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Sof Omar Caves

Bale, Ethiopia

Not far from Bale Mountains is one of the world's most spectacular and extensive underground caverns: the Sof Omar cave system. The weib river, which sources from the Bale Mountains National Park, penetrates the caves year round, offering a magnificent view to the visitors. Sof Omar is an extraordinary natural phenomenon of breathtaking beauty. At 15.1 kilometres long, Sof Omar Cave is the longest cave in Ethiopia and the largest system of caves in Africa, through which the Weib River flows.

You approach the Sof Omar caves through the tiny village of Sof Omar, perched on the cliffs above the Web River. To the rear of the village is a dark, gaping crevice down which a precipitous narrow footpath winds to the first cave’s floor. Only a few patches of sunlight filter into this dimly lit kingdom, which extends in all directions through vast subterranean passageways of polished white limestone, carved by the river's flood and recess over countless ages.

In this realm of dry, cool caves nature has worked a marvel of architecture - soaring pillars of stone twenty metres (66 feet) high, flying buttresses, fluted archways, and tall airy vaults. Finally, the river itself is reached, a sunless sea flowing through a deep gorge. Standing on a balcony near the roof, one has a spectacular view of the river rushing below. Sof Omar's large central hall, the 'Chamber of Columns' - so named after the colossal limestone pillars that are its dominant feature - is one of the highlights of the cave system. At another part of the network there is a small gap in the rocks through which the river passes, about two and a half metres (eight feet) wide, where a bridge can be made with driftwood to go across. The most direct route through the caves passes these and many other remarkable sights, and takes about an hour at a good walking pace.

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