by Hana Namrouqa | May 03,2012 | 23:22

AMMAN — The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has announced the opening of the adventure season at the Mujib Biosphere Reserve, a popular hiking and camping destination that is home to high-altitude summits and waterfalls.

The reserve closes to visitors for safety reasons during winter, due to flash floods and rising water levels in its valleys and trails, and starts receiving adventure seekers in spring.

“Before opening the reserve, a specialised safety team inspected the trails thoroughly and re-evaluated their risk levels. It recommended adding more ropes and closing certain areas to avoid incidents,” Mujib Biosphere Reserve Director Hisham Dheisat told The Jordan Times.

Water levels on the reserve’s hiking trails — which involve both climbing and swimming — differ depending on the amount of rain during winter, Dheisat said, noting that the current water levels are similar to last year’s.

Covering an area of 220 square kilometres, the Mujib Biosphere Reserve is home to seasonal and permanent rivers that flow through several valleys, as well as ponds and waterfalls.

The reserve’s administration briefs visitors on the difficulties and potential hazards along the trails, Dheisat said, noting that tourists must wear life vests and sign waivers indicating they are aware of potential hazards on the trails and absolve the reserve of any liability.

“Extra guides are employed during the weekends, particularly near dangerous sites, to ensure the safety of visitors. In addition, first aid kits are placed at certain points for use during emergencies,” he added.

Members of the Civil Defence Department (CDD) are also stationed along the trails during weekends, when the number of visitors increases, Dheisat said, adding that warning signs marking dangerous areas are posted.

Three large catchments, including Wadi Mujib, Wadi Hidan and Wadi Zarqa, characterise the reserve’s complex drainage system with its permanent water flow throughout the year.

The richest vegetation is found in the wadi beds, including oleander, palm, wild fig and tamarix trees, as well as reed beds along riverbanks, according to the RSCN.

Surveys indicate that Mujib, the lowest-altitude nature reserve in the world, is home to over 300 species of plants, 10 species of carnivores and numerous species of resident and migratory birds.

Bordered by the Rift Valley, the world’s second-most used flyway, which hosts more than 1.5 million migratory birds during the spring and autumn, the reserve is strategically important for bird migration.