I recently took a day trip to Waba Crater, a 363 km jaunt from Jeddah. We left at about 3am so we would arrive early morning and enjoy the area before the heat of the day was upon us. I enjoyed seeing the Camel Crossing signs along the way, and yes, we did see camels on the loose. By the way, you can click on any picture to see an enlarged image.
It took over 4 hours to get to Waba Crater. Our first sighting of it was a Thelma and Louise moment - the road just leads right up to it and luckily our brakes worked! The early morning sun rays created a magical effect on the spectacular scenery before us.
Originally thought to be a meteoric crater, it is now believed that the crater was formed by an underground volcanic eruption in which the hot lava mixed with an underground water supply and the result was this enormous sunken hole - "a massive steam explosion generated by molten basaltic magma coming into contact with subterranean water."
The white substance in the bottom of the crater consists of crystallized salt and the delicate lacy edges formed when the remaining groundwater eventually dried.
The diameter of the crater is about 2 km wide. Volcanic rocks of all sizes line the sides of the crater and there is some visible vegetation in places on the interior of the crater.
There is a rocky path that goes down to the bottom of the crater, but care must be taken because of the loose rocks that one doesn't lose her footing. The trail begins on the north side of the crater. The sides of the crater are quite steep.
The weather was clear, but the wee hours of the morning were briskly chilly and the winds were strong. It was delightful weather for me but my companions were cold. We were the only visitors to the site up until our climb back up when we came upon a group of American visitors who had driven from Riyadh.
The patterns made by the salt crystals against the volcanic rock and the sparse vegetation made for some very artistic looking scenery.
There are several tour companies that provide all inclusive trips to the crater, or you can opt to do it on your own. We traveled by sedan to the isolated site. You can also camp near Waba Crater. There are not really any facilities, so be sure to bring sleeping bags as it can quite chilly at night especially in the cooler months. I read that the best place to camp is on the south side of the crater just above the palm trees.
It is recommended that at least three people do the hike down and back together. Experienced hikers can probably reach the bottom in 20-30 minutes and make the climb back up in 45 minutes to an hour. Take plenty of water with you. Arrive early morning if you can to beat the heat.
There is not a whole to see along the drive up and back besides desert landscape and some hills and mountains in the distance, but we did see many bedouin tents, herds of goats and sheep, and of course, camels.
To view some more amazing photos of Waba Crater and the surrounding area, CLICK HERE for the Amusing Planet post about the site. CLICK HERE for a map of where Waba Crater is located.