This is where you can explore Israel's small but fascinating chunk of the Red Sea's reef system, teeming with colorful, exotic fish and sea creatures of every description. Located south of the city, between downtown Eilat and the Egypt border, the reserve consists of a pleasant, unfrenzied beach dotted with shade structures. The sand here is the original coarse, beige sand of the shoreline -- the imported, powdery white sand of North Beach tends to blow into the water and suffocate the coral. There are comfortable changing rooms with showers, and there's an open-air snack bar. Illustrated books about the reserve are for sale at the snack bar/gift shop.
The reserve will give you a flyer pointing out a number of underwater trails. For NIS 23 ($5.75/£2.90), you can rent a snorkel, mask, and fins, or you can bring your own gear. There is a refundable deposit of NIS 100 ($25/£13) for each snorkel set. There is a walkway to the water beyond the reef (which parallels the shore) so that coral is not broken underfoot by visitors. You enter at the northern end of the reef. Because the wind and current usually move southward, all you have to do is drift and paddle a bit to observe the reef through your mask. At the southern end of the reef, you can head for shore and walk back to the starting point for another round.
The nature reserve also operates a scuba program for novices called snuba, in which you can dive tethered to an oxygen tank on a floating dingy -- the safest, easiest way to dive. It costs NIS 180 ($45/£23) for 1 1/2 hours, including instruction. There are showers and changing areas. Warning: Wear some sort of foot covering every time you enter the water here. Spiny sea urchins lurk almost everywhere you might want to stand.
Bus no. 15 runs from downtown Eilat to Coral Beach and back every half-hour.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2010