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Wadi Tiwi: what you really need to know

Wadi Tiwi: what you really need to know

Wadi Tiwi has been described as one of Oman’s most challenging but stunning canyons to explore. It is popular but you should go knowing what to expect, especially if you’re thinking about visiting with children. In this post I’m sharing our experience of reaching Wadi Tiwi’s turquoise pools and waterfall with our two kids, aged under 10, and our dog.

*This post contains affiliate links*

Our visit to Wadi Tiwi in Oman

Me in Wadi Tiwi canyon just before the pools where we swam. Behind me is a rocky canyon with plenty of trees and greenery growing

I’m going to start by sharing an embarrassing confession about our visit to Wadi Tiwi. 

We had decided to try Tiwi’s pools and waterfall rather than its more famous neighbour Wadi Shab because we thought it might be a bit easier. There’s a made up road all the way into the wadi, which made it sound easy to access.

Had we done more research we might have attempted Wadi Shab, with its boat crossing and canyon trek, first. 

Wadi Tiwi turned out to be quite an adventure. And we’d totally recommend it. It’s such a thrill to swim in the clear, crisp water in the shade of the canyon walls. Even if there were a few hairy moments getting there.

We’ve since visited Wadi Shab and loved it. There’s more of a hike and you need to be prepared for challenging swim to make the most of the experience.

Read more about visiting Oman with kids in my comprehensive travel guide for families.

About Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Tiwi is a 36km canyon that stretches out to the Gulf of Oman. It’s peppered with green plantations that break up the rocky landscape and towering cliffs.

Dotted along the cement road through the wadi are narrow villages, either nestled beside the water or clinging to the cliff side.

There are some extremely picturesque spots all along the wadi and quite a few places to pull over and admire the view. But the main attractions for visitors – its pools and waterfall – are accessible from Mabim Village.

How to get to Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Tiwi is well signposted off Oman’s Route 17, 180km/two hours south of Muscat and 54km/an hour north of Sur. 

We drove from Muscat, travelling through the southern end of the Al Hajar Mountains toward the sea where the road joins the coast at Quriyat. Here we took a detour off Route 17 to the beach by Flamingo Lake for our packed breakfast.

Quiryat beach: Mitsubishi  Pagero 4x4 parked on sandy beach with mountains in the background on a sunny day. Children wave from the roof and boot of the car
The kids enjoyed their breakfast at the beach more than the flamingo spotting

We didn’t see as many flamingos as we’d hoped – there were a few – but there was a good sized flock of herons and other wading birds.

Flamingo Lake at Quiryat in Oman: a shallow green lake with wading birds in the distance. Beyond there lake there is vegetation before the mountains that rise up towards as clear blue sky
Flamingo Lake at Quriyat

Quriyat itself is a good place to stock up on food and drinks with plenty of road-side shops, a mall and souk.

Back on the road to Tiwi the views of the sea between the cliffs became more frequent. We passed the beaches at Dibab and the Bimmah Sinkhole – another good place for a pit stop. There are lots of popular beaches for wild camping just off Route 17 including Fin Beach and White Sand Beach.

Just before you reach the turn off for Wadi Tiwi you’ll cross over the Wadi Shab viaduct. 

The turning for Wadi Tiwi is just after the next viaduct. The road loops back down under this. The views of the beach at Tiwi are beautiful. We were very tempted to stop and have promised our girls we’ll go back another time.

You could include a visit to Wadi Tiwi as part of a road trip. Read our 7-10 day Oman itinerary.

Facilities at Wadi Tiwi

We’d recommend stopping at the car park under the viaduct before you drive into the wadi itself.

This is where you’ll find the last public toilets, which are a handy place to change into swim suits to wear under your hiking gear.

Sand coloured public toilet building in the shade of the Wadi Tiwi viaduct
This is your last chance to have a wee and change before driving into Wadi Tiwi

There’s squat and Western style toilets here, and there were face tissues by the sink (although I always bring a stash of my own).

Here’s the red pin shows the location of the toilets at the entrance to the wadi:

The drive into Wadi Tiwi

From here there is one road in and out of the wadi and that starts under the viaduct. It’s a further 10km to the wadi parking place at Mabim Village. 

Cars parked under the wadi Tiwi viaduct which towers above them

The road is cement and becomes single track the further you go. There are passing places but expect steep parts and sheer drops. Having a 4×4 helps for the later sections.

