Sunday, Sep 23, 2018 | Last Update : 07:14 PM IST
With an ethereal blue tinge in wondrous hues, the land where the Dead Sea, Red Sea and the Mediterranean lazily lap its coast, will stun you.
With waters running a deep blue hue and hills and valleys sporting breathtaking beauty, Israel is made up of conversations with dolphins and taking dips in the seas.
The waters in this country run deep. In the midst of turmoil that has lasted decades is this gorgeous gem, lying surrounded by the most blue curacao of waters. It’s also flanked by the earthiness of the desert, which on one hand bestows Israel with the bluest hued sea, and on the other paints the canvas with red sands and Grand Canyon-like beauty, owing to the earth’s natural shifts centuries ago.
This country that has risen from conflict might not be on the list of beach vacays or water adventures, but it was on ours. At the Vegas-like beach town of Eilat, which sits encapsulated at the northern tip of the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aquaba, overlooking Jordan, Egypt and the Middle East, was one calming dip in the sea (alone), dolphin conversations and marine wows, in peace and quiet. The azure shine of the waters is unmistakable.
With an ethereal blue tinge in wondrous hues, the land where the Dead Sea, Red Sea and the Mediterranean lazily lap its coast, will stun you. Israel and the lowest tip on the planet — the Dead Sea — unearths sapphire waters. There are lines of caravans where families holiday by the sea. You must visit the Dolphin Reef at Eilat — the bottlenose dolphins are a treat, they are friendly and don’t mind an occasional tummy or nose rub.
Walk to the floating jetty, put your feet into the nippy blue waters, and take in the beautiful expanse while waiting for the dolphins to swim past, or come up for air. We met the very affable Luna and Neo, who came up to the instructor’s pier, turning for a languorous belly rub many a times! Gorgeous creatures, who could well be human, with their penchant for touch, and innate curiosity. You can sign up for a swim with them, strapped in underwater gear. Most dolphins come up for air every 10 or 15 minutes, that’s the longest they stay underwater, and we were told that the lazy ones need to come up for air more.
This wonderful ecological site is a haven to see the bottlenose beauties go about their day’s work — hunting, playing, courting, socialising. Their playfulness is evident as they resurface, time and again, brushing past your feet or gazing curiously at you. There are relaxation pools, workshops and programmes that aid supportive experiences initiated by Sophie Donio.
Enthused about the dolphins we met, who are friendlier than the ones off the Goa coast (wild ones), we drove towards the Underwater Observatory at Eilat — a hop, skip and jump from the Egypt border.
This area has the most breathtaking and unique coral reef sights in the world. The underwater observatory is replete with a wealth of marine experience. The Red Sea and its unmistakable blue always startles. Watch tortoises and sharks being fed, or observe, in wonder, over 800 species of fish, coral, sharks, molluscs and stingrays.
We trudged up the observatory tower, situated in the middle of the sea, in a torrid hot July and were privy to the most colourful fish, corals, marine life in the Gulf of Eilat. Walking into two halls, filled with windows, 12 metres under water, the sightings are spectacular. And a cagey trudge to the tower deck, for all selfie-fiends (we weren’t, thankfully), offers a whole vista to explore.
Walking back, we stopped at the café to quench our thirst. There are films and different feed times at the different enclosures. Get your bearings before you embark, as you tend to get lost in the milieu — and in time — as each hub has vivid experiences in store.
Israel is a new country. Therefore its infrastructure is among the best in the world. Case in point: earlier, my camera was lost at the musical fountain. The experience that ensued was heartening, as calls were made by our very helpful guide Shelly Eshkoli to the police, and we filed a complaint, which took all of two minutes. Forlorn, and having given up hope of getting the camera back, we went towards our marine adventure, when we got a call from a family who had found a camera, and reported it in (all in two hours!). Later, an Israeli family with two children and a very pregnant mum, came all the way to return the camera, leaving us marvelling and in awe of what had transpired. Luckily, we had time to get some gifts from the Observatory’s gift shop for these good Samaritans. And that made for a great India and Israel bonding session. We promised to meet again.
The people are extremely friendly, love Indians, are very mindful, and the beauty of the country stays with you… as do the memories — thankfully, with a camera intact!