Meet Jolanda Koopman, In2Jordan’s expert on the birds and the bees – bird watching and macro photography that is.

Birdwatching in the Jordan Valley
Birdwatching in the Jordan Valley

International travellers often find themselves discussing the birds and the bees with Jolanda Koopman. Strange for some but we would expect nothing less from In2Jordan’s resident hiking and bird watching expert.

Positioned on the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – Jordan is located at the heart of a magnificent bird migration path. Each year, its vast and varied landscapes become home to over 434 bird species, making the country a fantastic bird watching destination. Equipping travellers with this valuable information and exposing them to this unforgettable natural phenomenon first-hand is what Jolanda is all about.

“I fell in love with this country – Wadi Rum and Petra in particular – and  my love for Jordan keeps growing.”

Jolanda Koopman
Jolanda Koopman

“Bird watching has been a growing passion since a friend took me to watch birds in my study time,” explains Jolanda. “When I first joined In2Jordan in 2014, I led all kinds of tours and helped with bookings and guest services. I started organizing bird watching tours for this same friend who has a birding and nature travel agency now!”

Jolanda’s love affair with Jordan’s flora and fauna blossomed in 2007 while undertaking a short volunteer project. “During my stay, I visited the cultural highlights and fell in love with the country – Wadi Rum and Petra in particular,” she explains. “and my love for Jordan keeps growing.”

Today, Jolanda is based near Petra, dividing her time between operating her B&B homestay in Wadi Musa, and organizing tours for In2Jordan. While In2Jordan was Jolanda’s first foray in the tourism industry, her expertise has grown quickly based on her passion for the local sites.

“To me, the ancient city of Petra feels like magic. Simply being in its vicinity renews my energy.”

 

Hiking in Petra
Hiking in Petra

“To me, the ancient city of Petra feels like magic. Simply being in its vicinity renews my energy; it’s no wonder the Nabateans choose this location among the mountain ridges,” she says.

“Beyond Petra, there is so much beauty in Jordan to share with the world. From the antiquities in Jerash, the stunning green mountains in the Jordan Valley with great hiking trail, to the Neolithic village in Beidha and the deafening silence of the Wadi Rum,” says Jolanda. “I simply want everybody to have a great experience here, and to be part of a guest’s experience, as their B&B host, is really special.”

With her camera in hand and a flare for macro photography, Jolanda keeps narrowing her focus on furthering nature-based tours in Jordan. “I am interested in both its’ big and small natural wonders,” she explains. “From capturing the lives of the bees in my garden each day, to supporting government initiatives that improve the Jordan Trail for future generations. There are natural wonders to interest every traveller in Jordan.”

“It will be a big joy when people join our newest 13-day bird watching tour this coming autumn!”

Credit: Carpenter bee in the garden of B&B Petra Fig Tree Villa, Kolanda Koopman

In the meantime, the bird migration is around the corner and Jolanda continues to focus on her goal: “For me it will be a big joy when there’ll be enough people to join our newest 13-day bird watching tour this coming autumn!” she concludes.

For more information or to book your place on the bird watching excursion, visit: https://in2jordan.com/tours/emerging-birding-destination-jordan/ 

Meet Jolinda Cath, In2Jordan’s travel consultant for spiritual, holistic, and wellbeing trips.

If you were to ask In2Jordan’s Yoga & Spiritual Retreat Consultant, Jolinda Cath, where her favourite place is in Jordan, she wouldn’t be able to tell you. After six years living in the small coastal town of Aqaba, choosing just one to top the list is still a challenge.

“Wadi Rum is amazing and has a special energy,” explains Jolinda. “But the Dana Nature Reserve is breathtaking and perfect for hiking. The canyons of Wadi Mujib with its stunning walls and waterfall that you can abseil down is such a thrill. Then again, Aqaba is so close to the desert and at the Red Sea. See, picking just one place is impossible!” she laughs.

Credit: Jolinda Cath

Jolinda says it was an opportunity to work in Jordan that lured her from her native Holland in 2010.

“My story in Jordan began 10 years ago while I was working as a worldwide tour-leader for a Dutch travel company. I had a degree in social cultural development and a degree in activity therapy under my belt and I was running my own photography company at the same time,” says Jolinda. “I liked that my job as a travel guide allowed me to combine my two vocations and introduce photography trips in Jordan.”

A few years later the opportunity to join a new tourism company in Aqaba arose and Jolinda settled in for a desert sea-change.

“We wanted to provide holistic wellbeing and mindfulness retreats that were not yet offered in Jordan.”

Over the next few years, Jolinda recognized the demand for spiritual-based trips growing as a global tourism trend. Aligning to her expertise and passion for yoga, Jolinda joined In2Jordan as a travel consultant and worked to develop a broad offering of wellbeing and mindfulness trips in Jordan.

Credit: Jolinda Cath

“Our aim was two-fold,” explains Jolinda. “We wanted to provide holistic wellbeing and mindfulness retreats that were not yet offered in Jordan. We also wanted to create a platform whereby we could tap into the expertise of local yoga and meditation coaches.”

Today, Jolinda leads In2Jordan’s meditation, mindfulness and yoga retreats for travellers as well as offering reiki and massage experiences.

“After all these years I am still so passionate about introducing guests to the variety of landscapes this country has to offer, and exposing them to the kind nature of the local people. It is a blessing to be part of someone’s journey and extra special that I get to guide spiritual journeys, as well as physical ones,” concludes Jolinda.