Picture taken through car windscreen of cement road flanked by the the walls of the canyon. There's vegetation low in the canyon but the above cliffs are rocky
The road starts flat and level but you soon find yourselves winding through villages and up into the canyon.
View down the Wadi Tiwi canyon towards a cluster of houses and plantations below. The wadi road winds up the cliffs
This is a view back down the canyon after we’d been driving for about 10 minutes. You can see how narrow the road gets.
A clear rock pool of turquoise water with lush greenery around its edge and canyon cliffs in the background
Drive a bit further and there are a few small wadi pools where you could stop for a dip. We decided to head to the parking place marked on Google.

By the way, if you see photos similar to the one above on web pages talking about Wadi Shab, this is not Wadi Shab. It’s most definitely a view on the road into Wadi Tiwi. We took this picture.

It took us about 20 minutes to drive both to and from Mabim Village. We didn’t pass many people on the road. It would have taken longer if we had been going against the traffic because of the many single track sections. But that’s the benefit of arriving earlier in the day.

I’d not want to try navigating the later sections of this road at night! You are in the middle of nowhere so there are no street lights.

Parking for Wadi Tiwi

The Wadi Tiwi parking place at Mabim Village is well marked on Google maps and there is a mobile signal on the road so you can keep track of where you are.

The red pin is what to aim for:

There is another parking spot 7km from the viaduct. You can hike from here to Mabim. This is not for the faint hearted as the route is very exposed.

We decided not to opt for this as we had the kids and dog (always a good excuse) and headed straight for Mabim Village 10km into the wadi.

Mabim Village and local guides

Once we had driven into the village we were soon being waved at by a guy insisting we go up a side road to park. Waze was telling us we had not yet reached the parking area so we decided to continue. 

The parking place was just a few more meters around the corner. We took the last spot – probably why the guy had been discouraging us from going further. There are only about 10 parking spaces.

I had become a bit weary about arriving in Mabim as on the drive to Wadi Tiwi I’d come across a couple’s blog post about a potential scam here – not great reading when we were already committed to our destination. 

You can read the long version here. But in summary…

The couple had arrived late in the day after a horrendous drive into the wadi against all the departing visitors. 

When they reached Mabim – already flustered – a local guide offered to take them down to the wadi pools and waterfall through the plantation. Soon after they started the descent with him they felt uneasy and suspected something bad might happen.

They decided to turn back and later wrote about it on their blog, giving a very negative impression of Wadi Tiwi. This did not reflect our experience so I wanted to share this.

What we experienced

When we parked we were also approached by villagers who offered to take us to the wadi pools.

The route isn’t sign posted through the plantation.

There are lots of villagers at the parking place ready to meet tourists – and others who just want to have a good look at you.

They do offer to hold your things on the climb down – you need both hands free.

But I am confident there is no scam here. 

The villagers act as guides for tourists to make some extra money. The ones we met were friendly and honest, and their knowledge of the terrain is excellent.

How they navigate it in bare feet or flip flops I’ll never know! We also wouldn’t have had as full an experience without our guides.

Here’s our experience of visiting Wadi Tiwi from the parking area at Mabim with lots of non-sugar coated information for other families interested in seeing this extraordinary place for themselves.

The climb down to Wadi Tiwi pools

We’d not have found or braved the route to the pools below Mabim without our guides, Ali and Alem.

They approached us when we arrived and asked if we wanted to go down to the wadi. We said ‘yes’, obviously, and away we went. 

Our mistake here was that we didn’t ask how much they charged.

We’d not been in Oman long and hadn’t yet used a guide we’d informally met at a destination. If you find yourselves in a similar situation you might want to ask the price in advance, just so there’s no awkwardness when you part ways.

From the parking space we followed them through what looked like a garden entrance beside a house and then down through irrigation channels where they pointed out banana, lemon and mango trees.

Our seven-year-old following one of our guides down steps into the plantation with vegetation all around
Our descent started tamely.

After a few minutes the walk became a climb with chains attached to rock faces with uneven and slippy surfaces. 

My Tin Box and out seven-year-old hold a chain drilled into a rock face as they climb down

This is when I became a little worried about whether we’d make it down with the kids and dog. It was a challenge.

Mr Tin Box carrying our Labrador Retriever down a wall of rocks
We had to carry Tin Box Dog for the parts she couldn’t scramble up and down.

Had the children not been able to walk on their own we’d not have gone any further.

