A Dip in the Red Sea: Snorkeling in Eilat Reef

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The air wasn’t quite freezing, but cold enough that we shivered as we ran down the beach in Eilat. Reef Winter in Southern Israel doesn’t get all that chilly, but the waters of the Red Sea remain warm all year. With only a few hours of sunlight left, I wanted to make sure we got in some snorkeling before we left for Petra early the
next morning.

GETTING READY FOR OUR SWIM

The woman at the counter had insisted we didn’t need flippers. I was definitely a bit nervous as I jumped in, since I’m not the greatest swimmer and the water was choppy. It took me a few moments before I realized the water is salty enough to make you naturally buoyant. I could float on top without any real effort. Not quite the Dead Sea, but at least this water offers something to see underneath. (I did swallow a few mouthfuls of seawater when a bigger wave came along, which is exactly as unpleasant as it sounds.)

SNORKELING IN EILAT REEF

The coral Eilat Reef isn’t as extensive as some other diving spots, but it is concentrated. In a short time underwater, you see an incredible variety of fish and submarine life. Occasionally, a group of thousands of minnows would come along and you would find yourself surrounded – a very cool experience. There are whale sharks in these waters, but we weren’t lucky enough to spot one. There’s always next time!
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Once or twice I used an underwater rope to pull myself down to the bottom. Holding my breath, I could hear the submerged world around me. I couldn’t help but thinking, “Man, it’s loud down here!” All sorts of noises you would never expect make the reef seem like an incredibly busy place. And it is!
We were lucky enough to spot some incredibly colorful (and quite large) fish snooping around and looking for food. We saw a sea snake and a fish fighting over who would be eating and who would be eaten. All very cool stuff for a fairly short time in the water.

GETTING HERE

You can fly into Eilat’s tiny airport on Arkia or Israir, but many people drive down from the major cities in the north of Israel. The drive takes about 4 hours from Tel Aviv, but the road through the Negev desert and Mitzpe Ramon is beautiful the whole way.
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Once you’re in Eilat, head for the southern beaches, past the Navy base. There are a number of different beaches that will happily provide you with an entry ticket and rental gear for the day. Some of the companies are fairly close together, so you can drive around and find the best price.  We paid about $20/person at the Coral Reef Nature Reserve, which covered everything we needed for a day underwater.

This article was submitted by Oren Liebermann of 42nd Class.

Twitter: @42ndclass

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