We had seen dreamy pictures from Wadi Tiwi in Oman online and we couldn’t wait to visit. Unfortunately, our excitement eventually turned into a sinking feeling and we feel we narrowly escaped a potential scam. We didn’t want to talk publically about our experience and just told our close family, but really feel that we want to share our story with others planning a trip to Wadi Tiwi in the event this has happened before.
Let me start off by saying that Oman was easily the safest country we have traveled to. We NEVER felt unsafe [other than this one example] and we NEVER felt like we had to protect or hold our bags close like we do in many European countries and cities including Paris, Rome, London, NYC and more. Oman was incredibly safe and it was soooo enjoyable traveling in a country where people aren’t trying to scam you or pickpocket you at every turn. You could rest with ease and explore at will and everyone was nothing but kind and helpful. This story does NOT reflect our experience in Oman as a whole but we still feel it needs to be said.
We aren’t saying that this was 100% a scam at Wadi Tiwi. We will NEVER know for sure. But it sure FELT LIKE we had narrowly missed some sort of dire fate. We are simply going to state the facts and let you decide for yourself based on them what YOU think it was. We also want to share our story so that others planning a trip to Wadi Tiwi know what to look out for and what NOT to do!
Even us “seasoned travelers” make mistakes when tired, frustrated or annoyed. If it wasn’t for Terrence’s quick thinking there is NO WAY to know what could have happened.
How We Narrowly Avoided A Potential Wadi Tiwi Scam
When we decided to visit Wadi Tiwi, we did extensive research online. We read MANY other blog posts, checked out photos and guides, and searched around to find all the information necessary. The day before we had visited other nearby Wadis including Wadi Shab. We knew exactly which “views” we wanted to see at Wadi Tiwi including a popular one [shown in the photo above] and a waterfall.
During my time reading up on visiting Wadi Tiwi, I discovered that in order to get deep into the Wadi [another word for gorge], you would have to drive into the canyon and pass about 5-7 villages. Okay, so this didn’t sound too hard!
The day before, we had visited Wadi Shab and we had talked with a local man about visiting Wadi Tiwi. He said that you will drive into the Wadi and pass many villages before you arrive and maybe local children will offer to guide you down into the Wadi pools but you can tell them no if you want to go on your own. Okay, sounded easy enough, right?
The night before, I looked at all the blog posts about Wadi Tiwi one last time. They all pretty much said you drive into the Wadi [gorge] until you come across “the things.” When we visited Wadi Shab and Wadi Al Abreen everything was straightforward and there was a definite parking area. This was not the case for Wadi Tiwi.
When we went to Wadi Tiwi, we began our drive in from the road. Everything started alright but then we got to the first village. The roads narrowed extremely small [totally fine as the villages are built on a cliff slide]. We began our drive at about 3pm and the sun was scheduled to set at about 6:15pm. Since we had to drive and not walk, our plan was to drive into Wadi Tiwi, snap a few photos of the pools as the sun was a little less harsh, and then leave. There was no 45-minute hike to arrive at the Wadi pools like there was for other nearby Wadis so we were set.
At this time in the day, many other tourists were leaving Wadi Tiwi just as we were coming in. The roads were extremely steep and narrow [not an issue for us] but other tourists did NOT know the proper protocol and rules for passing on a steep and narrow one-lane road. Any time we passed a local or a local guide driving the opposite way, everything went smoothly. Any time we passed a tourist leaving Wadi Tiwi it was a huge ordeal and they wouldn’t pull out of the road and just didn’t understand appropriate passing rules. Each tourist we passed added at least 5 minutes to our journey.
There were no signs or landmarks and we didn’t see any tourists anywhere. We assumed there would be a signed parking lot or something of that nature as there had been at other Wadis, even the more remote ones. We wound through the valley floor of the Wadi and then up and down through cliffside villages.
It took us 45 minutes to get into the Wadi. At this point, I had been driving and was extremely frustrated that we had yet to find “the spot” as the sun was going down and we had been in the car so long fighting with inexperienced tourists on the roads.
We saw a sign for a parking lot for a hike that connected Wadi Tiwi to Wadi Bani Khalid on the other side of the mountains. Since we didn’t want to do this hike, we stopped and asked a local man if this was the place to stop and see the waterfall at Wadi Tiwi and the view we wanted to see [shown above in this article]. He said no and told us to continue down the road for another 10-15 minutes and a few miles.
