The Al Hoota Cave is estimated to be over 2 million years old and is located at the foot of Jabal Shams, Oman’s epic mountain. It is the first and only show cave in the Arabian Peninsula with a total length of around 4.5 kilometres, of which just 500 metres is accessible to the general public.
That’s not us saying it, the ones who manage Al Hoota Cave say this. The cave id one of the best-kept and literally hidden secrets in the Sultanate of Oman. Until, that is, you follow the signs.
“The Al Hoota Cave contains a rich ecosystem that includes four lakes,” said the cave’s management team. “Three are small and located in the north of the cave, the other is the accessible central lake. It is estimated that the lake holds about 30,000 cubic metres of water, is 800 metres long and 10 in width, with a maximum depth of 15 metres.”
The cave is also well-known for housing a rare blind fish, Garra Barreimae, which is more commonly known as Bu Naseh. There are many other species that live in the caves, including bats, arthropods, mollusks, spiders, snails and water beetles.
“A sophisticated lighting system allows the guides to switch lights on and off as the tour proceeds through the cave,” said the management. “This minimises the disturbance of cave dwelling animals and avoids the formation of algae. For the same reason all lights are switched off when tours are not taking place. While the Al Hoota Cave is made of stone, it was created by water. Like many other caves in Oman, the Al Hoota Cave system was formed by the dissolution of limestone by acidic water.
“It all starts when rainwater dissolves carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or soil, producing a dilute carbonic acid that dissolves the limestone as it runs over it thus forming the cave,” they added. “Every 100 years, the water dissolves through 10 millimetre of rock – so it takes a long time to create something as spectacular as Al Hoota Cave! Fascinating features such as stalagmites, stalactites and of course the magnificent lion of Al Hoota Cave are formed by mineral deposits as water drips into or moves through the cave system. Some of the columns and curtains you will see have been shaped over millions of years.”