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Nature Reserves in Jordan

Wadi Mujib

(see also the "Canyoning in Jordan page" and several photos of Wadi Mujib in the Photo Gallery)

Wadi Mujib Reserve was established in 1987. It is located at the eastern shore of the Dead Sea and covers 220 square kilometers. There is a map of the Reserve given on a separate web page.

This is a site that's not easy to get to by public transport. The entrance road leads off the Dead Sea road to Aqaba at "Mujib Bridge" about 30kms south of Sweymeh. There is no way to get there other than by car; if you are not renting one this means a taxi. To give you an idea of the price, a taxi from Madaba would cost about 16JD, so presumably a taxi from Sweymeh would cost somewhere between 7 and 10JD.

The whole valley is being seriously developed for adventure tourism at the moment, and a number of new facilities are expected to be opened in 2005. They include a Visitors' Centre, a "beach" on the Dead Sea and quite possibly several new programmes for visiting the Reserve.

The Visitors' Centre is described as "A complex that introduces visitors to the nature of the Mujib Reserve. Located near the Mujib Bridge, the centre has an interpretation room that explains the reserve’s significance and biodiversity, a nature shop, a reservation and reception desk for the camp and hiking activities and a cafeteria"

The Beach is to be known as Mujib Camp and is expected to be ready in April 2006. The RSCN brochure states :"Situated on the shore of the Dead Sea, this campsite offers stunning scenery and the chance to experience the unique sensation of floating in the saltiest sea on earth. There are 15 persons tents, insulated from the extremes of heat, sitting among shrubs of tamarisk. They have simple beds over polished concrete floors and bed linen is provided, as well as lanterns and other essential equipment. Toilets and showers are in a separate complex and there are additional standing showers on the shore to wash off the salt after bathing. Meals can be provided on request. (open all year through)." The price of a night's stay here costs from 10 to 20JD depending on the accommodation (hammock or bed) and the number of people sleeping in the tent. You can use this camp for the day for a charge of 5JD.

The terrain of the Wadi Mujib Reserve consists of rugged, arid mountains and flowing rivers. The deeply cut sandstone mountains of the Mujib Reserve span an elevation drop of over 1,200 meters: from 900m above sea level to 400m below - the lowest ground level on Earth. Because of this dramatic change in altitude and the presence of several flowing rivers, it has many different habitats, supporting a wide variety of plants and animals.

The caracalMany carnivores inhabit the various vegetation zones in Mujib. The Caracal, a medium sized cat with black and white ear tufts, lives in rocky wadis. It is a powerful and agile hunter with great jumping power, known to catch flying birds in its paws.

Mujib is also well known for larger carnivores like the regionally scarce striped hyena and Syrian wolf, and for many kinds of birds. Among the important birds are the lesser kestrel, imperial eagle, Bonelli`s eagle and griffon vulture, all of which are declining in numbers throughout the world. As well as resident birds, the reserve is strategically important as a safe stop-over for the huge number of birds which fly annually along the rift valley between Africa & northeast Europe.

In spite of its beauty and its value to the country's heritage, the Nature Reserve of Mujib Valley is facing a new threat from the perennial problem in the Middle East : water. In 1998 the government approved a plan to take water from the lower Mujib river and divert it to supply the hotels and the agricultural projects around the Dead Sea. This means that the river bed below the weir to be constructed is likely to be dry for most of the year, effectively killing off all the vegetation there. The RSCN is protesting vigorously, if you get a chance to support them in any way, please take it!

The sandstone cliffs are the typical habitat of the Nubian ibex, a large mountain goat which became threatened as a result of over-hunting. RSCN established a captive-breeding centre in the Reserve in 1989 and the initial group of 20 ibex has multiplied to over 100 animals. Over 30 of these animals have been successfully returned to the wild.

The hiking route "The Ibex Trail" passes through their territory and finishes up close to the large enclosure where the breeding herd is to be seen (see the map of the reserve).

