There are two reserves in southern Jordan. On land, the Wadi Rum Protected Area, run by the Aqaba authorities, offers desert adventures such as camping, camel treks, hiking, ballooning and off-road driving, amid beautiful sand dunes and sandstone landscapes.
Offshore, the Aqaba Marine Park (part of the bigger, cross-border Red Sea Marine Peace Park) was established in 1997 to protect the complex marine environment of the Red Sea south of Aqaba. It is best accessed through one of the diving clubs in the area. The park stretches from the Marine Science Station to the Royal Diving Club and extends about 350m off the coast. Enforced by rangers, there’s a ban on fishing, and boating is limited within the park. Jetties enable divers and snorkellers to jump into the water rather than wade out over coral from the beach.
Worth a Trip: On a Winter’s Day South of Aqaba You Can...
- Snorkel or dive in safe hands at the dive clubs near Tala Bay. All offer a day rate and snorkel hire, or around JD35 for an introductory scuba session.
- Learn about what’s under the sea without getting your feet wet at the Aqaba Aquarium. Part of the Marine Science Station complex (7.5km south of Aqaba), the ageing and dated tanks nonetheless provide a colourful glimpse of coral, moray eels, turtles and stonefish.
- Laze under a sunshade on the free public beach at the Marine Park Visitors Centre. As the headquarters of the Aqaba Marine Park (12km south of Aqaba), it has a jetty, museum, cafe, gift shop and park office. It gets busy on Friday and overrun on public holidays.
- Mull over fishermen’s tales and a mint-and-lime juice at Berenice Beach Club. This diving centre (13.5km south of Aqaba) offers a good beach, swimming pools, showers, bar and restaurant.
- Explore a Crusader castle on Pharaoh’s Island. Hotels can book day trips to the island (off Egypt’s coast) for around JD40 per person, which includes the entrance fee to the island, Egyptian visa, lunch and transport.