Eilat's coral beach is packed with establishments offering scuba diving, equipment rental and certification courses. Among these is the Aqua Sport Diving
Center, which caters to beginners and pros alike. Established in 1962, it's the
oldest dive center in Eilat. It's also the only large operation with its own big
stretch of beach, a bar, and beautiful women in bikinis.
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The place has a great feel to it. "What people always comment on
here is the atmosphere," says manager Yuval Goren. "It's fun here."
rewind a little if you don't know much about scuba diving, suffice to say that
it involves strapping on a mask and an oxygen tank, and descending 10 to 30
meters below the surface to explore the scenery. Scuba diving gives a sense of
flying and weightlessness, and the underwater panoramas are gorgeous and
inspiring Avatar director James Cameron is an avid scuba diver, and has said
many of the movie's stunning environments were derived from his experiences
under the surface.
Israel is one of only a few countries with
opportunities for warm-water scuba diving. There are about a dozen dive centers
in Eilat. The big three are Aqua Sport, Marina Divers and Manta Dive Center,
each of which provides guided dives, boats, instructors, courses, equipment and
Prices at the big three diving centers are virtually the
same. Full dive equipment rental is about NIS 135 per day, plus a small amount
for air tank fill. An introductory course, for those who only want to try out
diving, is NIS 220, equipment included. A guided boat dive to scenic locales for
those already certified comes to NIS 250 including equipment. A full
certification course costs NIS 1,150.
Aqua Sport also has two locations
in the Sinai where the truly world-class diving is and will take you there
by boat for a two-dive trip for some NIS 370, lunch included.
also a 40-room dive hostel for those wishing to stay the night. The rooms are
very simple white walls and bunk beds, no soap or cleaning service provided
but, at NIS 85 per night if you're diving, they are cheap, and they have great
Aqua Sport also has a grill, bar and lounge right on
the beach, for some rest and relaxation after your dive.
Sport's history dates back to its founding, it is currently run by owners Craig
and Dafna Budden, who took a stake in the club in 1992, parlaying it into full
ownership in 1996.
Craig Budden sets the tone at Aqua Sport. The
52-year-old former commercial diver comes across as friendly, and highly
competent. Having a drink with me at the bar, he refused to take a stool lest he
deny one of his customers a seating option.
Budden will keep anywhere
from 15 to 25 scuba instructors on staff, depending on the season. They're all
young, friendly and professional and they love their work.
most fantastic, satisfying, relaxing, job in the world," says Moran Moreno, a
dive instructor at the club, giving voice to a sentiment that seems to be shared
by the rest of the instructors.
According to Ran Franco, a senior
instructor, the staff of Aqua Sport is like a family. "All the people working as
instructors, we hang out together, we go out together as a group. I know
everyone." Besides the friendly atmosphere, part of Aqua Sport's charm is its
It's the only big diving club that's right on the beach. As
manager Yuval Goren describes it, you can "step out of the classroom and into
the water." The place is also famous for its parties, which take place about
once a month. "The whole diving community in Eilat will come divers,
instructors," says Franco. "Eilat is a very small community." For Hanukka, the
club fashions a hanukkia out of eight empty scuba tanks, setting aside a giant,
ninth oxygen tank for a shamash.
The dive center also takes part in
various dive competitions and promotions, along with the rest of the community.
Earlier in June, there was a four-part competition involving underwater
navigation, rescue diving, and "aquathlon wrestling" where scuba divers
attached anklets to their feet and tried to steal the opposing wrestlers'
anklets underwater in the nearby Manta Divers' pool.
Budden, Aqua Sport sets the industry standard for diving in Israel. Would-be
instructors at the club go through an interview and a few weeks of dive-alongs
with senior instructors to make sure they know how to conduct
Files are maintained on every diver, logged by instructors
after each dive, which list their strengths and weaknesses. These files are
passed on to the clients' next dive guides, indicating which areas to watch
Moreno says that kind of preemptive lookout is what's important. "You
know who to keep closer to you, and who is a better diver," she says.
you can read it well [beforehand], even if you got into a risky point,
probably get out without trouble." For reservations at Aqua Sport, call (08)
The writer was a guest of the club.