Established in 1989, Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest nature reserve, covering some 320 km2 of rugged and beautiful landscape along the face of the Great Rift Valley. It sweeps down in a series of mountain ridges, from the 1500m high plateau near Quadesiyya to the desert plains of Wadi Araba. The total number of species recorded so far consists of 697 plants, of which 3 are new to science, and 282 animals. The mountains are cut by many steep-sided wadis, often lined with a lush growth of trees and shrubs. Its geology is as varied as its landscape, switching from limestone to sandstone to granite. Dana Biosphere Reserve is the only reserve in Jordan that includes the four different bio-geographical zones of the country; Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, Saharo Arabian and Sudanian penetration. As such, it is the most diverse nature reserve in the country in terms of habitats and species, hosting several vegetation types, including the Phoenician Juniper, evergreen oak, sand dunes, acacia, and rocky sudanian, among others. It is also home to the southernmost remaining forest community of Cypress Cupressus simper virens. Dana offers a selection of trails to key points of interest for both the casual and adventurous hiker. Four of the trails are clearly marked with intermittent piles of stones along the route, and can therefore be hiked independently or with an RSCN guide. The other two trails, which are longer and unmarked, must be hiked with a guide. Guided hikes offer visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy a stimulating walk and learn about the geology, wildlife, and history of Dana in a natural classroom.
It is the only reserve which is relatively easy to reach by public transport : there are buses from Amman, from Ma’an and also from Tafileh. There are no direct buses from Petra some 40kms away, however, a pity. To get from the one to the other, you have either a circuitous bus ride via Ma’an, a taxi costing somewhere between 20 and 30JD or you just have to hitch, probably in several cars. Originally another community being deserted by its people, Dana village occupies a wonderful site looking out over Wadi Dana and is now gradually coming back to life with the jobs associated with the Reserve. One of the first measures taken by the RSCN was to install a reliable water supply, and the fruit that can now be produced locally is made into jams which are sold at the Reserve shop, together with soap made with the local olive oil. Medicinal herbs, also grown in the valley, are to be found on sale here, as well as silver jewellery made in the workshop nearby. Tourism revenue is reported to be covering all the running costs of the reserve.