Eco-Touring through Jordan

The massive desert and subtropical jungles in Jordan affords Rough Guides travel writer Matthew Teller the opportunity to check out nature reserves of all sorts. He describes canyoning, and safaris in his guide Jordan’s Nature Reserves.

“The RSCN runs Dana and six other nature reserves. Jordan is largely desert – around 85 percent of the land area is classified as arid – and yet it also includes some startingly diverse and fertile terrain, from the rolling hills and meadows of Ajloun to the humid, subtropical jungles flanking the River Jordan.

And although its primary purpose is conserving the nation’s natural heritage, the RSCN is at the forefront of Jordan’s burgeoning eco-tourism industry. The opportunities to explore are immense. I went on an oryx safari in the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve east of Amman, bumping through the tussocky desert grasses by jeep in search of the Arabian oryx protected here. These beautiful white antelope had not been seen in Jordan since 1921, and, until a few were saved from hunters in Oman in 1973, were on the way to extinction.

Canyoning in the Wadi Mujib Reserve – one of several gorge systems that cut through the highland plateau overlooking the Dead Sea shore – is another possibility, along with the chance of sighting the Nubian ibex that roam the rocky slopes here. At the Azraq Wetlands – a lush desert oasis of reed marshes and pools – I retreated for an afternoon in a hide to watch for water buffalo.

But in Jordan, eco-tourism isn’t all about big game and vast landscapes. The hilly Ajloun Woodland Reserve, north of Amman, protects a swathe of Mediterranean woodland – mainly evergreen oak, along with pistachio, olive, carob and wild strawberry trees – which is home to some very European characters, including badgers, foxes, roe deer and wild boar. The neighbouring Dibbeen Forest Reserve remains one of the most beautiful and remote getaways in all of Jordan. All seven reserves are visitable for walks and nature-focused adventure activities and most have accommodation in lodges or campsites.”