Over the years I’ve become an increasingly adventurous traveler. I’ve gone canyoning in Vietnam, hiked the most active volcano in Bali, dived with sharks in Indonesia, paraglided in the Swiss Alps and endured a ten-day trek in the Himalayas. Not bad for a girl who used to be terrified of swimming pools.
So I was pleased to find that there are tons of world-class adventure activities in Jordan, from diving in the Red Sea to riding camels in the Wadi Rum desert. And although I was terrified for several of the activities (cough, camel-riding), I somehow managed to push through.
Here’s a summary of the adventure activities I’d recommending doing while in Jordan– even if you’re a scaredy-cat.
Diving in the Red Sea
While our initial itinerary didn’t include diving, when we headed Red Sea I requested we add in scuba. When in… the Red Sea, right?
The Red Sea has some of the best diving in the world, so I was extremely excited to strap on my fins again. And thankfully I’m already a certified diver- I did both my open-water and advanced in Thailand.
As soon as I leapt off the dive platform I was freezing- the Red Sea is certainly chillier than the bath-water seas of Thailand.
As I descended I started to see familiar marine life: clownfish, angelfish, pufferfish and lionfish. At one point I even saw an enormous sea slug- I’d estimate about 18 inches.
During the dive two big schools of fish passed by, and I couldn’t help but think of the Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish Bible story.
But it wasn’t the sea life that appealed to me most in the Red Sea- it was the coral. Looking down I saw colors of coral I’d never seen before: from lavender to saffron to periwinkle.
Bonus- after diving we had an incredible Jordanian lunch of grilled swordfish, grilled chicken, hummus, baba ganoush, fattoush and of course, pita. Dive-boat meal = nailed.
Where to dive in Jordan on your trip:
Riding a Jeep in the Wadi Rum Desert
Wadi Rum, or in Arabic, The Valley of the Moon, is a desert that is straight out of Indiana Jones, or perhaps Wilfred Thesiger’s travel journal.
After a glass of mint tea, we boarded the Jeep and turned on our cameras.
I loved the photos I captured in Wadi Rum. The desert looked similar to the American Southwest with dramatic red rocks and undulating sand dunes.
But of course, historically it was a bit different than the American Southwest. Our guides even dropped us off to see ancient Nabatean petroglyphs- see the etchings of camels, ostriches and men hunting below.
Overall I’d highly recommend riding in the back of a Jeep in Wadi Rum, especially if you’re a shutterbug. Pro tip- photos will be much more atmospheric if you wear traditional red-and-white Bedouin headscarves. (And they’re super comfy too!)
Riding Camels in Wadi Rum
I won’t lie- after reading Liz’ post on falling off a camel in Jordan, I wasn’t sure if I was up for camel-riding. But as I’m so often afflicted with PTRD, or post-trip regret disorder, I knew I had to give camel-riding a go.
When we first approached the camels my initial thought was, wow, that baby camel is adorable and dear god they are SO TALL.
Things were not looking good when Amanda mounted her camel and was promptly thrown off. I turned to Jessica and said, “We don’t have to do this! Should we do this?”
Jessica murmured and few words of encouragement (I was so freaked out that I don’t remember) and before I knew it we were moving.
The sensation of riding a camel is quite different from riding a horse. You’re so far off the ground and camels rock you back and forth like a ship. Truthfully I never got used to the feeling and was a bit wary for both my body and my DSLR.
Dismounting was also frightening. To dismount the camel sits down in a fashion not unlike bowing.
But soon enough I was back on the ground where I belong.
Overall I think this one camel-riding experience was enough for me- I think I’ll stick to horses.
Hiking in the Dana Biosphere Reserve
The Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve, located in south-Central Jordan. After we dropped off our bags at Feynan Ecolodge, our accomodation for the night, we headed out for a hike in the reserve.
The reserve is beautiful, a rocky, moonlike landscape dotted with sandstone cliffs, acacia trees and Phoenician Juniper shrubs. It looked like a cross between the Serengeti and the moon.
But as much I love the outdoors, I love ancient history even more. Which is why I was so stoked to find out about all the Palaeolithic, Egyptian, Nabataean, and Roman settlements in Dana.
“When the Romans ruled, they sent criminals to work in the copper mines here,” said our travel guide. “The conditions were so bad you wouldn’t wish it upon your worst enemy.”
During the Roman era criminals were sent to Feynan to mine copper in tiny tunnels, some dying after only a few days. Skeletons have been discovered with their Achilles heels cut, ensuring the prisoners wouldn’t be able to run away.
By the end of the hike I was asking my travel buddies, “Do you think I have enough service to download The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on my phone?” Julika, who is a medieval art historian, was even calling me out nerdiness. #NerdAlert
And even if you aren’t into Roman ruins, Dana has wonderful hiking. We finished off our hike by sitting down to watch the sunset as we sipped tea. All in all a magical experience.
Tips- when hiking in Dana make sure to wear good shoes and if you visit a Bedouin family, be respectful and don’t take a picture of the women’s faces.
Are you interested in adventure activities when you travel? Would any of these scare you?
I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, but as always, all opinions are my own.