The Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve is a pleasant surprise waiting for you in the Negev Desert. You might drive past Kibbutz Yotvata along the Arava Road on your way to Eilat, and even stop to try their excellent dairy products. But if you venture further, you’ll find this hidden gem - a haven for indigenous desert animals.
Hai Bar was established in the 1960s as a public organization under the auspices of the Parks and Nature Reserves Authority. In the 1970s a large area on the Yotvata salt flats was allocated for the reserve, and in the 1980s more land was added to the reserve. Today it is a popular stop along the route between central Israel and Eilat in the south. It can also be visited along with nearby attractions that include the Dead Sea and Masada.
Highlights of Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve
The site covers 3,000-acres (12km²) and is home to endangered species and animals of the Negev that are locally extinct. Many of the animals are mentioned in the Bible and have inhabited the Holy Land for thousands of years. The reserve rescues, breeds, and nurtures these animals. The ultimate goal is to reintroduce them to their natural habitat, in the Negev Desert.
Among the animals at Hai Bar are red-necked ostriches, addax, cheetahs, Griffon vultures, Nubian ibex, hyenas, Persian and Arabian leopards, Arabian sand cats, and more. This incredible project works hard to reestablish the wildlife of Negev. They’ve found particular success with the Asian wild ass and Arabian oryx, both brought back from the brink of extinction.
Visiting Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve
Find the reserve on the Arava Road between Yotvata Kibbutz to the north, Timna Park to the south, Hashayarot Cliffs to the west, and the Jordanian border to the east. The entrance to the reserve is from the southern end opposite Kibbutz Samar. If you have a car you can follow the driving path that snakes its way through the park. Unfortunately, this route is designated for vehicles only.
There is also a predators center and a camping area at the entrance to the park. If you enjoy Hai-Bar Yotvata, why not check out Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, a similar attraction in the forest-covered mountains near Haifa that nurtures animals from the Carmel Mountain area.