Sof Omar Cave
Sof Omar Cave
4
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Bale Mountains Adventures Ethiopia-Tours
By Bale Mountains Adventures Ethiopia-Tours
Bale Mountains Tour Guide and Tour operator
5.0 of 5 bubblesJul 2019
Sof Omar Cave is the longest cave in Ethiopia at 15.1 kilometres (9.4 mi) long; sources claim it is the longest system of caves in Africa.[1] It is situated to the east of Robe, in the Bale Zone of the Oromia Region in southeastern Ethiopia, through which the Weyib River (Gestro River) flows.[2] It sinks at the Ayiew Maco entrance and reappears at the Holuca resurgence 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) away. According to tradition Sof Omar was the name of a Muslim holy man who lived in the area and Ayiew the name of his daughter. Maco and Holuca are local names for 'name' and 'cave', respectively. Long a religious centre, it is sacred both to Islam and the local Oromo traditional religion. The caves are known for their many pillars, particularly in the 'Chamber of Columns'. History of exploration The explorer Arthur Donaldson Smith recorded his visit to the cave in 1894.[3] An Italian expedition also visited in 1913.[4] In 1934, Henri Breuil conducted archaeological investigations in the area.[5] The Italians almost certainly visited the cave during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, but apparently none of these early explorers made a through trip from Ayiew Maco to Holuca. In 1967, Eric Robson, Chris Clapham and Kabir Ahmed explored and surveyed the cave, recording 8 km of passage.[6] Following this the Ethiopian Tourist Board published a brochure about the cave.[7] Although the area was not easily accessible and the organized adventure tourist industry did not yet exist, a few intrepid visitors made the trip to the then remote cave. In February 1971 Professor Théodore Monod of the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in France, Bill Morton (ex Manchester University Speleological Society caver), a geologist at Haile Selassie I University, and Ato Mejmare Hsilemalid recorded another 1 km new passages to the known cave.[8] In the same year Dick Ashford and Malcolm Largen of Haile Selassie University made a study of some of the bats in the cave. In 1972, a British Expedition to Ethiopia arrived with a team which included Dick Ramsden and Tim Renvoize (Preston Caving Club), Simon Amatt (Birmingham Plytechnic Karabiner Club), Dave Catlin (University of Bradford Pothole Club), Paul Ramsden (Whernside Manor Scout Centre), Terry Raynor (9th and 12th Royal Lancers) and Steve Worthington (Sheffield University Speleological Society). With some initial help from Bill Morton the group made a systematic exploration and survey of the Sof Omar caves and published a full report of their findings in Transactions of the Cave Research Group of Great Britain.[9] The team discovered 6.1 kilometres (3.8 mi) of new passages, bringing the survey total to 15.1 kilometres (9.4 mi). Topography Approaching from Goro, at Sof Omar the scrubby bush steeply drops 90 m into a canyon. The Web river makes its way from the 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) high Bale Mountains through a 150 kilometres (93 mi) wide outcrop of Anatole limestone to the cave. In earlier times the river made a sharp left meander. At some point the limestone dissolved producing a series of phreatic passages, which became big enough to capture the whole flow of the Web river. Eventually the river abandoned the meander, creating a dry valley running from the cave sink at Ayiew Maco to the resurgence at Holuca. Sof Omar village is situated close to Ayiew Maco in the dry valley. Infill into the valley makes it rise to a high point of about 45 m above the Web, before it drops away to a pebble beach downstream of Holuca. The other dominant feature is a large shakehole 100 metres (330 ft) wide and 60 metres (200 ft) deep and found on the basalt plateau directly above the cave. Description The cave is formed along a network of joints: one set runs approximately north to south and the other east to west. This zig-zag of passages runs in an approximately southeasterly direction. Sof Omar has 42 entrances, but generally only four are useful for gaining entrance: Two upstream Village Entrances (one to the east and one to the west of the village) The Tourist Entrance downstream from the Holuca Resurgence at a point where the abandoned meander forming the dry valley rejoins the Web river A right bank entrance downstream of Holuca accessing the Deep South part of the Clapham's Climb Series. Entering the cave via either of the Village Entrances the visitor passes a shrine used by the locals. The Ayiew Maco Series is a set of interconnecting passages of varying in width between 1 m and 10 m. Several can be passed through to the pebble beach on the left bank of the river. A less complex series of passages exists on the right bank. These probably connected to those on the left bank until severed by the vadose action of the Web cutting the river passage deeper. The passage at the pebble beach is about 40 m wide—the widest passage in the cave. At the downstream end of the beach the river disappears between two columns. The continuation crosses the Web at Ford 1 and follows the figure-eight passage until the river is reached again at Ford 2. At this point it is possible to see down Safari Straight, the most spectacular view in the cave. The river meanders down this 15 m wide, 20 m high rectangular passage for 300 m. The way onward involves crossing and re-crossing the river from cobble beach to cobble beach at Fords 2, 3, 4 and 5. Small passages exist on both sides. The beach ends after Ford 5 under the 50 m high Great Dome. On the opposite bank a steep rise leads to Molossadie Passage. The deep, short Ford 6, Ford 7 and Ford 8 lead to a cobble beach and the entrance into the Chamber of Columns. Exiting Ford 6 on the left bank it is possible to enter the Railway Tunnel passage, which offers an alternative route into the Molossadie passage and bypasses Fords 7 and 8 into the Chamber of Columns. The Chamber of Columns is a unique feature in the world of caves. It looks like a wide passage leaving the Web before sweeping back to the river about 100 m downstream. The passage circumnavigates a cluster of thick columns densely packed in the centre of chamber. The Railway Tunnel and Molossadie Passage enter the chamber from the north. The river passage continues from the Chamber of Columns meandering for about 200 m to the Big Rapids. This striking feature is formed from a jumble of huge boulders, well worn by the actions of the river. The river passage continues around a curve for about 250 m before flowing around a massive boulder into the sunlight at the Holuca Resurgence. The Web continues running through a canyon. About 250 m downstream the dry valley appears on the left b

