- Photo taken by Tony Malkevist for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism
Swimming with the dolphins is a classic fantasy, a dream vacation that many hope to enjoy one day. But where would be the best place to do it? In the Gulf of Mexico? Maybe at a resort in the Dominican? How about on a Red Sea beach in Eilat?
The Dolphin Reef in Eilat might be the single best place on the planet to live out your aquatic dream!
With over 10,000 square meters of semi-enclosed waters with buoyed nets and an average depth of 12 meters, the Reef is a vast and spacious destination that encourages exploration. Established in 1990, the Reef has been home to generations of beautiful bottlenose dolphins who call the area home.
What makes this attraction so unique is its commitment to respecting the freedom and dignity of the dolphins. Unlike other marine life attractions which disrupt the creature’s natural living arrangements and subject them to captivity and training to perform amusing tricks for ticket holders, the dolphins of the Reef are left to their own devices. There are no shows where they balance balls on their nose, no hoops they’re forced to jump through to earn their lunch.
Instead, the Reef offers something better. The chance to truly connect with these magnificent, intelligent creatures and marvel at their natural God-given splendor. Dolphins don’t need to be trained to do tricks to be entertaining – they are natural show offs! Dolphins are playful and observant all on their own. They have games they play with each other, relationships they build with other dolphins, and are endlessly curious about their human visitors.
At the Reef you can observe the dolphins in their natural habitat reveling in their natural behavior, a spectacle far more entertaining and enlightening than any scripted show. You can watch as the dolphins play, hunt, socialize, and care for their youth, all in the comfort of their own waters. The dolphins are given access to the open sea, free to come and go as they please, with intervention kept at a minimum (staff will only insert themselves in the interest of preserving and protecting the dolphins).
Visitors can wander the network of suspended observation decks that allow for easy viewing of all the sea life in the area and are free to swim in the waters and mingle with the dolphins. But for those of us who really want the full experience, you can get an up-close view of all of this through the Reefs snorkeling and SCUBA tours. These tours are guided by professional divers and biologists who know the waters and the animals that call it home. A session consists of two parts, a safety class and exploration. During the class, visitors are fitted for their gear, asked relevant medical questions, and given directions on the use of their equipment and how to signal for help should they need it. After that, instructors take the class beneath the waves to explore the crystal-clear reef and the many wonders to be found in it!
Aside from the dolphins, visitors can expect to see angelfish, butterflyfish, seahorses, cuttlefish, and both bluespotted and blackspotted stingrays among others in the water! On land, the attraction also includes rare birds from the area including magnificent peacocks!
After a day of diving, visitors can unwind at the site’s relaxation water pools. These pools are set inside a leafy botanical garden like a desert oasis. There are three separate soft-water heated pools to choose from including a sweet water pool, a sea water pool, and a sulphur pool. A sulphur water soak might not sound pleasant if you’re unfamiliar with the idea, but many claim that sulphur water has a variety of therapeutic benefits, particularly soothing to sore joints and backs (perfect after a long day walking all over and exploring).
If one really wants to get the most out of their visit, they can set up a spa appointment and be pampered in the pools. Nothing will work out those vacation sore spots like a relaxing soak in the pool followed by a professional massage.
Who would have thought a desert nation like Israel would be hiding one of the premier marine life experiences on the planet? Just another wonder from a nation that seems to contain an inexhaustible supply of them.