We’re visiting the Hai-bar Yotvata Nature Reserve as our second national park visit in our National Park Challenge. Our goal is to visit every national park in Israel. We will be documenting all of our adventures via blog posts and on our Instagram account – Hochdorf family adventures. Join us as we discover Israel’s beauty at the Hai-bar Yotvata Nature Reserve.
Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority was put in place to protect Israel’s natural, historical and heritage treasures throughout the land. Spread across the country, there are currently 81 national parks and reserves to be explored.
The Hai-bar Yotvata Nature Reserve is a project that was started to restore and reintroduce wildlife that has been become extinct back into Israel’s land. It’s an open-safari, desert area covering around 3,000 acres of land. The only access to the reserve is inside a vehicle, and getting out is strictly prohibited.
The Hai-bar Nature Reserve is located about 30 miles north of Eilat, the southern-most city in Israel. The entrance to the reserve is opposite Kibbutz Samar on the Jordan/Israel border. Right off highway 90 and just north of Timna Park.
Waze Location: Hai-bar Yotvata
The reserve’s entrance hours are divided into two different schedules: winter and summer.
Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 8:30 – 17:00; Friday: 08:30 – 16:00
Sunday – Thursday and Saturday: 08:30 – 16:00; Friday: 08:30 – 15:00
Reserve Driving Tip: During the summer, arrive either early in the morning or closer toward the end of the day to maximize your animal viewing.
The price of an adult to enter is ₪28.00 (shekels), and children ages 5-17 is ₪14.00. Children under the age of 5 are free. You can also buy a yearly National Park Pass, which gives you free access to all national parks for a year.
Price Tip: We highly suggest purchasing the yearly pass, especially for a family visiting multiple parks a year. Our pass paid for itself after just a couple of parks.
When dealing with animals – especially in the summer – the best time to visit is early and evening hours. Animals are most active during these cooler times of the day and tend to spend most of a hot day resting in the shade.
But an advantage of the Hai-bar Yotvata Nature Reserve is that many of the shady areas are located near the driving path, so even if the animals are resting, you’re still very likely to see them up close.
Hai-bar Yotvata Natural Reserve is basically a kid magnet and one of the most kid-friendly sites we’ve been to. Kids love seeing animals, even if it’s from the safety of your car. Our daughter absolutely loved the safari, especially when all the ostriches came up to the car and started pecking around.
There are a variety of animals that you will see on the safari drive inside the Hai-bar Yotvata Reserve, so buckle up and get ready for a wild ride.
The White Oryx is a medium-sized antelope with long, razor-sharp horns. They are considered “vulnerable” animals due to their low numbers in the wild. We were amazed by their horns’ size – some of them were longer than the animal itself. Wouldn’t want to get into a fight with those swords!
The Addax is another type of antelope, noticeable because of its bent-looking shaped horns. It’s also a desert antelope and is sometimes called a screwhorn antelope, because of its horns. They are considered critically endangered due to their decreasing numbers in the wild.
The ostriches were the highlight of the trip. They were the most active animals and so very curious in nature. We even saw a mother with a nest of eggs, which was really cool. During the drive, a group of them came right up to the car, pecking on the windows, trying to get the stickers off our windshield. Just remember not to open up any windows or doors because they’re not pecking kisses.
Fun Fact: Did you know that you can stand on an ostrich egg, and it won’t even crack? That’s how strong the egg’s shell is!
The Somali Wild Ass is a subspecies of the African wild ass. What makes this donkey stand out is its legs – they are striped like a zebra’s. It is another critically endangered species as it faces a high chance of extinction in the wild.
The Nubian Ibex are popular animals to see in the Israeli desert, especially around Mitspe Ramon and the Dead Sea. Even though you have a good chance of seeing them, here in the wild, they are classified as “vulnerable”, because of their declining numbers in the wild.
Dorcas Gazelles are cute little gazelles, known for their smaller sizes. They only stand about 55–65 cm at the shoulder and weigh between 15-20 kilos. Because they were hunted so often in the past, they are considered “conservation status” in the wild.
Fun Fact: Dorcas gazelles adapt so well to the desert that they never need to drink! They can get all the water they need from what they eat. Amazing!
Photography Tips: There are some fantastic places for “Instagrammable photos” throughout the reserve. For most of the photos that we took on our safari, we used our wide lens with a low aperture to capture large areas of the reserve. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with lots of natural light, which made for some great pics.
There is also a campground at the reserve, for those interesting in spending the night in nature. Available at the campground are: electrical outlets, drinking and water units, hot water, picnic tables, bonfire & BBQ areas, water heater and mobile phone charging units. Restrooms and showers are also available as well as a field kitchen.
Camping Tip: The cost of camping with your own tent is ₪55 per adult and ₪40 per child. With an annual pass card, the discounted prices are ₪41/30. Again, the annual pass pays off.
Overall, we give the Hai-bar Yotvata Reserve 3 out of 5 ibexes. It’s a nice way to spend an hour, especially breaking up a trip on the way to or from a trip to Eilat. But I wouldn’t drive all the way to the south just for the experience, or you might be a little disappointed. The animals are fun to see, but there’s a limited amount of species.