With 65% of Jordan’s small population concentrated in the major urban centers, much of the country is wilderness area of unsurpassed beauty and variety. Some of the nature programs are seasonal; others can be enjoyed year-round.
We’re happy to help you make arrangements to enjoy the biodiversity for which Jordan is justifiably famous. Not only in the officially designated nature reserves managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), but also in rural areas throughout the country, you will be able to get “back to the land” in a delightful variety of ecosystems.
Here are some of the nature-tour areas you may have a special interest in:
Jordan’s biodiversity made it the home to a wide range of species. Desertification and hunting made a number of these species extinct or virtually so in their natural habitats. Thanks to the cooperation of many foreign governments and NGO’s, channeling their efforts through the RSCN, some of these species such as the ostrich, the Arabian oryx and the ibex have now been rescued through land conservation and breeding programs, particularly in the Shumari Wildlife Refuge, the Wadi Mujib Reserve and the Wadi Rum Protected Area. In the Dhana Nature Reserve, men who were once the hunters who over-hunted the local foxes, eagles and ibex are now the specially-trained reserve guides proud to lead visitors around the reserve. It’s a good example of how the RSCN’s motto “Helping Nature…Helping People” has been brought to life.
Petra Moon, the leading tour operator partner to the RSCN, can help you arrange guided hikes, visits to breeding grounds and volunteer work projects in the reserves.
The wide range of ecosystems in Jordan gives birds plenty of choice for habitat. Open deserts and wetland oases, pine and oak forests and the sub-tropical Jordan Valley and Aqaba flats attract wide varieties of both resident and migrant species. Jordan’s wetlands at Azraq Oasis and Aqaba as well as the highlands above the Great Rift Valley are biennial hosts to birds migrating between Africa and both European and Asian summer homes.
Jordan’s national bird is the Sinai rose finch, pictured at right on a recent postage stamp. More than 425 bird species have been spotted in Jordan, of which 95 species are resident. Hundreds of thousands of birds make their passage through Jordan each year, with many species identified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.
The top bird-watching sites are the Azraq Wetlands Reserve and the newly-opened Aqaba Birdwatching Observatory created by the Jordan Society for Sustainable Development. Other birding “hot spots” are the Dibeen forest, Dhana Reserve and Petra. You’ll find birds wherever you travel in Jordan, but for the birding enthusiast these are “must see” stops along the road. Some of the species you’ll almost surely be able to check off your list include the Bonillo eagle, griffon vulture, Palestine sunbird, hoopoe lark, fan-tailed raven and trumpeter finch.
There are some 2,500 species of plant species in Jordan–a remarkable thing to contemplate for a country which has so much desert. In the spring much of the country is blanketed with wildflowers including the black iris (Jordan’s national flower), windflower, wild lily, poppy and many others. Commercially grown flowers are a relatively new development in the kingdom, but there are now a number of thriving greenhouses around Madaba and Wadi Seer, and a large new Baidha project north of Petra where local residents have been able to put in commercial plant crops–mainly sunflowers and black iris–through special irrigation arrangements with the area’s new waste water treatment plant.
Indigenous trees found around the country include the red Mediterranean juniper, pistachio, almond, both deciduous and evergreen oak varieties, desert succulents such as the aloe and other sand dune vegetation, and acacia stands. Tucked into the folds of the hills above the rift valley are family and commercial orchards where many varieties of stone fruits and apples are grown.
The Jordan Valley is a microcosm of the planet’s best salad ingredients–almost any sort of fruit and vegetable you could want, but particularly those which flourish in a warm climate, can be found here. Commercial date farms using admirably scientific growing technology produce some of the world’s sweetest and most beautiful dates.
Traditional Bedouin healing practices employ a wide range of herbs, many of which are locally grown and prepared. Sage, many varieties of thyme, rosemary, onion, Artemisia, several mint species and chamomile are among the most commonly found.
Jordan can be divided into 5 (or 13, or 28 depending on which expert you consult and how detail oriented he/she is) regions based on its underlying geology–limestone with flight in the highlands and interior deserts, sandstone hills in the Rift Margins and Wadi Rum, ancient basement rocks behind Aqaba, basalt desert in the northeast Badia and the Rift Valley, along Jordan’s western border.
This all means that for the enthusiastic rock-hound, photo opportunity seeker, prospector or admirer of underpinnings, there’s almost no end to the wonderful things beneath your feet, or soaring above you majestically. We know professional geologists who vacation in Jordan year after year to explore its earth-y treasures. The professionals are here, as well–looking for economically feasible extraction sites for the certain shale oil deposits, although so far this has been prohibitively expensive in terms of cost, water consumption or both. That’s comforting….so far.
The clear water and rainbow-hued coral reefs make diving in the Red Sea a great experience. For those of us who prefer our breathing stuff un-canned, the snorkeling is just as good. Much shipping of phosphates has caused damage along the reefs of Aqaba, a busy commercial port, but the government has taken serious measures to protect this fragile resource.
Aqaba’s reef is what divers call a fringing reef, close to shore for easy access. There are some world-class diving centers in Aqaba where we can help you arrange dives. If you’re not already qualified, you can register for the basic PADI Open Water Course; if you’d like to become more qualified a full assortment of advanced courses are available.