by Hana Namrouqa | Nov 01, 2012

AMMAN — As the Mujib Biosphere Reserve prepares to close its doors to aqua adventurers and hikers for the winter, the popular eco-tourism destination reported a rise in the number of tourists this year.

“We received 17,000 tourists in 2011. The number rose to 20,000 this year, 85 per cent of them Jordanians. This indicates a rise in inbound tourism and especially to the Mujib Biosphere Reserve,” the reserve’s director, Hisham Dheisat, said on Thursday.

Mujib is becoming one of Jordan’s main eco-tourist destinations, Dheisat noted, adding that the number of visitors rose by 3 per cent this year compared to 2011.

Dheisat told The Jordan Times in a phone interview that all hiking trails in the biosphere reserve are now closed, except for the Siq route, which is categorised as an easy trek.

“We usually close all trails by October 31 and sometimes before because of rain and flashfloods, which can be dangerous for adventurers,” he said.

The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), which is in charge of operating all the country’s reserves, closes down the Mujib Biosphere Reserve during winter because rainfall raises water levels in the canyons and forms floods which can cause the water to become murky, jeopardising the safety of hikers.

“The trails are all closed, except for the Siq trail, which is short and a relatively easy trek. If it rains, it will also be closed to tourists, and if it doesn’t rain it will be closed in mid-November because the water gets cold,” Dheisat noted.

The Mujib reserve, approximately 100km south of Amman, is home to high-altitude summits and waterfalls. It usually opens its doors to visitors in spring.

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

Three large catchments — 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.