Jordan Discovery Day 3 – Camel Rides and Red Sea Snorkeling

Where and when: Wadi Rum and Aqaba, Jordan, 2 February 2023

0600: Another early start, not least because I slept in fits and starts due to the strong wind overnight . Very strong gusts of wind kept coming through the night and were at their worst at early hours in the morning. At certain points it felt like the whole tent was going to blow off, but it held fast. 

The temperature dropped to 4 degrees C overnight. Getting up and getting dressed needed a lot of will power – especially as there was no hot water and all the clothes felt like they had been refrigerated overnight.

Tip: If going Wadi Rum in winter, take full winter gear – hat, scarf, gloves, thermals. Other parts of Jordan may be milder but Wadi Rum is cold, especially at night

0700: Breakfast in the communal tent. Good spread of local and international food.

Early morning start

0745: Time for our camel ride. We are going to ride from the camp all the way to the Wadi Rum Village – about 6km. Six of us (4 from the group and 2 guides) travelled together. The guides were leading the two front camels and the other camels were tied to the ones in front.  It is easier than horse riding, with the saddle narrower and more comfortably padded. Most difficult part is holding on whilst the camel is getting up or down. Soon you learn to balance whilst the camel is trotting.

Caravan of camels

The camels are cute, but mischievous. Those at the back would be trying to nibble the straw from the saddle of the others, or grass on the ground or in my case, the shoe laces.

My ride – he particularly liked my shoe laces

The gales from the night before had died down by the time we set off. The rising sun was casting long shadows; the air was crisps and clear and we could see for miles. The gentle pace of the ride allowed us to take in the spectacular surroundings – flat open land, mountains, canyons and sand dunes.

Riding into the Sunrise

0900: End of the camel ride at Wadi Rum village. We board the bus to head to Aqaba, with a short stop at Wadi Rum visitor centre for a coffee.

1045: Arrive in Aqaba. Two of us from the group had decided to go snorkeling, so we headed to the marina for our excursion with Diverse Divers.

Coast of Israel

A half-a-day excursion on board the Diversity Yacht with stops at two dive/snorkeling sites cost 40 JD. The price included snorkeling gear, towels, food and drinks.

1115: The boat head out of the marina, which also happens to be next to the Jordan/Israeli border.

The first stop is at a diving site few kilometres away from the marina, right next to the South Beach Highway – this is the main link road between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Dive site next to South Beach Highway

The water is at about 20 to 21  degrees C, so not too cold (by UK standards anyway). We spend about 20 to 30 minute snorkeling. There is a large coral reef here, amazingly colourful and full of fish. The water is crystal clear and you can easily see all the way to the ocean floor (about 20 feet), especially when the sun is shining. A member of the dive team accompany us, pointing out various corals and fish – among other things we see a lion fish and a clown fish, and many different types of coral. It is on par with my snorkelling experience off the coast of Sri Lanka and the Maldives (if a bit cold).

I didn’t have a water proof camera, so no photos during the snorkeling, but I did manage to capture this puffer fish when the yatch was docked at the marina

Several others on the boat are here for scuba diving – apparently there are reefs further down, at around 60 feet depth.

The second dive site is further up the coast line, with more corals, but also an aircraft – a Lockheed Tristar 1011 – a small passenger aircraft has purposefully been sunk on this location to give divers an interesting experience.

The yacht we are on, The Diversity is beautiful and well appointed. As it is low season, there are only 5 guests on the boat, giving the whole experience an air of exclusivity. The staff look after us really well, with numerous cups of tea to make sure we don’t get too cold after getting out of the water. (I was too busy snorkeling to take photos of the boat, but if you head to Diverse Divers instagram page, there is a great reel showing the Yatch.)

There are 3 decks on the yacht, so after snorkeling, we get to sit in the sun and take in the beautiful scenery and the location.
We are at the very top of the Red Sea and from here you can see 3 countries – Jordan, Israel and Egypt.

Coast of Egypt

1445: With the two dive sessions over, it is time for lunch. There is a good spread, with Roast chicken, rice, various salads and hummus.

Heading back to the marina

1515: Back at the marina and we rejoin the rest of the tour group.

1530: Short visit to Sharif Hussein bin ali mosque.

1600: Walk to centre of Aqaba and we have some delicious knafeh for an afternoon snack. Knafeh is a popular traditional Middle Eastern dessert originating from Palestine, made with spun pastry soaked in a sweet, sugar-based syrup and typically layered with cheese, and topped with pistachios and served warm.

Knafeh – A truly scrumptious middle Eastern dessert

1700: At hotel  for the night – the City Tower Hotel Aqaba. I have a room on a higher floor affording great views. I can see the sea front with the Aqaba Fort, as well as Israel on the other side of the Red Sea. It is even more beautiful at night.

Aqaba seafront – Aqaba Castle in the foreground and Israel in the background
Aqaba seafront – even prettier at night

1900: What a great day it has been!  I woke up in a tent in the middle of the desert, rode a camel and snorkeled in the Red Sea, all before lunch!  But the early start and the fitful sleep had caught up with me so it was time for an early dinner and an early night.

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