Travel


The splendours of Al Hoota Cave


Pic by AFTAB H. KOLA

Al Hoota caves ensconced in a mountain in the vicinity of the Tanuf Valley in Al Hamra district at the foothills of Central Al Hajar mountains offers a fascinating insight into what lies beneath Oman's plateaus and ruggedly enchanting peaks.br/br/A stunning scenery beckons you just before you reach the place.

The cave has an extraordinary dimension and features an electrical train that starts from the visitor centre reaching the mouth of the tunnel arriving to the cave's main entrance.br/The 840-metre illuminated walkway with railings make ambling inside the cool cave easy. br/br/The cave, punctuated with dozens of intriguing ancillary chambers and offshoots, carves its way from north to south tapering through the flanks of a large mountain.

A total of 5kms passageway has been mapped.br/br/Tourists are awestruck to see the wonder of nature that surpasses human creativity.br/br/A profusion of splendid cave formations, technically known as speleothems, are seen throughout the length and breadth of the cave.

Speleothems (stalactites and stalagmites) are formedbr/when rainwater enters the cave after passing through plant debris and carbonate bedrock (limestone).br/br/Stalactites grow from the roof downward, whereas stalagmites grow from the floor upwards.

 From these formations it is possible to study past tropical storms and monsoons.br/br/The 120-metre short-span main chamber of the cave encompassing the size of the Al Bustan Palace Hotel's ballroom is amazing. There is the stalactite called lion stalactite and when you go near it roars!br/br/The punctures on the roof called 'krastic cavity' look like a work of art.

You will be dazed at the naturally formed columns and chambers.br/ The development inside has been done very carefully so as not to disturb the biodiversity.

Another outstanding feature of this amazing cave is the presence of a subterranean lake system which is home to unusual species of aquatic, the pink-coloured blind fish which sense their way around the lake with feelers.

A range of facilities is offered to the tourists. The visitor's centre includes a coffee shop, restaurant, gift shop, geological exhibition, recreational area for kids, etc.br/br/The management has issued certain guidelines to be followed.

Some are: Eating and drinking are not allowed inside the cave. Cameras and video cameras are not allowed inside the cave; please leave them at the ticketing booth. Al Hoota cave premises are environmentally-friendly.

Please refrain from smoking. The itinerary inside the cave is about 800m and will take you around 40 min of walk.br/ br/Ready reckonerbr/br/How to gobr/br/Travelling from Muscat take the Nizwa road, pass Nizwa, just before Bahla take Tanuf road; after Tanuf at the Al Maha Petrol Bunk turn right and then take left at second turning. The cave is signposted.br/

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