We head down the road further and after 10 minutes we don’t see anything. I stop again and ask another local teenager if this was the proper place for the waterfall and the Mibam Village [our end goal]. He said no and told us we still needed to go a few minutes up the road. He asked if he could get in our car and take us and we declined. He put his head and hands in the window and insisted and we declined as we didn’t have any cash for payment on us.
In Oman, guides are a HUGE industry. Guides help people find their way and take them to all of the sights. This boy was just trying to be a guide and make some extra cash but again we were frustrated and annoyed so we declined and left.
About a half-mile, after we left the boy we came across another village. As soon as I turned into the village a man jumped out of nowhere and started waving his hands like mad in the middle of the road. I rolled down my window and he asked “are you looking for the Wadi Tiwi?!” and I was like YES!!!!! After driving for 45 minutes and dealing with poor drivers and being confused we had FOUND IT! The guy immediately flagged me to park on the side of the road and pointed down a very steep hill and said the Waidi Tiwi tourist area was down there.
I asked him if this is where the waterfall was and he said yes. I wanted to confirm that this was it so I asked him if there was anywhere else to go. He said NO that the road ended and this was it. I could clearly see from my GPS that the road did NOT end in that village but I figured maybe he had misunderstood and that there were only more villages that way but no pools or waterfalls. I pulled over to park and was just annoyed and done and ready to see Wadi Tiwi pools and leave.
IMMEDIATELY Terrence felt a sense of dread. He said he had a bad feeling about this whole thing. I told him it would be fine and that “guide culture” is big in Oman and this guy probably just wanted to be our guide down to the Wadi. Terrence knew Wadi Tiwi is a big tourist attraction and said how could this POSSIBLY be the spot? It was literally just enough space for two cars to barely park on the side of a narrow road in a random village in front of a random house. He said there was no way this was it.
I asked him if he REALLY felt that bad we could just leave. He said it was up to me and ultimately he didn’t say a hard no and we decided to go. But first, we did something we had not done our entire time in Oman. We packed up every single item of value in that car to take with us. During the entire time in Oman, we had left camera gear, clothes, personal items, batteries etc in the car and never felt unsafe.
Terrence and I never spoke to each other, but quietly packed up every single item of value. That being said, I accidentally left my Olympus Camera and my drive on the floor in the back seat. While we were packing up our bags of clothes and swimsuits etc. the man was standing right outside.
Another man came and sat on a wall right outside our car and watched us the whole time. Terrence was very uncomfortable but I assumed this guy was living in a small town village and some tourists came and he just wanted to see the action. There is no way to know who was right and we aren’t saying the guy had bad intentions in any way at all. These are just the facts. As we were packing up a guy sat on a wall and watched.
While we were finishing packing up, a group of women and children were walking down the street towards us. The man who jumped out in the middle of the road and was our new “guide” shooed them away hurriedly. They had a weird look on their faces but turned around and left as the man scolded them in Arabic and told them to leave us.
We asked the man where the waterfall was and he pointed down a very steep hill and said it was just five minutes this way. We said okay but we were at the very top of the mountain and had to walk to the valley in order to get to the alleged pools and waterfall in Wadi Tiwi.
At this point, I was still optimistic but Terrence was on high alert. The local man we had met at Wadi Shab had told us that it was common for kids to ask to guide you into the Wadi so I assumed this man was doing the same thing.
This next part happened in a span of under two minutes. I checked the time stamp on my photos and our entire ordeal lasted 2 minutes.
There was a steep road we walked on for about 0.1 seconds before the man took us DEEP into the forest in a very local village. I always try and be optimistic and adventurous so that was the mindset I took. Plus, I was just ready to find the views at Wadi Tiwi and be done with it.
We began to walk along the date palm irrigation system and started to descend the steep mountainside. At this point, the guide asked Terrence if he could help him with his camera, as Terrence had accidentally hit the lens hood as he jumped down one of the irrigation rivers. Of course, Terrence declined as any traveler knows not to let random strangers in the woods hold their cameras, plus Terrence was taking photos. He doesn’t care if it was Florida, NYC, Oman, Ireland, Iceland, anywhere, nobody was holding his camera.
