The caves of Sof-Omar are located about 115km from the Bale Mountains National Park headquarters and 95km from the zone’s capital of Robe. It is one of the longest underground caves in Africa, with a total length of over 1.5km. The meandering Web River lies in an entrenched gorge, 150m below a level basalt plateau. The river gorge is spectacular for its depth and for the limestone cliffs that line it. The caves were carved out of the limestone by the Web River, which has changed course over time, creating an accessible passage and carving out ornate and immense pillars, domes and chambers. Fossilized mollusks can be found within the large limestone blocks.
The full walk through the caves is 1.7km and takes three to four hours. From December to May, the river is low enough to cross, although water can be waist-deep in some places. Look out for the bats that hang overhead and the eels that live below.
The name Sof-Omar is derived from a Muslim holy man who lived in the cave with his daughter. It is a place of worship for Ethiopian Muslims: two holidays are celebrated each year where around 1,000 people gather. The first occurs for 15 days in May and the second soon after in June. Because they depend on the moon, exact dates vary each year.
Vervet monkeys frequently pass close to the cave and are likely to steal any food left unattended. The countryside around the Sof-Omar caves abounds with wildlife such as dik-diks, lesser kudus, leopard tortoises, rock hyraxes, as well as more than 50 species of birds, including the endemic and elusive Salvadori’s seedeater. See directory for further information.