Historically, Jordan and Syria are true sanctuaries of wild animals: birds, big cats, bears …Many scenographies testify to the presence of lions, tigers and bears in the recesses of Jordan, and one can still hope to see some oryx on the side of Shaumari! Yet, it is possible to discover wild predators (lions, tigers, bears), less than an hour drive from Amman, in Ma’wa for Nature and Widlife sanctuary, with perfect life conditions. Discover with us the Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife Sanctuary!
Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife Sanctuary
Imagine the scene: Holiday, alone with 3 excited kids … What about a short walk in the forest and a picnic? Yallah! Because I didn’t want to drive for a long time, I just chose on googlemaps a piece of forest between Jerash and Ajloun with only one indication: « Shelter with mount lighthouse protected ».
Once we arrived, a portal blocks the way … We ask in Arabic-English to the guard if we can enter … 5 minutes and a few phone calls later, the answer is « yes »,but after paying an entrance fee … I notice wild animals printed on the ticket. Let’s go then … we’ll see!
We have to park right after the gate, where the one of the zookeepers (who will be also our guide) will shortly pick us up with a big smile. He plainly explains to me then that we will see lions and tigers and bears! What do you mean? All this in Jordan? Without any mistreatment? Great ! Children couldn’t believe their ears and it made the ride in the forest a lot more fun!
Where do the animals come from?
This sanctuary hosts lions, tigers and bears from zoos in war zones or conflicts in the region (including Iraq, Syria and Gaza). The animals also come from « private » zoos, often with abuse and mitreatment. And, finally, the refuge also hosts animals seized by customs officers at the borders . The program began in 2016. Previously, some were in rehabilitation center at New Hope Center of Amman, opened in 2010, thanks to the Princess Alia foundation.
Indeed, it turns out that the trafficking of wild animals, especially big cats, seems quite important in the region and especially in the Gulf. Given the geopolitical situation, Jordan has become a key gateway to the Arabian Peninsula.
We saw several pairs of lions (there are currently 17 lions), a couple of tigers, and 2 bears out of 4.
Before letting the animals enter the bigger areas, four smaller enclosures serve as transitional and observation / care locks. Currently 2 bears are in these locks.
What about the life conditions?
Right now, the area dedicated to animals covers 40 hectares (on 135 hectares of the site) , including 9 enclosures with trees of 1.5 to 3 hectares. They are in accordance with international safety standards (roasting at several meters height and double electrification, shelters for animals, basins for tigers and bears who like to have fun in the water …). An extension is even planned. Because of the size and the density of the trees, you can not see all the animals, but you can still see a lot of them.
Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife Sanctuary is truly a sanctuary (not a zoo). Clearly, animals are not yet used to seeing people. and their wild instinct is kept intact.
The site has been open to the public since october 2018 , which the place is not exactly crowded yet! And please believe me, my poor little preys (8.6 and almost 3 years yars old) interested more than one wildcat, who followed us along their enclosure without losing sight of the target! Therefore, animals living here are given adapted life conditions, so that they can keep their instinct alive. They were very attentive to our visit and I couldn’t see any apathetic, frightened or circling animal (as it sometimes happen in zoos).
Males are often sterilized, and two veterinarians take care of the animals. Indeed, this is not a breeding program but a rescue and rehabilitation initiative for animals, with sometimes heavy liabilities. When possible, the center tries to find them a new home. This is how, for example, some lions went to South Africa sanctuaries, for a new happy life. But most of them are for the moment on the site.
How the sanctuary is financed?
The site has also benefited from French financial aid, thanks to the foundation « 30 millions d’amis ». And this donators quartet is completed with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD). Also, you have a pey a fee before entering the site, so that it can also rely on some own funds.
What ways ahead for the site ?
According to its director , the site is intended to accommodate animals, but also to educate the public and especially schools. The sanctuary is also involved in training Jordanian veterinarians and in monitoring and researching big cats.
A visitor center should open in spring 2019, in order to develop the program. Two hiking trails will be organized, and 6 ecolodges are under development (2 rooms for 2 people each time). A restaurant will also open…
All in all, Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife Sanctuary is by far the nicest center to visit in Jordan, if you want to discover wild animals. Its philosophy is not related to any kind of business. Animals are all well-treated, and everuthing is organized in a way they feel like in the Nature. And don’t forget to bring your kids ! 🙂
How to organize your visit ?
🚕🚙🚍: the sanctuary is located near Ajloun, about 1 hour from Amman. Exactly halfway between the ancient site of Jerash and the castle of Ajloun.
🏁🚩: 32°18’06.9″N 35°49’28.9″E ou 32.301917, 35.824706. Google maps location on this link.
⏰: full visit lasts around 1h30, without including lunch
💲💰: 10 JOD / adult, 2 JOD / kid (3 to 16 years old). 5 JOD for jordanians. kind reminder :this place is a sanctuary, not a zoo…
⚠🚸: It is better to book your visit the day before (you will find more information on their website) because the zookeepers need to organize their day. Groups are limited to 20 people. Visits are usually organized at 11am. One of the 6 zookeepers will accompany you for the visit.
Children need to be briefed on safety. For example, do not get near fences, stay with adults, do not run, scream ….
You can have lunch on the site (on the car park right now), amongst green oaks and strawberry trees (with fruits in mid-November! yum!)
- For more information, the website of al Ma’wa for Nature and wildlife sanctuary,
- The refuge is close to the castle of Ajloun, which we made the debrief of the visit in November 2018 (french version) ! you can easily chain both, the children will be delighted!