Jordan is home to several nature and wildlife reserves, two of which are the Azraq Wetland Reserve and the Shawmari Reserve. Both of these reserves are quite beautiful, and unique in their own way. They are both open to visitors year round, although there are certain times of the year when sightseeing, bird watching, etc. is better than others. In this article we will break down the attractions of each reserve, both of which are not to be missed if you’re in the area!
The Azraq Wetland Reserve is located in the heart of the Jordanian Eastern Desert. Azraq is, and always has been, a wetland oasis in the middle of a dry, barren desert. As you could imagine, Azraq attracts a lot of wildlife – even more so now that the area is an official Reserve. Wildlife from all over the desert region come to Azraq to drink, feed, and mate. It is a safe place for commonly hunted wildlife, given that it is a Reserve.
Azraq Wetland Reserve is a popular place to bird watch, especially during certain seasons. This oasis rests within the migration patterns of many birds, and many often stop at Azraq to rest and mate. Some species spend the winter in the Reserve, while others continue their migration south. If bird watching interests you, be sure to visit at the right time of year. Experts recommend traveling to Azraq in spring, late autumn, or winter. Different species are more present at certain times of the year, so be sure to do your research if you’re looking to spot a certain bird! Also, spring is a great time to visit, when warm seasonal rains bring around 2,000 species of wildflowers back to life.
The Shawmari Reserve is considerably smaller than Azraq, but just as interesting, if not more so. Shawmari is the official breeding grounds for some of the rarest species in all of the Middle East. Here, in the safety of the official Reserve, endangered species like the Arabian Oryx, Onagers, and Desert Gazelles, grow and thrive. The Shawmari Reserve has been instrumental in bringing back several species from the brink of extinction.
The Shawmari Reserve is also home to a wide variety of desert vegetation. This is mainly due to the sheltered nature of the Reserve. Outside the walls of Shawmari, sheep and goat herds ravage plant life, but inside the sheltered walls, plants thrive. Shawmari is even home to a few species of plants not found elsewhere in Jordan.
The Shawmari Reserve serves an important role in the recovery of Jordan’s animal population. In order to fundraise and support their efforts, there are various tourist activities offered at the Reserve. There is a Visitors Center, which contains a small museum and informational displays. There is a Tourist Information Center, which is a general reception point for tourists seeking information about the area, and there is a small shop offering locally made souvenirs and keepsakes. There is also a large Observation Tower within the Shawmari Reserve, where visitors can go to spot wildlife and enjoy the fantastic view from up high. Lastly, the RSCN offers regular Oryx Safari Trips, which must be booked in advance.