Good news for divers in Eilat

Good news for divers in Eilat

  •   Research shows Eilat's coral reefs more resilient to deterioration by coral bleaching
    Scientists predict that no bleaching is likely to occur in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba in the next 100 years, making it a unique refuge for coral reefs in the world’s warming oceans.
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    Eilat coral reef Eilat coral reef Copyright: Israel Ministry of Tourism/Dafna Tal
    Photo: Israel Ministry of Tourism/Dafna Tal
    (Communicated by the Israel Ministry of Tourism)

    According to a report recently published in the journal Global Change Biology by Israeli researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University and entitled “A Coral Reef Refuge in the Red Sea,” the colorful and multi-shaped underwater coral reefs at Israel’s southern Red Sea resort of Eilat may have a clear advantage in the future over rival coral-viewing sites around the world.

    Coral reefs, earth's richest and most diverse ecosystem, are deteriorating rapidly. One of the most devastating causes for that deterioration is coral bleaching, which typically occurs when seawater temperatures exceed the local summer maximum by one-half to one and half degrees Celsius. At those higher temperatures, the coral’s symbiotic algae are lost, leading to the coral’s bleaching and eventually its death.      

    But, while the frequency of coral bleaching is globally increasing, no bleaching event has been observed in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba (Eilat sits at the northern end of the gulf), even when nominally bleaching conditions prevail.

    The Israeli scientists explain the enigmatic lack of bleaching in the Gulf by the existence of a “warm-water barrier” at the southern Red Sea, allowing only heat-tolerant genotypes of corals to enter the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. This occurred following the disappearance of corals from the Red Sea during the last glacial period, some 15,000 years ago. The scientists predict that no bleaching is likely to occur in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba in the next 100 years, making it a unique refuge for coral reefs in the world’s warming oceans.
    The paper is the outcome of a joint study by Prof. Amatzia Genin of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University; Dr. Hezi Gildor of the Fredy & Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University; and Dr. Maoz Fine of the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at  Bar-Ilan University. The work was carried out at the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat.

  • Diving in Eilat

    Eilat is renowned for its water sports in general and diving in particular, with the Coral Beach nature reserve and the crystal-clear, wave-free waters in the Red Sea attracting divers from all over the world. At this, the northernmost tropical coral reef in the world, there are hundreds of types of coral and some 800 varieties of sea life including octopi, stingrays, dolphins, barracudas, groupers, sea snakes, turtles, parrotfish, angelfish, butterfly fish, sea slugs and sometimes whale sharks. The reserve is a protected area surrounding a 1,200-meter (3937 feet)-long reef. Visitor numbers are restricted and, while divers are invited to observe life on the coral reef, they are kept far enough away to keep this delicate ecosystem thriving.
    Copyright: Israel Ministry of Tourism/Dafna Tal
    Eilat's shores are packed with diving sites for every level. There are also dozens of certified diving schools, snorkeling outfits and places for snorkel and diving equipment hire.
    The best-known dive spots include the Japanese Gardens, close to the Coral World Underwater Observatory; the Dolphin Reef, where you can dive and swim with dolphins; and the Caves, 500 meters north of the border with Egypt, with two underwater passages and hundreds of fish called sweepers.
    The Japanese Gardens at the Coral Beach Nature Reserve are among the best protected diving sites in Eilat and extend over an area of 500 meters, with the option of a deep or a shallow dive. Neptune's Tables, where old tables of Acropora corals ranging between 15 to 40 meters (in depth house varieties of fish and other aquatic life), is also a popular diving site.
    In addition, two wreck sites attract divers. The Satil, one of the best-known diving spots in Israel, is named after the 45-meter-long Israeli missile ship that was sunk purposely in 1994 to bring fish and divers to the area. The Yatush wreck, a United States vessel that was sunk to a depth of 32 meters and also draws a variety of underwater sea life, is only for experienced divers.
    The Tamar artificial reef is another popular diving site that was built to promote marine life, take traffic away from the natural reef and offer a place for divers to train.
    With water temperatures around 21 to 25 degrees Celsius (70 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit), little or no currents and clear waters with an average 20 to 30 meters (65 to 100 feet) of visibility, there's a reason tourists return time and again.