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Adventuring in Jordan

Put your game face on and head to Wild Jordan

Nelson Alcantara, eTN editor-in-chief  May 10, 2011

Jordan has unveiled a formidable ecotourism option to its growing list of diverse travel and tourism products. Billed as “Wild Jordan,” the itinerary is the result of Jordan’s foray into ecotourism, which, for Jordan, has two very distinct attributes - it involves partaking in eco-friendly activities and accommodations. It is not the version that most people who have been to Jordan can relate to, because this is a new product that caters to two specific markets - eco-friendly tourists and adventure travelers, and could potentially spark the interest of two other developing niche markets - backpackers and budget travelers.

From a macro level, the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature uses “Wild Jordan” as the business platform “to develop socio-economic programs in all of Jordan’s reserves.” From a micro level, that effort has created a trickle-down effect by showing how the people living in the reserves are reaping the benefits of tourism. This is a win-win situation for the country, but from a consumer standpoint, it boils down to one question: Is “Wild Jordan” a product worth spending money on for eco-friendly tourists and adventure travelers?

“Wild Jordan” is an immersive experience that guarantees travelers a unique story to tell. It requires travelers to be mentally and physically fit to handle some extraordinary moments along the way. If heights are not a friend of yours, then you should probably skip this one.

“Wild Jordan” is an intense three-day workout, so a good night’s rest is highly recommended before commencing on the journey. To be precise, it includes a four-hour hike in the Dana Nature Reserve, a four-hour hike in Petra, a six-hour hike in Wadi Mujib, and overnight stays in the Rummana Campgrounds in Wadi Dana and two eco-friendly establishments (Feynan Eco-Lodge and Mujib Chalets).

The below are tips and brief descriptions of the daily highlights and misses throughout my entire four-day adventure:

Day One Highlights: Rummana Campgrounds
The drive from Amman to Wadi Dana is scenic. Allow yourself enough time to take pictures along the way, but make sure you are in Rummana Campgrounds before sunset. The elevation cools down the temperature, so bring appropriate clothing. The campsite provides basic amenities - shower, bath, and a tent. The symphony of snorers may come as an “extra” and depends entirely on your luck.

Day Two Highlights: Wadi Dana/Feynan Eco-Lodge
Four hours in Wadi Dana was, for me, akin to being given a free pass to let my imagination run wild. Within the first hour of the 15-kilometer journey, my natural curiosity to wander ended up becoming an impromptu covert mission to test Jordan hospitality. Somewhere along the way, I became a biologist looking at plants and animals, then a meteorologist identifying the four eco-systems in the valley, then a cultural anthropologist collecting data from a Bedouin village.

The hike, offered to all levels of hiking experiences, led to Feynan Eco-Lodge, which deserves honorable mention for presenting a logical approach to eco-tourism. Through smart design and careful execution, Feynan Eco-Lodge can rightfully claim that it is operating successfully with very little help from electricity. The bathroom has the only electric-powered light in the entire hotel room, which has a queen-sized bed, making showers at night convenient and safer. The Candlelight Hotel? It exists wonderfully.

The hotel also puts together a sunset tour, which is another eco-friendly activity to put on the list. It is an opportunity that can’t be missed not only because there’s a good chance of capturing the sunset on camera, but also it introduces the traveler to the community that Feynan Eco-Lodge belongs to.

Day Three Highlights and a Miss: Petra/Mujib Chalets
“Wild Jordan” offered new perspective on Jordan’s most notorious city - Petra. The four-hour hike in Petra showed an off-the-beaten path that leads to the sight of The Monastery, being a precursor to the main event - The Treasury. The journey was pure eye-candy and gave my “Wild Jordan” experience its first jolt of fear factor.

Accommodation fell short based on the standard set by Feynan Eco-Lodge. If the goal is to save energy, Mujib Chalets is clearly missing the mark. The facility could use some tweaking. Two ACs in a tiny cubicle that has two twin beds and one power plug too many seemed a bit superfluous. Be warned that the facility shares two community bathrooms (one for men and one for women), and based on the men’s bathroom, Mujib Chalets is not cleaning after dead bugs and butterflies.

Day Four Highlights: Wadi Mujib
I had been briefed on what to expect on the final day of my “Wild Jordan” experience. I was told it entailed more hiking and that water was eventually going to come into play. The Wadi Mujib hike means everything is going to get soaked in water, so wear proper clothing and footwear. However, no amount of psyching myself up could have prepared me for the grueling task that the first hour-and-a-half of the six-hour hike through Wadi Mujib required. The uphill climb to the summit was the hardest part of the entire trip to Jordan up to that point. It tested my physical strength and mental endurance. The reward? The next three hours gave me ample chances to live out an extended version of my “Man versus Nature” fantasy or what I would much rather refer to as “Man and Nature” episode. When conditions allow visitors to hike, Wadi Mujib is vast, and as I have to come learn, full of surprises.

During hour five of day four of my “Wild Jordan” experience, I was required to make one crucial move - go first or get out of the way. That was the part where “Wild Jordan” saw my poker face. In the pursuit of an adrenaline rush, the only thing constant is the hint of danger along the way. Wadi Mujib’s waterfall drop is definitely one of those moments. On that merit alone, “Wild Jordan” gave me what every adventure traveler ultimately seeks: a great dose of thrill to last for a while.

Would I do “Wild Jordan” again? Absolutely!

Put your game face on and head to Wild Jordan
Petra's Lion Guardian / photo by Nelson Alcantara

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