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The protected area of the Aqaba Marine Park (AMP), was founded to conserve and manage the natural near-short marine environment of the Aqaba south coast region with its rich bio diversity, while allowing for certain tourism uses at sustainable levels, for benefit and enjoyment of future generations of Jordanians & the global community.
The AMP is located along the southern coast of the Jordanian portion of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is Approximately 7 km in length, stretching from the southern boundary of the passenger terminal in the north to the southern boundary of the Public Security Officers' Club in the south.
On the terrestrial side, the park boundary extends 50m east of the mean high water mark, and on the marine side, it extends to either the 70m bathymetric contour line, or to 350m westward from the mean high water mark.
Extensive coral communities in the form of fringing reefs dominate the 7 km long Marine Park coastline. The distribution of the reefs is discontinuous due to embayment, which are the outlets of the dried out riverbeds which form drowned canyons seaward.
Reef-building corals are colonies of tiny individual animals called 'polyps'. Each polyp secretes a calcium carbonate exoskeleton, which protects the soft sack-like body inside. Much of the corals food is provided by microscopic green algae called zooxanthellae, which live within the polyp in a symbiotic relationship with the polyp. Three main types of coral reef formations have developed in warm tropical waters: Fringing reefs, barrier reefs, and atolls.
The typical reef structure within the park is composed of the reef flat (shallow coral plateau often exposed at extreme low tides), which is sometimes separated from the shore's line by a sandy lagoon.
The back reef is the back step leading from the shallow lagoon to the reef flat, while the seaward edge of the reef is called the reef crest. The reef face is the steep drop-off from the reef crest on the seaward side. The fore-reef extends from the reef-face and slopes seaward.
Coral reefs are an important part of the global ecosystem as their contributions include: acting as carbon sinks similar to tropical rainforests, absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen; production of nutrients and provision of shelter and habitats for numerous marine creatures; protection against coastal erosion by waves; numerous medical benefits such as the use of coral skeletons in bone transplants in humans and developments of ultraviolet protection to protect the human skin from sun exposure.
Within Jordanian waters, over 127 species of hard coral and 450 species of fish have been noted. A number of mollusks, echinoderms, algae, amphipods and fish are endemic to the Gulf of Aqaba.
The shallow reef structures provide habitats for a multitude of reef fish and organisms. Dense reefs are observed to a depth of 70m. While not known for large pelagic fish, the northern tip of the Gulf has seen repeated visits of whale sharks, dolphins, barracuda, and jacks.
Along the Marine Park shore exist 3 types of sea grass communities in the shallow waters ranging from depths of 0.5m to approximately 40m. While only a few species such as the urchin and the surgeonfish feed directly on sea grass. There beds of sea grass provide important habitats and nurseries to a large number of marine animals. The sandy tidal area is also host to a dense community of creatures including several species of crab.