Sof Omar

Useful Information

Location: Bale, near the village Sof Omar. 120 km east of Gobba.
(6.216666999699422, 39.76666699953135)
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Dimension: L=15,100 m.
Guided tours:
Bibliography: D. Catlin (ed.) (1973): The Caves of Ethiopia, Transactions Cave Research Group GB, 15, p. 107-168
T. Kiknadze, V. Kisselyof, A. Klimchouk, K. Rakvishvili (1986): [Investigation of the Sof Omar Cave, Ethiopia], Proceed. 9th Int. Congr. Speleol. Barcelona 1986, vol. 2, 229-232; Barcelona, Spain
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1897 first known visit by Arthur Donaldson-Smith.
1913 visited by Italians.
1938 visited by Italians.
1966 first through trib by Eric Robson (gb), Chris Clapham (gb), and Kabir Ahmed (et).
1972 cave survey to 15 km by the British Speleological Expedition Ethiopia (BSEE).


Sof Omar, like the nearby village, is named after Sheikh Sof Omar, a holy man who sought refuge here many centuries ago. But the cave has a religious history of thousands of years, much older than the arrival of the Muslims in Bale. It is also the longest cave of Ethiopia, with a length of more than 15 km.

This cave system is part of the underground Web river, which sinks at Ayiew maco at an altitude of 1,345 m asl. The river resurges 1,200 m away, at Holuca at an altitude of 1,330 m asl and is now called Wabe Shebelle River. The cave system is entered fron the resurgence side, but it has 42 entrances.

The actual length of the cave was surveyed during a British expedition which was called British Speleological Expedition Ethiopia (BSEE).

The cave is guided by local guides of the Ethiopian Tourism Enterprise. They have copies of the British maps which are helpful to orientate inside the cave. The cave has simple trails but no artificial light, so visitors have to take lamps with them. The trail leads through various chambers until it finally reaches the cave river. The Chamber of Columns is one of the biggest chambers of the cave, named after 20 m high stalagmites which can be seen here. The cave is inhabited by bats, cave fish and crustaceans.