Aqaba Marine Reserve
Aqaba Marine Reserve is part of the Tentative list of Jordan in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The Aqaba Marine Reserve is a protected zone in the Red Sea, known for its extensive coral reef system. The area has unique marine biodiversity, including high fish diversity and the occurrence of four species of sea turtles. It is also an Important Bird Area because of migrating birds.
Map of Aqaba Marine ReserveLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
I went scuba diving in the Aqaba Marine Reserve during my trip to Jordan in August 2023, through a local dive center.
Being a scuba diving enthusiast, this was the best way for me to experience this TWHS, however, since the marine reserve is located a few kilometers south of downtown Aqaba, near Tala Bay (where most of the beach resorts are located), the site is easily reached by private car as well and it's also a great spot for snorkeling from the shore if you are not a fan of going too deep underwater in areas such as the so-called Japanese garden or Berenice reef.
The reef, although not very extensive, seems to be quite healthy, compared to other reefs around the world and with a good amount of underwater life. There are lots of corals and small juvenile fish, which is always a good sign. I also saw turtles and other larger fish such as groupers and I was told that also some larger pelagic fish, such as tuna, sharks (even whale sharks) and manta rays can be spotted sometimes, even though I haven't had the luck to see any during my dives.
Something interesting is that King Abdullah II of Jordan is a scuba diver himself and decided to improve the diving spots in the area by sinking a few objects to act as foundation for artificial reefs. Among them are 2 airplanes (one of them, the passenger aircraft Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, is actually outside the Marine Reserve but it's a great diving spot nonetheless), a few tanks and obviously a few ships. Be aware that although it seems strange and counterintuitive to help the reef by purposedly sinking alien objects, this is a well-established practice in the marine conservation and scuba diving worlds.
More reliable info on the wrecks can be found at: https://aqaba.jo/EchoBusV3.0/SystemAssets/Wrecks%20of%20Aqaba/wrecks%20of%20Aqaba%20Photo%20book%2006122020.pdf
The picture shows me diving next to the Cedar Prince, probably the most famous wreck in the Aqaba marine reserve, thanks to Coral Garden Diving Center.
So, while the Aqaba Marine Reserve is a good spot for a few dives, how does it stand in terms of OUV and its status as a TWHS?
Here is where I have conflicting feelings. It is definitely a place that has value and meets some of the criteria for inscription. It also needs protection and becoming a WHS might help in this even though probably it could bring many more divers and tourists that might not be as aware of its delicate environment. However, compared to other marine reserves or reefs that make the list I have a hard time seeing how it could compare to them. Only time will tell if this place is to become a WHS, I guess.
Read more from Riccardo Quaranta here.
2023 Added to Tentative List
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