We were all relieved and elated when we finally saw the bottom of the canyon emerging from between the trees.

Claire, Mr Tin Box, their seven-year-old and their dog pose for a picture in front of the canyon. The Wadi Tiwi pool they are heading for is visible on the right
Nearly there! The wadi pools await.

As we approached the water at the bottom Tin Box Dog slipped off a rock and plunged several meters down into the wadi pool below. My heart was in my mouth but I was trying not to show the girls I was panicking.

Dog was fine. Mr Tin Box quickly stripped off and scrambled down to guide her to a point at which she could be hauled out of the water.

When we reached the bottom by the proper route, which involved yet another chain along a sloping rock, we were rewarded with views down the canyon and of the first in a series of turquoise pools leading to the waterfall under Mabim village.

Clear turquoise water of Wadi Tiwi with rocky canyon walls rising on either side
This was the first pool for a swim. We waded through this to the right to reach the others.

Our guides sat out of sight while the girls and I changed – we really should have done this back at the toilets under the viaduct. They then looked after our ruck sack while we explored up stream. 

We let Tin Box Dog off her lead but quickly had to put her back on.

She’s never been a fan of being in water with us. She’s a great swimmer but I don’t think she believes humans are. She either tries to rescue us or runs off, not able to bear to watch us.

This time the latter happened while we were climbing up to the second pool.

This is when Alem came to the rescue, holding Dog’s lead and bringing her with us. He’d taken a bit of a shine to our four-legged family member.

While we waded clumsily through the wadi Alem seemed to float along a tiny ledge beside us until it ran out.

This is where he sat with Dog while Mr Tin Box and I took turns to swim to the opening of the third pool.

The second pool had became very deep after about 10 meters. The girls stopped here because we’d not bought any floatation devices for them.

A beautiful view of the wadi pool with lush green canyon walls covered in palms on either side
The view up river at the second pool at Wadi Tiwi
A beautiful view of the wadi pool with lush green canyon walls covered in palms on either side. Mr Tin Box is a small spec floating in the water
The view back down the second pool from the entrance to the third – can you spot Mr Tin Box waiting for his turn?
Water rushes down from the third wadi pool. The canyon continues toward Mabim village and the waterfall further up the wadi
This the third pool and as far as we got towards the waterfall under Mabim village through the water. There is however a dryer way to reach the waterfall…
Our 10-year-old sits on a ledge beside the wadi pool while Mr Tin Box swims to the third pool
Ten-year-old Tot was happy to wait in a shallow part of the second pool when the water got deeper

Our 10-year-old was a good swimmer, but was nervous about what might be lurking below, and our seven-year-old was not yet confident enough to make the swim to pool three.

It was a shame we couldn’t reach the waterfall through the wadi. We met other people coming back who had. If the girls had been a bit older and we’d not had the dog with us we would have attempted it.

However, we still felt like we did the pools justice. And there was another way to see the waterfall.

The Mabim waterfall

We climbed back out of the wadi the way we came; chains and all.

Before the top our guides took us left through the plantation and along more irrigation channels until we reached a set of steps down to the waterfall. 

We could have paused at the waterfall for another swim as our guides were happy to wait for us again. But we were all pretty tired by this point, so we asked Ali to take a quick picture and then started the climb all the way back up the steps to the village. 

Our family stood in front of the Mabim Waterfall in Wadi Tiwi.
A view down the yellow canyon walls through trees. There are wisps of cloud in the blu sky
From the waterfall steps there’s even more views of the wadi. If you just did this section you’d not be disappointed

If you come to Mabim Village and just want to see and swim at the waterfall you can get to it by walking straight through the parking area.

A road narrow stretching off through Mabim village with trucks parked at the side
Here’s the road to the waterfall steps from the parking place. You can see why the villagers don’t really want visitors driving down it.

Continue walking for 200m and take a left down the white steps. These are cement and fairly even, so it’s an easier route than the climb to the pools. But there are lots of them!

It would also be possible to do a circular route from here, climbing down the wadi and back out the way we had come in. There were a number official guided tours kitted out with climbing helmets and buoyancy aids doing exactly that.

I wouldn’t attempt it with smaller children unless similarly kitted out. This is why the village guides take you to the bottom pool first – they don’t want you to get stuck without knowing the way out.

In total we spent two hours with our guides and paid them 5 OMR (just over £10). We have no idea what the going rate is but they didn’t look disappointed. On reflection Mr Tin Box thought he should have given them more.