Sleeping in Wadi Mujib

There is a campsite containing 5 large tents, a bathroom, and barbecue grills for visitor use. Visitors are asked to bring their own sleeping bags and drinking water. No food at all is supplied. This is the first time in Jordan that I have heard of an official camp that doesn't provide bedding. It is true that Mujib is the least "touristy" of the Reserves. The price of a night's stay here costs from 10 to 20JD depending on the accommodation and the number of people sleeping in the tent. A new campsite is being built with considerably better facilities, and should be ready in the spring of 2006 (insh'allah!) - see higher up.

Camping is not permitted outside of this area. The carrying capacity of the camp is 25 persons per day. Visitors will walk up to the camping area and the Reserve car will carry their luggage. You should note that the tents are only erected on demand - you must pre-book - and then only if there is a minimum number of 5 people. This goes along with pre-booking.

Visitors can contact the Ecotourism Section at the RSCN Headquarters by: telephone to +962.6.461.6523 or by fax: +962.6.463.3657 email tourism@rscn.org.jo for booking or for any inquiries. This applies of course to any of the Reserves, although the others do have a direct contact number.

Hiking in Wadi Mujib


Bonelli's eagle

No independent hiking or camping is allowed in Wadi Mujib. Do not be tempted to leave your guide or the party, the wadi can be subject to unannounced flash floods and, like all genuinely wild places, can be dangerous if not treated with care. It is incredibly easy to lose oneself in this sort of terrain - there are numerous stories about this, even from experienced hikers.

The hikes in Mujib are all accompanied except for the easy Siq trail, and try to visit the most spectacular parts of the Gorge. The most sensitive areas are limited in the number of hikes a week and also in the number of participants. Don't forget that you will need picnic food at midday and most certainly you should carry some water with you on the hike.

What to bring :

Clothes : Should be light and comfortable. Something like T-shirts and long shorts (to protect legs). Men and women are advised to wear a bathing suit under their clothes. You should bear in mind that all your clothes will get totally wet so don’t wear anything you don’t want to ruin. Your shoes will also get soaked. Therefore wear something that is not slippery and also something that won't be ruined by water. You may wear hiking sandals as well. Sunscreen is important along with some kind of head covering. You may want to bring extra outfits to change after the hike. 

Food & Beverage : drinking water and light food for snacking during the hike. Please make sure to bring 2 bottles of water per person. We have a restaurant on the Dead Sea Shores where we can offer lunch, dinner or lunch box.

Remember that you are going to hike and swim, so sensitive items should be put in waterproof bags. Do not wear any jewellery or expensive watches.

Mujib is a very rough, warm area and the walk is called adventure walk because it contains swimming and hiking for long hours in addition to descending a 20 m high waterfall. They are difficult yet fun trails and one has to have the ability to swim and have no fear of water and heights. It is tough, exciting, offering a chance to swim and bathe in the cool, clear waters of the Mujib and Malaqi rivers. Participants should expect to climb rocks against water flows and jump into pools of water.

The most exciting attraction of Mujib is the adventure tour along the river: an all day trip which takes you through deep canyons and pools where you can swim and enjoy the spectacular scenery and wildlife. This guided tour is available 6 times a week and is limited to groups of 25 and less. There are other shorter hikes and you can stay overnight in the wilderness campsite. Visits to the ibex breeding enclosure are included in another walk.

Mujib is a wonderful place for nature lovers who are fit and enjoy walking. Facilities are simple and it can get very hot in summer. The Mujib Trail is popular and pre-booking is essential. You can book either directly at the Reserve or by phone/fax or email directly to the RSCN at the addresses given at the top of the page. The details below come from the RSCN prospectus. 

The Ibex Trail : (2-3 hours) begins at the Mujib Bridge Reception by the Mujib Bridge on the Dead Sea highway, from where a guide will escort you south for a short distance along the highway before turning onto a steeply ascending trail into the nature reserve. After the first steep climb it diverges to the south, following a wide track running parallel to the Dead Sea. The Sea provides a startlingly blue backdrop throughout the hike. About one third of the distance along the trail, there is an optional detour up the mountainside to Qasr Riyash, a ruined fortification of uncertain date. Villagers say that it is one of four castles in the area, occupied by a powerful Bedouin sheikh known as Riyash. Each of his sons reputedly occupied a castle, until a fight erupted over grazing rights and all of them were killed. The climb to the castle is arduous but offers breathtaking views over the Dead Sea.

