If you like marine life or diving at all, Aqaba Marine Park is definitely one of the places to visit when you go to Aqaba. This place was established by the government in the late 90’s-in 1997, to be precise-and for a very important reason: it was noticed that extensive use of the marine resources of the Gulf of Aqaba was having a fairly large influence already on the environment-one not entirely positive. As a result, the need for a body that would handle conservation and management of at least one environmentally significant part of the gulf was brought to the fore. The answer was the Aqaba Marine Park, which is basically a protected area where people work not only to safeguard the biodiversity of the local waters but also to promote in a healthy and measured way the import of the park’s work to tourists and locals alike.
The park is about 7km long and is situated on the southern coastline of the city. There are several zones in the park, and you can use the zoning to figure out what is allowed or disallowed in whichever area you might find yourself. The following are the park zones: Strict Reserve – these areas are absolutely protected from anthropogenic interference, may be accessed only with the appropriate permit; Beach and Swimming Zones – these are places where boating is not allowed but swimming, snorkelling, and diving are; Multi-use and Boat Access Corridors – these are primarily areas used for the passage of boats heading to and from the beaches; Diving and Snorkelling Zones – these basically function as their name describes; Beach Zone – these would be the on-land portions of the marine park, generally used only for the usual beach activities.
When you go to the Aqaba Marine Park, keep in mind the objectives of the people who established it and continue to run it today. Most people come here for a bit of beach fun or with their dive instructors since it features several fantastic dive sites, but there are also quite a number of persons who come here and engage in prohibited activities. If you happen to spot one, quickly look for the Park Officers to catch the violators. The most common violation is probably illegal fishing.
A few final notes about Aqaba Marine Park have to be given. First, keep in mind that there are a fair number of facilities on hand for most functions. Shade and kiosks are provided along the beach if you want some respite from the harshness of the Aqaba sun-and it can be harsh, as this area has some of the lowest precipitation rates in the region and some of the highest temperatures-and there are public toilets and showers as well should you have need of them in a pinch. If you want to camp, inquire about the possibility of doing so at Beach No. 4, where a camping area complete with power lines, water, and other facilities has been set up.