Eilat Red Sea.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Standing on the shores of the Red Sea in Israel's southernmost city, just as the sun is about to set and slip over the edge of the horizon, is like watching God paint the masterpiece of the ages. The warming, orange and red hues of the suns rays wash over every wave and every appreciative watcher just before it sinks behind the western mountains.
Incredibly satisfying, sitting and enjoying the company of loved ones at one of Eilat's many relaxed, beach side restaurants while the sun goes down is a must. Indeed, Israel's greatest resort city with the mountains of Jordan in full view to the left, and Egypt’s Sinai not far to the right, holds many and varied delights.
The wonders hidden below the waves of the Red Sea however, were the real reason for staying in the Sun City. The beach side café, the evening before, was just an enjoyable prelude to more exciting things to come.
Crystal clear waters and comfortable temperatures make scuba diving around Coral Beach, about five kilometers south of Eilat proper, a family adventure everyone should experience. The Marina Diver's Dive Center which happens to be a part of the Reef Diving Group, is one of the most qualified group of scuba diving centers in Israel. If you are brand new to scuba diving, this is an excellent place to begin your experiences with this sport.
Offering services that are perfect for absolute beginners to seasoned pros, the Dive Center is a hustling, bustling place. There, you will find divers from all over Israel, and indeed, all over the world, moving about and checking equipment from some of the world’s most recognizable brands, while others shrug themselves into wetsuits.
An air of excitement fills the place and like kids ready to open Hanukka or Christmas presents, you’ll see people literally giddy with excitement. Like them, you won’t be able to ignore the promise of underwater treasures that lie waiting.
Founded in the middle of the 1990's, the center itself has a well-used look and feel to it. The staff is helpful and friendly, although with so many divers coming in and out, at times they can also look a little harried. For beginners, booking a “fun dive” is highly recommended. These run at about NIS 220 per person for an hour-long experience. I believe the rates to be very reasonable.
“Fun dive” translates to, “No experience necessary.” If you’ve never gone diving before...and have no time to take an actual diving course, you can choose to experience scuba diving with the safety of a dive instructor almost (literally) attached at the hip.
A “fun dive” entails an hour’s worth of experience. It takes about twenty minutes for the dive instructor to get all of the gear you need and to give basic instructions. From your wetsuit to your air tank, from your flippers to your face mask, the dive instructor takes care of it all. He then makes sure you understand some simple underwater sign language. The company’s website mentions that it has a reputation for professionalism and safety. Their website doesn’t exaggerate.
My dive instructor, Arik Kerem, a navy veteran, was the epitome of professionalism and really caused the entire experience to go from one that might have been good to being one that was really great.
After getting suited up, you’re driven together with your instructor to the actual dive site which is less than five minutes down the road. With nothing but naked, rocky hills all around and the sea in front of you, there is a distinct feeling of remoteness. Don't let that stop you though. In reality, there are a lot of divers all around, and you are far from truly being alone.
The dive itself lasts about thirty minutes. Fish you normally only see in aquariums swim right up and past you. Clown fish, trigger fish, flat needle fish, and in among the coral…a moray eel. Coral reefs rise on all sides, creating pathways and underwater alleys. One thing to mention is that the entire area is a nature preserve, so no touching of the coral or fish is allowed.
One of the services provided by the Dive Center and the instructors that dive with you is underwater digital photography and movies. Your experience can be captured (for an extra fee) on camera and then transferred to a DVD afterwards. This is a perk that shouldn’t be skipped if sharing your vacations and adventures with friends and family are important to you.
While underwater, it feels like time stands still. Unless you are wearing a watch, it’s next to impossible to estimate how long you are swimming around. Once complete, the dive seems to have taken no time at all, but sure enough, it’s almost exactly thirty minutes. It’s incredible how tired and hungry you feel almost immediately after getting out of your gear!
A major advantage to the dive center’s location is its proximity to popular beaches like Hof HaDekel, each with a tantalizing selection of different restaurants and pubs.
Afterwards, full and satiated, you’ll look back to the sea and find yourself planning your next family diving adventure. For more information - http://www.reefdivinggroup.co.il/eng/
Will Blesch is a Travel Writer and Copywriter for www.willblesch.com