated the amount of time our journey would take. Thinking it would only take about 90 minutes, we ended up driving for nearly four hours, along with asking people directions on the way, before we reached Ain Al Zam. But that was mostly because we took the longer route to get there.
Not long before we reached our destination, we found a wadi that I think was part of the Sumut Natural Park, and about a kilometre from Ain Al Zam. The wadi was very calm and the water was like a mirror, reflecting in sharp detail its surroundings, such as the sky and rocky outcrops. Birds were singing quite loudly but they seemed to be hiding as we couldn’t spot them anywhere.
After a little exploring, we headed back on the road and finally discovered a sign for Ain Al Zam, which was just half a kilometre away. As it was the first time we had been here, deciding to turn left or right became our topic of discussion. As usual, I wanted to head right while Imran wanted to go left. I gave Imran his way and of course we met a village woman who told us to turn back and take the left turn. Victory again!
We continued on in Imran’s Pajero and noticed that the scenery was beginning to change. It was becoming greener and then suddenly, we came upon a small waterway that was surrounded by many date palm trees. It was a beautiful sight and also happens to be my most favourite photograph of this trip. We drove on for another 30 minutes or so until we could go no farther, then set out on foot.
We didn’t notice a pathway to follow so set off into the date palms and long grass. Soon, it began to feel as though we were in the middle of a jungle and couldn’t get our bearings. But after coming to a small hill, we climbed it and found that we were close to a small village. And it was clear that we were surrounded by farmland but we still couldn’t see the source of the water at Ain Al Zam, such as the picture I saw on Instagram.
We were determined not to give up and headed for the village, where we were hoping to ask for directions. Thankfully, we found somebody to help us and it seems there was a much easier path to take rather than our “jungle” trek. We headed back to the SUV and finally took off in the direction of the wadi, which we found.
But be warned – the rocky walls going in are not very wide and the Pajero just barely fitted.
And also be careful of the frogs! There were hundreds of them everywhere, which means you have to be careful where you walk.
We didn’t reach the main water source but what we saw was amazing and we both agreed that the whole experience and the struggle to find it were worth it.
Ain Al Zam is what I would call the full package – it suits many different people. It is quiet, the water is crystal-clear and the reflections are like mirrors. It’s a wonderful place to chill out and the running water is almost musical. For anybody looking to have a calm day and a nice walk and picnic with their family, this is a perfect spot.
Deeper into the wadi, the pools become deeper, allowing visitors to swim and have barbecues. Go farther and you will find more vegetation and some great hiking trails. But keep in mind that it’s a long way to drive. What also impressed me was the fact that Ain Al Zam is one of the most pristine places I have visited on my travels around Oman – and yes, that means that there was barely any rubbish left behind by visitors, which is very positive and I hope it remains this way.
There are two directions to Ain al Zam. We took route 23 from Rustaq and continued through to Bidbid. From Bidbid, look out for a new bridge that is being built and take the left turn here to route 25. Continue on for another 30 minutes or so and look out for the signs to Ain Al Zam.
GPS coordinates: N22°58’12.0”; E58°33’47.3”