Image by Luisa Puccini Shutterstock
The Dana Biosphere Reserve is the largest in Jordan and includes a variety of terrain, from sandstone cliffs more than 1700m high near Dana to a low point of 50m below sea level in Wadi Araba. Sheltered within the red-rock escarpments are protected valleys that are home to a surprisingly diverse ecosystem. About 600 species of plant (ranging from citrus trees and junipers to desert acacias and date palms) thrive in the reserve, together with 180 species of bird.
More than 45 species of mammal (25 of which are endangered) also inhabit the reserve, including caracals, increasing herds of ibex, mountain gazelles, sand cats, red foxes and wolves. The installation of night traps has given reserve wardens a better understanding of the movement of these rarely spotted animals.
The best time to visit Dana is in spring, when the hillsides bloom with flowers, or during autumn, when the auburn foliage thins out, making it easier to spot wildlife. While winter can be bitterly cold in the upper part of the reserve (some of the trails will close), it's a good time to explore the Feynan area in the lower part of the reserve. Similarly, when it's sweltering in summer in the lower reaches of the wadi, there's seldom need for air-con in Dana.