As we continued to go down the cliff side and along the irrigation system, this is when I finally began to feel uncomfortable. The man asked Terrence at LEAST 5 times in a minute if he could “help him” with his camera and went so far as to reach toward it and be very insistent. This really rubbed me the wrong way.
Then Terrence jumped off another small ledge and hurt his ankle. Or did he? No, he didn’t really hurt himself, he faked it. I am here to say that Terrence’s quick thinking almost certainly saved us from a potentially dire situation.
Terrence jumped down and immediately held his ankle and said “ow! ow! my ankle ughhhhh it hurts!!!!!!!!!!” I knew IMMEDIATELY this was a ploy to leave. The man asked again if he could hold Terrence’s camera to which Terrence declined. He held his ankle and exclaimed in fake pain a few more times.
I turned my back to the man and mouthed to Terrence asking him if he wanted to go back to the car and leave. He immediately gave me “the look” and said yes. So then I began putting on my act. I was like “oh no babe are you okay? Do you want to leave? OMG I think we should leave you don’t want to hurt your ankle more walking down this steep cliff.”
Terrence said [in more fake pain] that yes he wanted to leave and told the guide that he had hurt his ankle the other day at Wadi Shab [not a complete lie but it wasn’t hurting now it was all an act].
The man IMMEDIATELY started acting weird as if he had been “caught in the act.” He urged us that the waterfall was literally 2 minutes more down the side of the mountain [no possible way given that we were barely 2 minutes into a long hike down the side of the mountain]. We had hiked to waterfalls before and we didn’t hear a waterfall and I knew the other view I had wanted was on the valley floor. We were nowhere NEAR the valley floor of Wadi Tiwi. The man was very insistent and told us we should go and it was close and not far at all.
I told him a firm no that Terrence was hurt and we would come back tomorrow. He didn’t like it but we turned around and started walking back up the hill and irrigation system back to our car.
Now I felt the same sense of dread that Terrence had felt. We felt something was happening with our car. There is no way to be sure but after looking at the signs so far and how the man had acted, we knew we had to get out of this area of Wadi Tiwi.
As we were walking back, I was walking first as I was hoofing it back up the mountain. All I could see was my hard drive lying on the floor of the car and imagining all my files lost. I was on a mission to be back.
Then Terrence was walking behind me and the man behind him. At one point, the man had grabbed onto Terrence’s bag as he was climbing up. After this, Terrence told the man to go in front of him because he didn’t feel comfortable with the man behind him anymore. The man obliged.
These next two incidents happened to Terrence and me completely unknown to the other at the time. It wasn’t until later that we shared our separate experiences with each other. Both our experiences happened within moments of each other and the other didn’t know.
As I was hiking up the mountain, there was a little opening in the trees just beyond our car. As I was looking up [the only way when hiking UP a steep mountain] I saw a young man running full tilt as if there was a fire AWAY from our car. If our car was on the right, the boy was running full tilt from right to left across my view.
My immediate thought was that he was running away from our car, but I instantly felt bad judging him and thought maybe he was running to see his friend in the village, or for exercise, or because he wanted to. There is NO WAY to know for sure and I am just here to tell the facts of what happened.
Completely unknown to me at the time, and right behind me as I saw the man running away at full tilt, our “guide” stopped right in front of Terrence and crouched in a very obvious way and looked up right and peered through the trees in the direction of our car. This happened at the very moment that I saw the boy running away and Terrence and I shared this with each other later.
The man didn’t just turn his head and look in the general direction of our car. He stopped, crouched down into a stoop, and peered into the trees for a few seconds. Terrence was once again instantly on high alert.
Moments later we got back to our car, I hurriedly gave the guide man a few rials in cash and thanked him and told him we would be back tomorrow and we left.
We felt extremely shook from this experience. The whole thing lasted under five minutes. We wanted to share in case this happens at Wadi Tiwi to other tourists.
