While it may be small in contrast to other underwater nature reserves, the Coral Beach Nature Reserve in Israel’s southernmost city is among the most famous of its kind anywhere in the world. Spanning over 1,500 meters under the water, Israel’s piece of coral reef in the Red Sea is full color and is home to an abundance sea life that’s second to none. Professional and amateur divers from around the world flock to Eilat’s coral reef for an experience so breathtaking that it’s ranked among the best with many diving enthusiasts.
And while the size of the reef may be relatively small compared to others around the globe, the reef at Eilat makes up for its size by offering divers nearly unlimited exploration potential in the form of varied terrain of canyons and bays that are home to a vast number of aquatic species.
You’ll find the reef just south of the city – roughly halfway between Eilat’s downtown area and the border with Egypt. The beaches here are quiet – not overrun with tourists – and have plenty of structures where one can sit out of the sun and enjoy some shade in between dives. One thing visitors will notice about the sand here is that it’s original to the shoreline area. The beige sand is quite coarse, which is actually of benefit to the reef as the powdery, imported sand of the North Beach tends to blow into the water creating a suffocation effect on the coral.
For convenience, there are a number of comfortable changing rooms that are equipped with showers for before and after water activities. Because a day at Eilat’s Coral Reef can be full of physical activities, there is a snack bar and gift shop on-site to fill up with a bite to eat and grab something by which to remember your experience.
The Coral Beach Nature Reserve has a flyer available that lists out underwater trails. For the underprepared, fins, snorkels and masks are available to rent for a reasonable rate plus refundable security deposit.
To protect the coral from the feet of visitors, a walkway takes divers to the water just beyond the reef. It’s also advisable to wear some sort of foot covering every time you enter the water as sharp sea urchins tend to be just about anywhere you want to put your foot underwater. By design, visitors enter at the northern tip of the reef and ride the slow, gentle current southbound – making as many stops as you like along the way to investigate and explore. At the end of the reef, divers can make the short walk to shore, or head back to the reef for another journey.
For those who are new to the diving experience, the reserve offers a SNUBA program for beginners that lets you dive while attached to an air tank that floats in a dingy on the water. While it is safe and easy, there is a price associated with the 90-minute service – which includes instruction. Outside of the reef there are also caves that can be explored for added fun and adventure.
Coral Beach Nature Reserve has varying Summer and Winter hours as well as entry fees for adults ($7.50USD) and children ages 5-18 ($4USD). Fees to get into the reserve are relatively affordable, and it’s an amazing experience to have on your own, as a couple – or with the whole family. Use it as a chance to relax and enjoy nature – or use it as a chance to educate yourself about another of the wondrous destinations Israel has to offer the world. You can visit the Coral Reserve as part of the Eilat and Jordan tour with Kenes Tours.
David Ben-Sira knows every trail and every stone in Israel. A passionate traveller, full time tour guide at Kenes Tours and part time history teacher.