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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.


4.0
4.0 of 5 bubbles10 reviews
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3
Very good
5
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2
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Saravananpalanivel
Chennai10 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2013 • Friends
Sof Omar cave is situated 120 KM east of Robe (an Ethiopian town). The road to Sof Omar cave is as bad one could think. It is not a well laid road. Adding to that the road is full of bumps and pits, which would prevent you from driving at a speed more than 40 km/hr. So one would easily take about three hours to cover this distance. A four wheel drive vehicle is a must. Even then your backbone would be put to testing. Your travel would be interrupted quite often by the cattle, donkeys and the locals walking criss-cross the road. The final part of the travel (about a km) would be roller-coaster ride. Government of Ethiopia had not taken much initiative to establish a tourist office or centre. Couple of locals calling themselves official guides would negotiated with us for the entry. They asked for ETB 200 per person as entry and guide charge of ETB 50. We could finalise our deal for ETB 100 per person. The cave is a natural wonder. We were taken a km inside the caves The experience was thrilling. We were told that some tourists used to take boat ride in the cave river. But we could not find a site of such facility. We wonder why Ethiopian government had done virtually nothing to make this pace a good centre of tourism. At the end of the day above all the pains, we were happy and filled with thrill.
Written November 25, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

JamesNDUNGU
Nairobi, Kenya18 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2015 • Solo
The Webb river cuts through the limestone rocks, leaving behind natural caves, the river meanders through .... the birdlife is prolific, as I ticked-off a lifer (new bird species) - the Somali Tit!

Sadly, there are no guides; no accommodation; no eatery, and the caretakers are rip-off; no specific fees; no receipts issued.
Written August 13, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

toyedi
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia98 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2013 • Solo
This is what I really called it the signature of Nature/God. The Cave is created by a Weyb River through time and some people claim it the No. 1 Cave system in Africa and a list visited tourist attraction. What astonishing me is the perfection of the roof sandstone slab, which is almost a perfect horizontal slab.

