Established in 2010, the Yarmouk Nature Reserve spreads over a small area (20 square kilometres) of the hills beside Umm Qais. Overlooking the River Yarmouk, which marks the border between Jordan and Syria, it protects a swathe of deciduous oak forest (85 percent of Jordan’s surviving cover), along with two species of rare orchid, mammals including otters, hyenas, wolves and the threatened mountain gazelle, reptiles, fish and birds. The reserve also plans to capitalize on the presence of 100,000 tourists – most of them locals – who visit the area each year by offering environmental education, nature guiding on new hiking trails, mountain-biking, an eco-café and a nature shop selling handmade crafts from local communities. Check w rscn.org.jo or ask at the Umm Qais ticket office for the latest information.

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