Whether you’re a nature lover or outdoor enthusiast looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, either to absorb scenic landscapes and the local flora and fauna or to seek the adventure and thrills of outdoor pursuits; Jordan wouldn’t necessarily be the first place that springs to mind.
However, once you scratch the surface and look beyond city life in Amman and the isolation of the seemingly endless desert that expands across the Kingdom; there is a hidden wealth of nature and wildlife to discover and a range of outdoor activities to pursue.
Here’s a guide on the best of what’s on offer:
Ecotourism and Protected Areas – established in 1966 the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (http://www.rscn.org.jo) is Jordan’s major environmental agency. In recent years, the RSCN has initiated a major ecotourism drive in several of Jordan’s national parks and nature reserves and has been responsible for saving many animal, plant and bird species from extinction. Nature lovers will delight in visiting Jordan’s many conservation areas and wildlife reserves.
Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve
Wadi Mujib is is the lowest nature reserve in the world, located in the mountainous landscape to the east of the Dead Sea. With a long canyon feeding into the Dead Sea, the vast Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve consists of a network of freshwater streams; with cliffs, gorges and deep valleys cutting through the rocky, sparsely vegetated desert highlands. It forms the heart of an exciting ecotourism project, supporting a surprisingly wide variety of over 250 animal species, 185 bird species and 400 species of plant. Established for the captive breeding of the Nubian ibex, other wildlife includes the striped hyena, syrian wolf, caracal, Egyptian vulture and the rock hyrax. In addition to exploring the diverse wildlife, you can also hike along the various trails, abseil down the waterfalls, canyon in the wadis and camp in the Dead Sea site.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
One of Jordan’s hidden gems and it’s most impressive ecotourism project, Dana Reserve is a must-see for nature lovers. At 320 squared km it is Jordan’s largest reserve; home to a diverse Rift Valley ecosystem with approximately 600 plant species, 180 bird species and over 45 species mammal species (of which 25 are endangered: including the Blanford’s fox and the lynx, thought to have disappeared from Jordan). Dana village itself dates back from the Ottoman period and there are almost 100 archaeological sites in the reserve. There are various walking trails to explore and a choice between tented and hotel accommodation, the pick of bunch being the idyllic candle-lit ecolodge Feynan; the perfect setting for a romantic getaway (http://www.feynan.com).
Shaumari Wildlife Reserve and Azraq Wetland Reserve
Situated close to each other in the eastern Jordanian desert, these two smaller reserves are both home to important conservation projects and can be explored in a combined outing. The Shaumari Wildlife Reserve strived to reintroduce wildlife that had previously disappeared from the region; most notably the Arabian oryx which had been declared extinct in the wild in 1972. This reserve doubles up as a kind of zoo, with a variety of the region’s most endangered wildlife kept in large enclosures. Shaumari is especially popular with children. Azraq Wetland Reserve is a must-see for ecotourists as the previously huge area of mudflats, pools and marshlands has been severely depleted due to over-pumping to support Jordan’s growing population. This environmentally damaged basin is home to hundreds of species of migratory bird that use the wetlands during their winter migration from Europe to Africa.
Other reserves worth checking out include the Ajlun and Dibeen Nature Reserves of Northern Jordan.
Outdoor Activities – Thrill-seekers looking to engage in more adventurous pursuits can head down to Wadi Rum for some of the most challenging rock climbing in the world. Tropical Desert Trips (http://tropicaldeserttrips.com) is a reputable adventure tour company that leads various excursions across the country including rock climbing, hiking and canyoning.
Other outdoor pursuits that can be explored in Jordan include cycling, horse riding and camel trekking. In addition, Royal Aero Sports Club of Jordan (http://www.royalaerosports.com/site) offers hot air ballooning, microlighting, ultralighting, aircraft handling and even skydiving!
Responsible Tourism – In order to minimise impact on Jordan’s environmental problems, please respect your environment and follow a few simple rules:
- Don’t litter: plastic bags and bottles are a huge and unsightly problem in Jordan; so please discard your rubbish responsibly.
- Leave it as you found it: when visiting protected areas and historical sites please leave the area as you found it. Don’t deface monuments with engravings or graffiti and please refrain from taking monuments as souvenirs.
- Do as requested: Please respect environmental regulations and follow the specified rules of the area you are visiting, particularly with regards to camp fires and makeshift barbecue grills.