 Returning to main track, the hike continues towards the Raddas Ranger Station, dipping up and down across a number of dry wadis. There are an amazing variety of rock colours and formations along the route and as you near the ranger station, the famous rock “statue” of Lots wife can be seen on the seaward edge of the reserve. It is said that while fleeing the villages of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife ignored the warning not to look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. It takes 3 hours to get to the rangers station (4 km) At the station, there is a large fenced enclosure in which you can see a small breeding herd of magnificent Nubian Ibex– a wild ‘mountain goat’ with long, impressively curved horns. This animal was once common in the region but has been decimated by hunting. Mujib is one of the few safe havens for Ibex, in the reserve, there is a captive breeding programme to boost the wild population. In recent years, many Ibex from this enclosure have been released into the reserve to replenish the wild population that was devastated by hunting.  After a rest at the station, visitors hike from the station to the entrance of the reserve through a road that takes 1.5 hours. (Open all year through) Minimum 5 people.

Malaqi Trail: This is an exciting trail, offering a chance to swim in the cool, clear waters of the Mujib and Hidan rivers. It starts at the reserve reception like the “Ibex Trail” and follows the same route into the nature reserve (see description). This trail leads quickly to a striking area of creamy-white hills made of soft lissan deposits, reminiscent of the American Badlands. After passing through these hills, you begin your descent to the river Mujib, crystal clear, fast flowing and teeming with life. Small fish are plentiful, as well as frogs. Bright kingfishers are often seen speeding along the river channel, as well as circling birds of prey. Dense vegetation lines the rivers sides, making a stark contrast to the arid, naked mountains that surround you. The hike continues upstream along the river edge, to its confluence with the Hidan River. There are deep pools here, ready made for swimming, where you can linger, eat a picnic and just enjoy this wild paradise. Then you can either go back the same way to the reserve’s entrance or you can go through the Mujib gorge to descend a waterfall (20 m) and finish the trail at the Mujib Bridge. The hike takes 9 hours of hiking and swimming.  (Open from the 1st of April until the 31st of October).  Minimum 5 people.

Mujib Canyon Trail (Water Fall) : this trail is like the Malaqi trail, offering the same route which goes all the way to the Hidan river (please see the description above), but this trail only takes 4 hours. (The beginning of the hike is under the sun (1 hour) but it becomes cool when you reach the water). (Open from the 1st of April until the 31st of October)

Mujib Trail: a tough, exciting trail. The experience begins near the village of Fag'a, on the eastern edge of the nature reserve. Fag’aa is reached from the famous King’s Highway that leads out of Amman, through the town of Madaba (famous for its mosaics). See the map of the Reserve on a separate page. Your guide will meet you at RSCN office in Fag'ua, from where you will be led to the ranger station to start the hike. The trail descends rapidly into the Reserve following a precipitous Wadi with spectacular scenery. The hike follows the Wadi to the Raddas Rangers Station at the Ibex enclosures taking 5-6 hours to complete (15 km). (Open all year through). Minimum 5 people

The RSCN can organise transport to return you to Faq'a after the trail if you request it.

The Lost Trail to the Dead Sea : Mujib trail can be extended to go to the Hidan and Mujib Rivers Junction and then end at the Dead Sea road after descending the 20 m water fall. (Available from the 1st of April until the 31st of October).  

Siq Trail: 1.5 hours easy trail of swimming in Mujib Reserve to a waterfall and back to Mujib Bridge. Does not need a guide.

As usual our intrepid hikers, Tony Howard and Di Taylor have been around, in both Wadi Dana and in Wadi Mujib. In both cases they give details of hikes outside the Nature Reserves as well as within them. Conditions for walkers inside both reserves have changed somewhat since their great book on Jordan was published, but don't let that stop you buying it if you get a chance - it is quite indispensable for any hiker in the country.

Jordan: Walks, Treks, Caves, Climbs, Canyons" by Di Taylor and Tony Howard
(Cicerone Press 2000), available from Amazon UK.

 

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