Feeling adventurous? If you are planning an expedition to Oman and want to insure excitement, definitely plan on tackling Snake Gorge. Please do not worry about serpents, as the pathway garners its name solely from the twisty descent. .However, this is a one-way hike requiring several serious jumps from cliffs (the highest being ten meters!) into water pools below, with no way to return. Better yet, you also swim through a cave!
Do not attempt the hike without a guide. Rookies have no idea where it is safe to plunge, and you need expert awareness of local weather. You might gather from the photos how narrow this chasm is, and downpours seriously convert things into a death trap of rapidly rushing water, which also changes the game. One of the first things our guide, Naseeb, informed us about was how a flash flood the previous week had altered the descent.
Probably the scariest part for me was simply getting to the trailhead, as our driver wildly careened up a tortuous dirt track. Another reason for hiring a guide is to sidestep the need for two vehicles, since you need to have one at the top of the trail and one at the bottom (I think you would need to walk about seven miles, uphill, to retrieve your car if you forfeit transportation at the trail’s end).
Once the footfalls began, it was fairly easy-going, for about five minutes. Then the descent begins, but it was merely rocky and required nothing beyond careful foot placement. Just twenty minutes further, however, the excitement began. Now we were faced with rock climbing down waterfalls, relying on Naseeb to point out optimal pathways. Although we never required the ropes Naseeb was carrying, it was a comfort knowing that option was available.
Then the leaps of faith began. Again, having Naseeb to reinforce water depths were sufficient to prevent bodily damage was essential. As much as I hate to be “narrow” minded, the towering walls of Snake Gorge severely limit sunshine and each plunge proved bone-chilling. I was shivering badly after an hour and grateful Naseeb taught us a nifty survival lesson. The sun does peer down into the Snake’s depths for brief intervals each day and warms boulders along the shore. Naseeb would literally sprawl his body atop a hefty rock and suck out the heat. As many of these were egg-shaped, it struck me as perverse inverse incubation, but a welcome lesson!
About two hours in we were at the mouth of the cave we had to swim through. As previously mentioned, there had been a recent rainstorm and we were apparently the first visitors since the downpour, as the mouth of the cave was clogged with a logjam including plastic bottles and trash. Everyone paused, reluctant to breach the coagulated mess. My buddy John eventually spoke up, reminding Naseeb he was the guide, and our chagrined leader waded in.
I followed and the two of us performed as aqua-dozers, forcing the crap through the cave. Although the cave is not terribly long (twenty meters?), the effort required us both to pause once and clutch onto the walls and offer relief to aching muscles. The mass finally broke up and it was easy going after that, but what a test.
There was nothing but jubilation after exiting the cave. We still had a half-hour walk to Naseeb’s jeep at the bottom, but it was all level and stunningly beautiful in the afternoon sun. Better yet, it afforded the first opportunity to trade impressions of our arduous trek. That has never ended because trekking Snake Gorge is an unforgettable experience!