(From Bale Mountains National Park BIRDING BOOKLET by Frankfurt Zoological Society)
With a total length of over 1.5km, Sof-Omar is one of the longest underground cave systems in Africa. According to tradition Sof-Omar was the name of a Muslim holy man who lived in the area.The area is part of the Bale Lowlands and is characterized by a semi-arid ecological zone containing mainly Commiphora-Kirkia-Acacia woodland and bushland vegetation types. This area hosts mostly Somali-Masai Biome assemblages.
The cave is remarkable for its cathedralesque carvings and slender passages. The full walk through the caves is 1.7m, and takes around three to four hours. From December through 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.
Interesting birds one can easily spot include the white-bellied go-away-bird, Somali long-billed crombec, Egyptian vulture, shining sunbird, Hunter’s sunbird, Fischer’s starting, brown-tailed rock-chat, bristle-crowned starling, black-throated barbet and African orange-bellied parrot. Furthermore, sof-Omar is the best place to see the range-restricted and vulnerable Salvadori’s seedeater.
Direction and Accessibility
Coming from Goba, take the right turn in Robe Town at Waqo Gutu roundabout and drive, on a good dirt road, towards the small town of Goro. From here, descend into the valley of Sof-Omar. Continue to where the road crosses the valley bottom, and at the apex of the U-turn keep an eye out on your right for “Sof-Omar” painted in faded red on a rock, just before the road takes a harsh left that takes you down to the valley of the cave. The caves of Sof-Omar are 96km from Robe
Dire Sheik Hussein
The shrine of Sheik Hussein was named after Sheik Hussein Bin Malka who was renowned for his religious teachings, high devotion and miraculous deeds. The shrine is over 900 years old and contains over 11 mosques. Like Sof-Omar, it is also a popular place for worship, attracting thousands of pilgrims from all over the country.