Credit: Jolinda Cath

To find out more about Jolinda’s private and multi-day yoga, mindfulness and meditation retreats, visit https://in2jordan.com/weekend-trips/

Meet Sandra Jelly, travel consultant, yoga teacher, and equine-assisted coach at In2Jordan.

When most people ready their bags for a holiday to a foreign country, paintbrushes and horse riding boots are rarely essential items to pack. But Sandra Jelly is not most people.

As a yoga teacher, equine-assisted coach, social entrepreneur, chakra & crystal lover, and artist, Sandra believes in seizing the moment; but such is the life of a true adventurer.

“I was born in the Netherlands, but home for me was always where my heart is,” says Sandra. “One day I saw an article in a magazine that read: “To Petra on horseback”. It inspired me to go and explore this magical desert land.”

In 2009, Sandra exchanged advertising in Amsterdam for a world of Bedouin horses. Her plan: to undertake a sabbatical in Jordan to paint and ride the endurance race in Wadi Rum. “It was a dream of mine to fully dedicate myself to my passions of art and horses. What better backdrop than the vastness, peace and light of the desert?”

When Sandra’s horse, Gamar (meaning Full Moon) became pregnant, she decided to settle in Jordan permanently for a new desert lifestyle.

Using her powerful intuitive skills, Sandra is passionate about guiding clients on a voyage of self-discovery and transformation.

Today, Sandra and her four horses are based in the ancient valley of Little Petra. Here she leads In2Jordan’s yoga retreats and offers equine-assisted coaching with her own Arabian horses. Using her powerful intuitive skills, Sandra is passionate about guiding clients on a voyage of self-discovery and transformation.

“I really enjoy hosting visitors from foreign countries in Little Petra because I get to introduce them to the incredible beauty of the landscape, and help them tap into the power that can be drawn from the silence found here.”

Through the practice of Vinyasa Flow yoga, Sandra invites guests to develop a deep relationship within themselves where listening is cultivated, the body is honored, and playful, creative exploration is welcomed.

“Just like life, if you let your yoga practice flow and be fully absorbed in the breath; you will discover the beautiful gifts of the present moment,” says Sandra.

According to Sandra, any traveler who wants to be captivated by the beauty of Little Petra; explore beautiful desert trails; immerse themselves in the culture of the Bedouins; and, connect with their true-self; there is no better place than Jordan.

For more information on the yoga or equine coaching tours led by Sandra, visit  https://in2jordan.com/intineraries

Meet Carmen Scholten, In2Jordan’s Co-founder and General Manager. Or as the locals in Aqaba know her, the blonde with the bull.

 

At In2Jordan, Carmen Scholten is known as the boss. But in the small southern town of Aqaba where she lives with her husband, son and her British Bulldog, Carmen is simply known as ‘the blonde with the bull.’

It’s a rather unassuming profile for the woman who drove from Amsterdam to Jordan in a 500 Euro car just to complete a university assignment. This also being the woman who then identified a need for high quality tours in Jordan and launched In2Jordan as the ideal solution two years later.

But that’s the way Carmen likes it. “Always over deliver,” she says.

“Running your own business is fun, especially when you love and believe in what you do.”

From her home office – which also doubles as the reception area of her husband’s PADI dive center – Carmen juggles client service, team leadership, and business development with a smile.

“Running your own business is fun, especially when you love and believe in what you do,” says Carmen. “No two days are the same and I enjoy the diversity that comes with managing financial budgets, motivating the team, developing strategic planning, and translating these elements into practical outcomes for my team and clients.”

According to Carmen, her passion to offer clients high-quality customized experiences in Jordan stems from her own unforgettable first impressions. “I was meant to visit Jordan for a few days but I fell in love with the country. Within six months of graduating university I’d moved here,” she says.

“I studied cross cultural management and sustainable entrepreneurship at university. Pairing that with a passion for travel, a career in the tourism industry was the perfect fit.”

“I believe there is a place for responsible tourism in every destination across the world.”

Since the official launch of In2Jordan in January 2013, Carmen’s team has grown to include five local guides and drivers, and six travel consultants. Each with specialist knowledge in cultural sites, horse tours and yoga and meditation retreats. A partnership with Amani Tours in Amman and travel agents across the Middle East also offers clients a wide range of customized packages and experiences.

“One of my greatest achievements is knowing that I’ve surrounded myself with a team of dedicated and loyal experts at In2Jordan,” says Carmen.

“I’m also proud of how we have tapped into the expertise of local guides and drivers. Not only does their grassroots knowledge add value for our clients; the money they earn directly supports small entrepreneurs and local communities. I believe there is a place for this kind of responsible tourism in every destination across the world.”

It is this kind of thinking that earned Carmen and her off-sider, Gail Reid the title of 2017’s Best New Destination Expert Worldwide on Trip.me.

“I could roam the ancient architectures of As Salt and lush areas of Ajloun all day.”

Carmen also has the gift of the gab with her international clients thanks to her expertise as a destination expert in Jordan, and her ability to speak four languages. “I speak Dutch, English, German and Arabic,” says Carmen. She laughs before adding, “so I guess so does my dog, Hendrix.”

So how does the woman who organizes tours travel herself? “I love walking the numerous beautiful routes in Petra, and climbing the hills of Wadi Araba to enjoy the stillness of the desert,” she says. “Next to that, I could roam the ancient architectures of As Salt and lush areas of Ajloun all day.”

Is there anything the blonde with the bull can’t do? “Well, I’m trying to grow veggies in the desert. We’ll see how that goes,” she concludes.

For more information on In2Jordan’s itineraries, excursions and retreats, visit https://in2jordan.com/tours/