The attraction is good for those who love to explore a remote nature. You can learn what a complete darkness means. although you have to cross the river 15 times before you come out to the other end, it is another dimension of taking your guts to the limit. Worth to visit.
Written April 11, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Bale Mountains Adventures Ethiopia-Tours
Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia17 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2019 • Business
Sof Omar Cave

is the longest cave in Ethiopia at 15.1 kilometres (9.4 mi) long; sources claim it is the longest system of caves in Africa.[1] It is situated to the east of Robe, in the Bale Zone of the Oromia Region in southeastern Ethiopia, through which the Weyib River (Gestro River) flows.[2] It sinks at the Ayiew Maco entrance and reappears at the Holuca resurgence 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) away. According to tradition Sof Omar was the name of a Muslim holy man who lived in the area and Ayiew the name of his daughter. Maco and Holuca are local names for 'name' and 'cave', respectively. Long a religious centre, it is sacred both to Islam and the local Oromo traditional religion. The caves are known for their many pillars, particularly in the 'Chamber of Columns'. History of exploration

The explorer Arthur Donaldson Smith recorded his visit to the cave in 1894.[3] An Italian expedition also visited in 1913.[4] In 1934, Henri Breuil conducted archaeological investigations in the area.[5] The Italians almost certainly visited the cave during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, but apparently none of these early explorers made a through trip from Ayiew Maco to Holuca.

In 1967, Eric Robson, Chris Clapham and Kabir Ahmed explored and surveyed the cave, recording 8 km of passage.[6] Following this the Ethiopian Tourist Board published a brochure about the cave.[7] Although the area was not easily accessible and the organized adventure tourist industry did not yet exist, a few intrepid visitors made the trip to the then remote cave.

In February 1971 Professor Théodore Monod of the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in France, Bill Morton (ex Manchester University Speleological Society caver), a geologist at Haile Selassie I University, and Ato Mejmare Hsilemalid recorded another 1 km new passages to the known cave.[8] In the same year Dick Ashford and Malcolm Largen of Haile Selassie University made a study of some of the bats in the cave.

In 1972, a British Expedition to Ethiopia arrived with a team which included Dick Ramsden and Tim Renvoize (Preston Caving Club), Simon Amatt (Birmingham Plytechnic Karabiner Club), Dave Catlin (University of Bradford Pothole Club), Paul Ramsden (Whernside Manor Scout Centre), Terry Raynor (9th and 12th Royal Lancers) and Steve Worthington (Sheffield University Speleological Society). With some initial help from Bill Morton the group made a systematic exploration and survey of the Sof Omar caves and published a full report of their findings in Transactions of the Cave Research Group of Great Britain.[9] The team discovered 6.1 kilometres (3.8 mi) of new passages, bringing the survey total to 15.1 kilometres (9.4 mi).

Topography

Approaching from Goro, at Sof Omar the scrubby bush steeply drops 90 m into a canyon. The Web river makes its way from the 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) high Bale Mountains through a 150 kilometres (93 mi) wide outcrop of Anatole limestone to the cave. In earlier times the river made a sharp left meander. At some point the limestone dissolved producing a series of phreatic passages, which became big enough to capture the whole flow of the Web river. Eventually the river abandoned the meander, creating a dry valley running from the cave sink at Ayiew Maco to the resurgence at Holuca. Sof Omar village is situated close to Ayiew Maco in the dry valley. Infill into the valley makes it rise to a high point of about 45 m above the Web, before it drops away to a pebble beach downstream of Holuca.

The other dominant feature is a large shakehole 100 metres (330 ft) wide and 60 metres (200 ft) deep and found on the basalt plateau directly above the cave.

Description

The cave is formed along a network of joints: one set runs approximately north to south and the other east to west. This zig-zag of passages runs in an approximately southeasterly direction. Sof Omar has 42 entrances, but generally only four are useful for gaining entrance:

Two upstream Village Entrances (one to the east and one to the west of the village)

The Tourist Entrance downstream from the Holuca Resurgence at a point where the abandoned meander forming the dry valley rejoins the Web river

A right bank entrance downstream of Holuca accessing the Deep South part of the Clapham's Climb Series.

Entering the cave via either of the Village Entrances the visitor passes a shrine used by the locals. The Ayiew Maco Series is a set of interconnecting passages of varying in width between 1 m and 10 m. Several can be passed through to the pebble beach on the left bank of the river. A less complex series of passages exists on the right bank. These probably connected to those on the left bank until severed by the vadose action of the Web cutting the river passage deeper.