We had a tiring but incredible day and can highly recommend visiting Wadi Tiwi. I hope this post gives you an idea of what to expect so you can tailor your trip to your group.

If you’d like to follow our other adventures in Oman I’m sharing them in real time on Instagram using #TinBoxOman. You can also follow @tinboxtraveller to see all of our travels and tips.

Tips for visiting Wadi Tiwi and Mabim Village

Here’s some more final tips to help you plan:

  • Make sure you stop at the public toilets under the viaduct to change into your swimming gear before driving into the wadi.
  • You are visiting a more rural part of Oman so dress respectfully by covering shoulders and knees while in the village.
  • Rash vests and shorts are a good idea for swimming in.
  • Wear sturdy sandals that can get wet. You will need them in the water as well as for the walk/climb. We have KEEN sandals.
  • The road is very steep and narrow in places so a 4×4 vehicle is best for visiting Wadi Tiwi and many other wadis.
  • Unless you are a confident driver consider booking a guided tour with a driver. Mr Tin Box was loving it but some people might find the switch backs, blind hill crests and steep drops disconcerting.
  • We arrived at 11am on a Saturday and there was only one parking space left. To guarantee yourselves a parking spot arrive early.
  • If you don’t want to pay a local guide to see the wadi pools simply politely decline and walk out the other side of the parking place. You’ll see the steps for the waterfall on your left after a couple of minutes walking.
  • As with much of Oman the location is remote and difficult to access. You should consider airing on the side of caution or mitigating risk with things like buoyancy aids. Don’t just press on as ‘others have made it’ and turn back if you are not certain your group is capable.

Things to bring with you

Here are the essential items to take to Wadi Tiwi, including some we wish we’d packed:

  • Plenty of water – it was hot work even in January. We got very thirsty climbing the waterfall steps.
  • A dry bag for your valuables and phone. One with a strap* is a good idea.
  • A microfibre towel*.
  • Water shoes* to change into if you wear hiking shoes.
  • Buoyancy aids for kids not confident in deep water. We’ve used a few over there years for paddle boarding with our kids.
  • Lunch as we didn’t spot anywhere to buy food.
  • A first aid kit.

Try to pack light for the climb down to the pools as it is hard to do with heavy bags (and dogs).

Accommodation near Wadi Tiwi

We visited from where we live in Muscat but if you are holiday or an Oman road trip there are a few options for places to stay near Wadi Tiwi.

Tiwi Sunrise – family rooms

You can see the entrance to the Wadi Tiwi valley from this hotel so it’s the ideal base from which to start the drive or a very long hike in.

It only has double rooms but you can request extra beds for children. These are free for children aged 12 and under but are subject to availability.

Tiwi Sunrise has a restaurant, swimming pool and is located on the beach.

Check availability at Tiwi Sunrise*.

Tiwi Beach Villa – a private villa

If you are travelling with a large group this beach front villa sleeps up to 10 people in three bedrooms with a shared bathroom.

It has its own private beach and swimming pool.

Check availability at Tiwi Beach Villa*.

Wadi Shab Guest House – family-friendly

This Omani-style villa accommodation is 6km from the entrance to Wadi Tiwi.

It only offers double and twin rooms so if you are travelling with children you will have to book two rooms as they do not offer extra beds. However, it gets great reviews, has a swimming pool and is right on the beach.

Check availability at Wadi Shab Guest House*.

Wadi Ashab Chalets – adults only

This sea front guest house with private rooms and shared lounge is an eight minute drive from the start of the Wadi Tiwi valley and a five minute walk from the ferry a Wadi Shab.

This is an adults only guest house but does offer rooms for up to five people.

Check availability at Wadi Ashab Chalets*.

Here are some other accommodation options:

Wild camping near Wadi Tiwi

Another option is to camp. Wild camping is very easy in Oman as you can do it anywhere out of sight of houses and a safe distance from roads.

You will however need a 4×4 to access most wild camping places in Oman.

Popular camping places near Wadi Tiwi are Pebble Beach and Fins Beach. You’ll find both just to the north of Tiwi.

The valley of Wadi Tiwi itself is not a good spot to try wild camping as there are lots of villages and you are on a road.

More reading about Oman

We moved to Oman in 2022 and are loving getting to know our new, home.

Here’s some more posts I’ve written about Oman and expat life:

Read more about visiting Oman with kids in my comprehensive travel guide for families.

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