Swimming in a Sinkhole

A beautiful desert sinkhole filled with warm, clear water and fish that nibble your feet. Why go to an expensive spa when you can swim in Bimmah Sinkhole?

Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman

On my recent visit to Oman I was lucky enough to have a friend take me out for the day to explore some of the desert near Muscat. After starting our day at Muscat’s fish market we hightailed it out of the city (or would have done if it hadn’t have been rush hour) and headed first of all to the Bimmah Sinkhole.

Despite the traffic we were still there early enough to avoid both the crowds and the heat.

Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
Layers of limestone and a turquoise pool

The Bimmah Sinkhole is located in Hawaiyat Najm Park about an hour’s drive from Muscat just off the road to Sur. The park is a landscaped area with palm trees, picnic tables and toilets and gets very popular with locals during the weekend and with tourists at pretty much anytime.

There were a few people already there, but they left as we arrived and we had the sinkhole to ourselves for quite a while. By the time more people began arriving we were ready to leave anyway. I think we got really lucky with our timing as it’s apparently very unusual to have it to yourself.

Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
No tourists!

The sinkhole was formed when the roof of a limestone cave collapsed though local legend has it that it was formed by a meteorite. In fact the name of the park, Hawaiyat Najm, translates as ‘Meteor Fall’.

The Daily Mail has claimed the Bimmah Sinkhole to be the world’s most stunning. I don’t usually take anything the Daily Mail says particularly seriously, but in this case I think it might be right.

Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
There isn’t anywhere to keep your stuff so just take what you need. We had swimsuits on under our clothes and carried a big towel each along with some water and a camera. Everything else we left in the car.

We started by walking round the edge of the sinkhole and peering into its depths. The turquoise water reflected the steep rocky sides and made the whole image blur and shimmer.

A set of steps on the far side leads the 20 metres down to the bottom which is filled with water.

Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
Steps lead down to the sinkhole. They’re steeper than they look.

The water is thought to come through an underground tunnel from the sea over half a kilometre away. It did taste slightly salty when I put a bit on my tongue.

We made our way down the steps and undressed at the bottom. I always wear a t-shirt over my swimsuit as I burn easily, but some of the women who arrived later wore bikinis. As there were only tourists and the odd tour guide present this wasn’t a problem, but I wondered if foreign women might be expected to cover up more at the weekend when Omanis would be visiting too.

Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
I was lucky enough to get the pool to myself. Apparently this is unusual.

The water was a lovely temperature and I got straight in. As the rocky bottom hurt my feet I had to wear flip flops which stopped me from swimming properly. Next time I come to Oman I’m definitely bringing water shoes.

Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
Spot the rope. People use this to pull themselves up onto the ledge so they can jump back in.

If you have less delicate feet than me and can brave the rocks long enough to get far enough out to swim properly you can make your way to the far side where part way up the cliff face is a rope. People use the rope to climb up onto a ledge from which they can jump back in. It’s not advisable to jump from the top as the water isn’t deep enough. Though this Nike advert seems to show otherwise. (Bimmah Sinkhole is in a couple of clips towards the end and shows the guy jumping from just below the top and well above the ledge.)

Even if you don’t want to swim it’s worth sitting on a rock and dipping your feet into the water.

Why?

Because of the fish.

The pool is full of small fish (and a few larger ones) that nibble your feet. Just like in those fish spas that charge at least a tenner for a 15 minute slot. My feet are really ticklish and I’ve tried a fish spa before so I didn’t really want the fish nibbling my toes. At first they seemed to leave me alone, but this was probably because I had sunscreen on. The longer I stayed in the water, the more the sunscreen washed off and the tastier my feet became to the fish. It actually wasn’t as bad as the spa, but they still made me jump a bit.

Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
Tiny feet-eating fish (there are a few larger ones too, but they escaped the camera)

Once we felt the fish had eaten enough we clambered back up the steps and with our big towels covering us, made our way to the toilets near the car park where we were able to dry off and get changed.

Do you like swimming in unusual places? What’s the strangest place you’ve ever been for a swim? Share you thoughts in the comments below.

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Swimming in a Sinkhole - Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman

Further reading:

Wadi Shab – A Spectacular Gorge Walk in Oman
A Night at the Royal Opera House, Muscat
Muscat Fish Market – A Photo Essay
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Author: Anne

Join me in my journey to live a life less boring, one challenge at a time. Author of the forthcoming book 'Walking the Kungsleden: One Woman's Solo Wander Through the Swedish Arctic'.

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