The passage at the pebble beach is about 40 m wide—the widest passage in the cave. At the downstream end of the beach the river disappears between two columns. The continuation crosses the Web at Ford 1 and follows the figure-eight passage until the river is reached again at Ford 2. At this point it is possible to see down Safari Straight, the most spectacular view in the cave. The river meanders down this 15 m wide, 20 m high rectangular passage for 300 m.

The way onward involves crossing and re-crossing the river from cobble beach to cobble beach at Fords 2, 3, 4 and 5. Small passages exist on both sides. The beach ends after Ford 5 under the 50 m high Great Dome. On the opposite bank a steep rise leads to Molossadie Passage. The deep, short Ford 6, Ford 7 and Ford 8 lead to a cobble beach and the entrance into the Chamber of Columns. Exiting Ford 6 on the left bank it is possible to enter the Railway Tunnel passage, which offers an alternative route into the Molossadie passage and bypasses Fords 7 and 8 into the Chamber of Columns.

The Chamber of Columns is a unique feature in the world of caves. It looks like a wide passage leaving the Web before sweeping back to the river about 100 m downstream. The passage circumnavigates a cluster of thick columns densely packed in the centre of chamber. The Railway Tunnel and Molossadie Passage enter the chamber from the north.

The river passage continues from the Chamber of Columns meandering for about 200 m to the Big Rapids. This striking feature is formed from a jumble of huge boulders, well worn by the actions of the river. The river passage continues around a curve for about 250 m before flowing around a massive boulder into the sunlight at the Holuca Resurgence. The Web continues running through a canyon. About 250 m downstream the dry valley appears on the left b
Written July 29, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Chrisbeeoxford
Oxford, UK594 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2019
Beware of the road to get there and back. It is a bone-rattling, body-breaking 100+ kms of stone with very very few sand or soft patches. It took 3 hours to drive each way. There are no facilities for an overnight stay unless you camp. Go early and take a picnic (sharing it with goats is interesting). Toilets are not available, just trees.
The Caves are excellent. The stone carved by the millennia of passing water is as if carved by man. There is a religious feel to the formations, of tombs, altars and even a baptism font. Pillars and arches again relate to man-made architecture. There is no safe path inside but it is passable with care. Take powerful torches and wear sturdy shoes and if you are going in to the depths proper clothing and even helmets are essential.
The entry to the cave is to one side down a flood drilled side cave. The river flows in lower down. One side has beach areas with boulders and the villagers make maximum use of that and access to the water . Domesticated animals stream up and down to take their fill of water, including camels. Women wash clothing on the boulders and leave it to dry. Children play. Men herd the animals and stand and gossip. The village is at the top of the hill and is very traditional.
Written March 15, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

70ava
Beijing, China1,002 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2018 • Couples
It took us 3 grueling hours to drive from Robe to the site each way with a 4WD. although the distance is only 105 Kms. The first half of the road is especially demanding. Once you are there, it does take your breath away if you are fond of natural and geological phenomena. The big thing here is not the cave, but rather the underground river, which flows for around 15 kms. before coming out again. This unbelievable place is poorly run, dirty, smelly and has no explanations or proper guides, Do read the Wikipedia as well the the UNESCO relevant online sites in advance. It turns out that there is an "owner" of the cave - a gentleman by the name of Abdul Jabbar - who resides in the Sof Omar village and is a direct descendant of the holy man (so he claims). He collects all the money paid by tourists, leaves small change to the locals who work there, but refuses to invest anything in the site itself. The same old sad story. Recommended.
Written October 4, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Sean K
Kigali, Rwanda151 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2017
This is about a 2 hour drive from Roba on a fairly good dirt road. Drive is bumpy and loud but we were happy to arrive.

Unfortunately when we arrived one of the vervet monkeys decided to bite our six year old and we had to drive back to Addis for rabies shots so be careful they are aggressive.

Before going back we spent a couple of hours in the caves. They are very picturesque and beautiful. With a guide they are easy to navigate and you do need to cross the river several times meaning you get wet. Be sure to bring a torch as the guides may not have one.

Written March 17, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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Sof Omar Cave - Everything to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

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