When I was a child, I dreamed of adventures like the ones that Indiana Jones had. Discovering mysterious artifacts from ancient times, seeing parts of the world that few other people venture to, and unlocking the mysteries of the past were all a part of my childhood fantasies. My curiosity about the world only intensified as I grew up and that is what fueled my wanderlust. Learning to scuba dive was the icing on the cake because now I get to unlock the secrets of the world’s oceans.
My adventurous spirit has led me to many destinations around the globe, but no place is more intriguing than Jordan. For someone like me, Jordan has it all: Excellent scuba diving, ancient artifacts, a compelling history, and fascinating landscapes. Each adventure taken by itself is satisfying enough but put them all together and you have an unforgettable life experience that will entertain your senses and satiate your wayfaring needs.
Aqaba, Wadi Rum, and Petra are known locally as “The Golden Triangle.” My adventure started in Aqaba where I spent a week diving with Deep Blue Dive Center. The dive center can be found in the beautiful Tala Bay Resort and sits right on the beach. They have a lovely house reef for shore dives and two boats to take you diving to Aqaba’s twenty-three dive sites, most of which are located inside the protected marine park.
The most intriguing thing about diving in Aqaba is the many wrecks to pique your curiosity. Shipwrecks such as the Cedar pride are full of life and have interesting features to explore. The Hercules C-130 transport aircraft and the Tristar 1011 passenger jet are unique sites offering divers the chance to explore the inside and outside of the aircrafts.
Explorers of every kind will be amazed by Aqaba’s underwater military museum. The nineteen decommissioned military vehicles were submerged in July 2019 and sit along the gulf’s sandy bottom in a military formation. Divers can explore two helicopters, tanks, troop carriers, a military ambulance, jeeps and more. The museum offers divers a unique experience but more importantly, the vehicles create an artificial reef where small fish and other life can take hold in a protected environment. Coral reefs that were affected by heavy diving tourism also get relief as divers now have more sites to explore.
Although there are many wrecks to examine in Aqaba, there is also a lot of beautiful marine life to see. Reef animals such as octopus, eels, and schools of colorful fish live among the coral reefs and offer divers a chance to connect with nature. Some sites have grassy bottoms where turtles feed and bottom dwelling critters hunt. There are several jettys that offer shallow environments for soft corals to grow and protection for fish. Many sites are shallow enough for snorkelers so even non-divers can enjoy all that Aqaba has to offer.
For me, diving in Aqaba fulfilled my desires to explore new places that are not frequented or even well known by the general public. The locals were all very friendly and eager to show us the beauty of their environment, the food was good, the beaches uncrowded and the sparkling sea was inviting. What more could a person hope for?
It turns out, there is more. Much more! After spending a week exploring the sea, our hosts at Deep Blue Dive Center helped us arrange a visit to Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is a protected desert wilderness in Southern Jordan about an hour’s drive from Aqaba. Nearly all the people living in Wadi Rum today are of Bedouin origin and up until recently led nomadic lives. The Bedouins have created camps in the desert where tourists can stay the night and have an authentic meal after exploring the desert with their hosts. Our “tents” were more like cabins with a full bath and roof over our head, but some camps are more rustic while others have tents with transparent ceilings so that you can sleep under the stars.
The tour was quite an adventure. We sat in the back of a pickup truck that had seats and a protective shade from the sun while touring around sites such as Lawrence of Arabia’s home and movie sets such as “The Martian.” We were also able to take a camel ride and visit ancient caves with petroglyphs. To end the day, we parked on a hill and watched a fantastic sunset over the glowing red desert where camels and goats roamed freely. The evening was spent telling stories around a fire pit and eating a delicious meal. All in all, it was an authentic experience, and I came away feeling like I had received the rare gift of acceptance into a foreign culture.
The next adventure, and the third side of the “Golden Triangle” was a visit to Petra. This is where my Indiana Jones fantasies came true. Petra is an archeological city in Southern Jordan where the city is literally carved into the mountains. Most notably, “The Treasury,” which is the setting for one of Indiana’s adventures, is the first marvel you see after you travel the narrow gorge which leads to the city.
Petra boasts many sites and can take one or several days to visit, depending on how robust your walking shoes are, and how much you want to see. There are carts that you can pay for to take you as far as the “Treasury,” but beyond that you must walk, or ride a horse or donkey or camel. Some areas are a difficult hike, but there is a main trail that goes in about two and a half miles that is flat. It is an unforgettable adventure and a “must see” if you travel to Jordan.
Because I am an underwater photographer by profession, almost all my travel centers around scuba diving. I rarely get the opportunity to visit the dry land around my destination. Jordan gave me an unexpected gift. In addition to a fascinating diving experience in Aqaba, some of my childhood dreams were realized in my personal discovery of the amazing city of Petra and a fun adventure in Wadi Rum. I would recommend a visit to any one of these places based on their own merits but taken together the richest rewards are earned.