A visit to the Gamla nature reserve offers an interesting and varied menu of hikes in the Golan. If you have a half hour or an entire day, if you are animal lovers or Jewish history buffs, on foot or in a wheelchair, you can put together almost any type of package.
The main course, served to the visitor some 600 yards from the entrance, is to watch the huge vultures that nest there, undoubtedly the reserve’s major live attraction. The Vulture Trail leads from the main gate to the bird-watching post at the head of the cliff. The trail is wheelchair accessible, and from the post you can watch the birds soaring nobly on the air streams.
The reserve has about 80 vultures, which is quite a lot. Considering their size - some ten feet on average - you won’t even need binoculars. If you move a bit away from the entrance and keep silent, the vultures are likely to hover over your heads. It’s an amazing experience: A huge shadow approaches, the vulture looks down from above, and you can almost see the whites of his eyes. Vultures eat the carcasses of dead animals, so most of you have nothing to fear.
Gamla (Photo: Ayelet Gundar)
A walk on the circular Vulture Trail also provides an impressive observation point where you can see the mountain of Gamla. You can descend from the bird-watching post in the direction of the site on the steep, well-marked “ancient path.” This isn’t a long walk (about a mile and a quarter there and back), but the route of the path requires at least an hour and a half.
The trail ends at ancient Gamla. This place sounds like the northern brother of Massada: Here, too, a battle took place against the Romans, and here, too, the people committed mass suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the enemy.
If you prefer to exchange the somber atmosphere of Gamla for a somewhat more pastoral experience, you can continue from the Vulture Trail to the waterfall, a 45-minute walk from the entrance (an hour and a half both ways). Along the trail there are dolmans, stone structures in the shape of a table whose purpose no one is sure of.
Ancient tombs? Ritual platforms? Alien footprints? You can think about each of these possibilities while walking, and forget them all when you reach the Gamla waterfall.
The 170-foot waterfall has been crowned “the highest flowing waterfall in Israel.” Considering Israel’s climate, this is perhaps a dubious title, but it is certainly an impressive sight: a delicate flow of water breaks in the air into thousands of droplets that commit suicide by jumping into the pool below.
A somewhat more challenging trail leaves from the entrance to the nature reserve and continues to the Daliot parking lot, where you can leave your car. Alternatively, you can return to the entrance by the same trail (about four hours round trip). Most of the walk is level, other than the descent and the ascent to Nahal Bazelet, which is now flowing in its full glory. A nice lookout point for the Bazelet waterfall lets you check off the nahal viewing department.
Alongside the trail are side dishes like almond trees wearing wedding gowns, lupines, and dozens of other colorful and aromatic flowers that only real tour guides know how to identify, but everyone can enjoy.
Drive to the Gamla Nature Reserve on road number 808, some two miles north of the Daliot Junction, in the direction of the Waterfall Junction (Tzomet Mapalim). Entrance fee: NIS 23 for adults, NIS 11.5 for children. The reserve is open all week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.