The wonders of the Red Sea are well known to divers, who most commonly access the area from Egypt. But you can also dive the Red Sea via Eilat, Israel. This small city in the southernmost part of Israel perches right on the Red Sea, and is home to dozens of dive centers. I visited for the weekend from Tel Aviv to see how scuba diving in Eilat stacked up to the area’s other dive destinations.
Scuba diving in Eilat means all kinds of marine life. Divers most commonly spot healthy corals, clouds of reef fish, rays, turtles and octopus. Bigger marine life, such as mantas, dolphins and sharks, seems to gravitate more toward dive locations closer to Egypt. Come for the coral, the stellar visibility and the beautiful dive sites close to shore. If you’re an underwater photographer, these busy dive sites will be a dream come true.
Recommended dive sites
Eilat is famous for shore diving. Only a few steps from the dive shops, you can drop right into Japanese Gardens, a 4,000-foot-long (1200 m) coral reef with great visibility. If you want to get further from the shore, take a boat trip to Sinai (Egypt) to dive the shores of Taba. For somewhere a little quieter, try Maxwell’s Reef, only recently accessible to divers. Here you can expect to see eagle rays, groupers and clouds of goldfish.
Water temperature and equipment
When I visited in November 2016, the water temperature was around 75 F (24 C). Although it was chilly, a full 5 mm wetsuit with a rash vest underneath did the trick. You need booties for scuba diving in Eilat, as most sites are shore dives and require walking along stony beaches. You must also carry your equipment from the truck or dive shop to the shore, so bear that in mind when making your plans.
Who to dive with
The Eilat shoreline is dotted with dive centers, so you won’t have any trouble finding one, even in busy seasons. I dove with Aqua Sport, a well-established PADI shop that offers safe dives and has a great staff. Their equipment is slightly worn though, so bring your own if you have it.
Insurance and cost to dive
Israeli law states that all divers must have insurance, so make sure to bring your dive-insurance card with you. If you don’t have dive insurance (and you should), you can purchase four-day tourist coverage at dive shops for 90ILS (approximately $23 USD). One shore dive including gear costs around $45 USD, two dives costs $60 and three dives cost $80 (prices from Aqua Sport).
Other things to do
Eilat is the watersports capital of Israel. When you’re not diving, you can try parasailing, stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking, snorkeling or just swimming in the calm ocean. By night this seaside town comes alive. Bars and restaurants along the beach are bursting with atmosphere. If you’re after quieter times, remove yourself from it all and take a jeep tour into the desert or even chill out in a Bedouin tent.
How to get there
Israel is a small country. You can get from the top to the bottom in around seven hours in a car. From Tel Aviv, you can also fly into Eilat, which is quite affordable and takes just over an hour. Alternatively, you can get a bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem for around $18 USD (70ISL). Make sure to book in advance as tickets disappear quickly. Check out the bus schedule here.