Travel Weekly editor-at-large Nadine Godwin toured Israel
shortly before the escalation of violence between Israel and the
Palestinians. Her report follows:
EILAT, Israel -- Promoters of this city, located on the Gulf of
Aqaba at the southern end of Israel, highlight a wide range of
activities available to visitors besides swimming.
They include waterskiing, paragliding, snorkeling and diving,
boating and enjoying nature through bird-watching, a safari into
the mountain deserts or an aquarium visit.
Although I did not have to go so far from home for this
first-ever pleasure, I swam with the dolphins -- to use the
language of travel literature -- during my journey to Eilat.
Translated, that means I finally shook off the certainty I would
drown and conquered snorkeling, at least for the day.
At Dolphin Reef, a shoreline facility for the study, care and
training of dolphins, I joined a group of mostly German tourists
and a guide who led us on our 30-minute swim to and among the
The dolphins are relaxed about visitors. And the guides are
there to protect them, not us.
Dolphin Reef also has a beach for swimmers and a bar and
restaurant. Visitors, who also can scuba-dive with the animals,
need to make advance reservations for their dolphin swim.
Entrance to Dolphin Reef, open daily, is about $8 for an adult
and $6 per child (ages 5 to 15); snorkeling with the dolphins is
$47 per adult and $42 per child (at least age 10); and scuba diving
with the animals is $56 per adult and $50 per child (at least age
To book a swim with dolphins, go to www.eilat.net or call
(011) 972-8 637-5935.
Nearby is the Coral World Underwater Observatory and Aquarium,
which is a major facility for viewing sealife of many and exotic
types, including some not native to the Gulf of Aqaba/Red Sea
It was a very hot day, and the air-conditioned, indoor viewing
areas beckoned. The indoor aquarium offers views of fish so wildly
colored, and even comical, one might think they came out of a
Disney studio. One room was totally black so visitors could see
fish that glow in the dark.
The Underwater Observatory is reached via a 330-foot wooden
bridge; visitors descend to a circular room with windows on all
sides that yield underwater views of coral reefs and, again,
numberless exotic fish that live in the region.
Atop this setup is an observatory tower, rising 70 feet above
sea level and offering views of the shorelines of Israel and
We also sampled the Oceanarium. A relatively new attraction, it
is the setting for an audiovisual show that, through tricks on film
and chairs that move, is meant to give ticketholders the sensation
of riding over the land, on the sea and deep under water. It is
fairly effective; I closed my eyes part of the time.
From the dock off the Underwater Observatory, we picked up a
ferry ride back to Eilat. The Underwater Observatory and Aquarium
is open daily but with shortened hours on Fridays and holiday
Admission to the park is about $13 for adults and $9 for
children. Entry including the Oceanarium is about $16 for adults
and $12 for children.
The telephone and fax numbers are (011) 972-8 636-4200 and (011)