Following cyclone Shaheen, the desert lake of Alsafa was revived by the wadis and flood water. According to Times of Oman,water was last present in the lakes during the rainy season in 2019 and completely dried up after April 2020.
The largest known desert lake in the world is lake Turkana in east Africa. This large lake is fed by three rivers and is currently threatened due to damming operations. Another example is the lake in Huacachina Village in Peru a.k.a “Oasis of the Americas”. The lake was created by natural seepage from underground aquifers, but the increase in well-drilling started to threaten that supply in the early 2000s.To compensate for the loss, and preserve the oasis as a destination for tourists, local business groups began pumping water into the lake in 2015.
There is no doubt that water in Al Safa lake is due to the seepage of underground aquifers. The locals agree that water always existed in this area and its size varies depending on the annual rainfall.
The fastest route from Muscat is using the Nizwa-Ibri highway. We opted for a more scenic route where we made a 778 Km circuit via Rustaq towards Ibri and returning via the fast route. Along the way to Ibri, we took a detour to visit the UNESCO world heritage sites of Bat and Alkhutm.
From Al Sunynnah, the journey towards the lake is completely off-road. Heavy trucks operating in the area use the junction (located in the coordinates below) to join route 21.
23.577487, 56.065975 (Junction @ Route 21)
Follow the dirt track leading to the Shams Processing Plant (located in the coordinates below) approximately 30 km from route 21.
23.469874, 55.813862 (Shams Central Plant)
The lake is a further 20 Km drive towards to UAE border.
Crossing the desert to get to the lake is nothing short of driving a WRC rally stage so you will need a decent 4×4 vehicle. It is important to deflate your tyres when driving through the desert and make sure you have enough fuel and provisions.
A few thoughts
An extensive study into the formation of desert lakes near high sand dunes in China highlights the magnificence of such desert lakes. Arriving at Al Safa lake, we were welcomed by drinking camels. We were also welcomed by loud engine noises.
The surreal experience of finding a lake in the desert had a soundtrack composed from the loud and obnoxious roar of engines, ripping through the desert silence.
Conservation of this natural wonder is the smart thing to do. Making it a dune bashing arena is disturbing the wild life. Not to mention the environmental impact on this already fragile eco system.