We got in the car and rushed out of the Wadi Tiwi. Along the way, we passed “the view” on the valley floor we were trying to visit. We showed multiple people this view and they kept telling us it was deeper in the Wadi. We are sure it was an honest mistake, but “the view” was right at the entrance and the waterfall was at the very end of the road.Once we drove back to our Airbnb, we messaged our host [also a local] and told him about the experience and asked if this was a normal thing to happen. Our host is very experienced and knows the area very well and hikes a lot so we 100% trust him. He said this was NOT and was VERY SKETCHY and that the man lied to us and he shared with us the exact GPS coordinates of the waterfall we tried to visit which ended up being at the end of the road [at least 15 minutes further than where the man had stopped us] and then a short hike after that.
We aren’t here to say that this was 100% a Wadi Tiwi scam, but if it wasn’t a scam we wouldn’t have felt a sense of impending doom right? RIGHT?!
If we look at purely the facts we see:
- Man randomly jumps in the middle of the road and tells us to pull over and that the Wadi and waterfall are right down this steep incline.
- Me being a tired dumb tourist listens
- Man lies and says this is the end of the road. Our local Airbnb host confirms this is a lie and there was at least 15 min more of driving down the road and that the waterfall was at the end.
- Another man sits close by our car and looks at us the whole time we pack up [probably just a random buy being interested in crazy tourists but who knows]
- We pack up every valuable we have [why did we do that if we felt unsafe? Why did I do that if I tried to see the good yet I still brought everything?]
- Man shooes away women and children from us who have a concerned look on their faces.
- Man asks Terrence 5-6 times in under a minute if he can help him carry his camera.
- Man looks SHOCKED and “caught in the act” when just two minutes after leaving our car we decide to stop and turn around and go back [could have been sad he was losing out on guide money could have been direr]
- Man tugs at Terrence’s bag on the way back up
- I see a young man running FULL SPRINT away from our car
- At the same time, Terrence sees our guide man crouch down in a squat and peer through the trees in the direction of the car for a full 5 seconds.
- We tell the events to our Airbnb host who confirms this is NOT the way it usually goes and this behavior was concerning.
We have no clue what could have happened but we feel as though we narrowly avoided some sort of scam in Wadi Tiwi. We aren’t sure if someone was going to break into our car and steal something, if our car was going to be tampered with and we would have to “pay” to be taken down the mountain, we have no clue. We now know that neither view was down where we were being led so we feel like we were possibly going to be led to nowhere while something happened. We don’t know what that something was or if there was anything to happen at all, but the facts don’t seem to add up to something above board. That being said, we don’t want to judge or assume on potentially innocent people which is why we will always call this a potential scam.
We feel so incredibly uneasy about the whole experience and shaken as to what could have happened to either us or our vehicle as we were being led deeper into an unknown part of the woods in an area that was most certainly NOT the place we were told it was and that locals confirmed after the fact.
As I said above, we weren’t going to share our Wadi Tiwi story with anyone, but we keep thinking about it and the sense of dread and urgency we felt being led into the unknown as it was getting dark out. We wanted to share our Wadi Tiwi experience with others so the same mistake was not made by our fellow tourists.
MY MISTAKE in the matter was stopping for a random person to begin with and blindly trusting him. But I always try and see the good in people and see the locals as helpful and 99% of the time they are but this clearly wasn’t the case this time. Our advice to other people traveling to Wadi Tiwi is to stick to the entrance of the gorge or ask a local for exact GPS coordinates before you depart if you want to head further into Wadi Tiwi. If you want to visit the waterfall, understand that it is at the very end of the road and your GPS WILL REFLECT THIS! Ours did and the random man lied and said the road stopped and for some reason, I was so frustrated with driving that I listened to him and bought it hook line, and sinker.
Oman had been so safe and wonderful that I let my guard down completely. I don’t care if you are in Disney World or the safest place on the planet, letting your guard down when traveling is never a good idea.
Please learn from this mistake when visiting Wadi Tiwi and either take a guide or ask a trustworthy local for tips [someone at your hotel or Airbnb or a guide you see out and about].
We will never know for sure if we were about to be scammed at Wadi Tiwi, but all we can do is share our story with you so you can read the experience and learn from what happened to us.
Oman was wonderful, but this experience at Wadi Tiwi was something we will never forget and it hangs over our heads with a weird clouded weight. We hope sharing this story will help us have closure and help someone else avoid being potentially scammed in the future.
So based on reading this story and purely looking at our bullet list of facts, what do you think about this experience? Let us know in the comments and please always be safe when traveling!