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Snorkeling in Eilat: a Rookie’s Perspective

September 4, 2015
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“It’s going to be hot.”

That’s what everyone told me when I packed my bags for a short weekend trip down to the southernmost tip of Israel. After all, my friends and I were traveling in the dead heat of summer, traversing the southern desert on the road trip equivalent to a jaunt through an industrial-strength pottery kiln.

But we had a worthy destination—Eilat. The coastal city, nestled between the mountains of Jordan to the east and the border with Egypt on the west, came into view as a refreshing oasis city when we finally emerged, sweltering and wind-blown, from the desert.

Our stay was limited to two days, so we had to prioritize our activities. We had agreed that the one indispensable event was snorkeling and swimming in the Red Sea. Eilat provides many opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving—in fact, it is world-renowned for the coral reefs and exotic fish inhabiting the northern waters of the Red Sea.

But I didn’t know this.

I’d always had a fairly skeptical view of snorkeling, as though it was somehow the lower form of scuba diving—the cheap option for all those people who aren’t trained enough to be a part of the “cool” scuba club. My friends, however, convinced me to drive with them to Princess Beach—a strip of burning sand with a few lonely wooden umbrellas and a long dock running out into the clear blue water. We strapped on childish plastic masks and hopped as quickly as possible to the end of the dock—by the time I dove in, all I was thinking about was getting my blistering toes into the cool water.

Then I put my head in.

I’m not ordinarily a skittish person, but I immediately pulled backwards in surprise. Gliding inches in front of me was an eggplant-colored fish the length of my arm, followed closely by a school of slightly smaller, fast-swimming silver fish that skittered around the larger fish like antelope around an elephant. I turned in the water, still barely away from the anchoring pillars of the dock, and saw a new universe unfolding before my eyes—a universe I had never before been curious about and had, if anything, feared.

It was such a simple thing to do, floating there on top of the water, swimming gently from one place to the next, then resting above the sea floor like some great bird gliding across the sky. At one point I looked down and saw a blue spotted ray whispering its wings against the floor; I turned to see a yellow fish as bright as a sunflower dart past a much larger, slow-moving silver fish. Sea urchins spotted the sea floor and nestled in the coral; blessedly, I floated far above their spines.

I never touched a single fish, but they moved around and near me as calmly as if I were one of them. I remember thinking, while looking at another brilliantly-colored purple fish as it wafted through a tunnel in the coral, that I didn’t understand why I had always considered nature tones to be the brown of the earth or the dark green of an evergreen forest. Here, in the beautiful clarity of the Red Sea, I had discovered a spectrum of color and life to rival the most detailed color wheel.

The handiwork of God is nothing new to me—I see His glory wherever I go. Since I’ve been in the Land I’ve seen the emerald hills in the Galilee and the majesty of the desert. I’ve seen the aqua Mediterranean and the glassy calm of the Dead Sea. However, discovering the Red Sea in Eilat was like discovering another facet of His nature—a facet so full of life and color and movement that I wondered how it had taken me so long to find it.

Source: By Abigail Wood, BFP Staff Writer

Photo Credit: frantisekhojdysz;Elisei Shafe/shutterstock.com

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