Eilat

For Kelley’s last weekend in Israel before her sojourn in Ghana we headed south to Eilat. The city is relatively new, it was originally a small settlement until the modern city was built after the Israel War for Independence in 1948. Eilat is the southernmost point of Israel and sits on the Red Sea, which is part of the 6,000 km long Great Rift Valley whose northern terminus is modern day Syria and it stretches south to Mozambique on the African continent.

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Eilat is in the southern Negev desert, which covers over 50% of Israel’s land area! We have already explored some of the  northern Negev’s features in the Mitzpe Ramon and the Masada posts, so we were excited to explore its southern reaches. Four thousand years ago the area around Eilat was rich in copper, which caused it to be a flourishing trading destination with frankincense and myrrh from Ethiopia and bitumen and natron from the Dead Sea. In the Roman times, a road was built into Petra, the heart of the Nabataean kingdom. Does that name ring a bell? If not see here. The area was also an important stopping point on the road between Africa and Mecca.

The first stop on our journey was a biblical animal park named Hai-Bar Yotvata.  It is just outside Eilat and part of our quest to see all of the national parks in Israel. We arrived at the parking lot not really knowing if it was the right place because there were literally no other cars. Comforted (insert sarcasm) we parked and headed inside where we were greeted by a lively park ranger who explained that you drive onto the reserve and that there was a narrated audio guide CD. We love audio tours! Excited we rented the CD but upon getting back into the car we discovered we did not have a CD player – FAIL!  After getting a refund for the CD from the ranger we headed into the park and were greeted by a variety of animals that you can see below.

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Midway through our safari we were greeted by two different curious ostriches. The first encounter was something Kelley has been wanting to see since learning about the birds and the bees – an ostrich mating dance! For the uninitiated it is one of the most ridiculous things you have ever seen … We only saw the beginning from a distance so I found a full video on-line. Kelley sounded like the women in the video – ENJOY!

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The second ostrich encounter occurred when we stopped in the middle of the road to let the ostrich cross (not a joke)… and then the ostrich attacked our car! I have a natural fear of an ostrich poking out my eyeballs and this confirmed that that beak is mighty powerful!

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After our driving tour we parked and headed to the inside exhibits where we saw a great number of creatures and I further learned that Kelley does not like bats. For those of you who don’t know, there are a large number of fruit bats in Tel Aviv who like to terrorize people at night. My favorite bird is the Owl Pirate!

 

After our exciting biblical animal park tour we spontaneously decided to go to the Eilat Bird Watching Park (original name I know) just outside of town. As you know from the last post (here) there are hundreds of millions of birds that migrate through Israel every year. This park is a fantastic place to see them but unfortunately my camera lenses were not long enough to get a piece of the action. Kelley can I buy some more camera lenses? (Kelley: no.)

Originally we were thinking about camping in Eilat but we could not really find any good beta on where the spots were, so from the parking lot we called to a number of hotels and settled on the Motel Aviv – clever name… The hotel was spartan but reasonably priced and walking distance to the city center (although Kelley may refute that classification. (Kelley: it was a “davis mile” away from the attractions…..)), and the beach. Once we settled in, we walked to the beach to find some grub and experience Eilat the city, which is a combination of Las Vegas… meeting Miami Beach… meeting the Middle East… It is a curious place. The boardwalk along the beach is very nice and packed with people and restaurants of every variety. It is definitely touristy but not tourist trappie if that makes sense…

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On the boardwalk, there are kids running around everywhere and expecting mothers enjoying their baby moon (Author’s note: Kelley did not notice this until I pointed it out (for once) (Kelley: Matt is a pregophile) but there were tons of prego moms walking around… I think it is a thing in Israel to come to Eilat for their baby moon)… On the boardwalk there are rides like these…

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And then similar to Vegas a water show…

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On Saturday, Kelley and I headed to Coral Beach National Park which is a utopia for snorkelers. The reef is over 1 km long and is home to a diverse array of coral and tropical fish. The last time I went snorkeling was in Hawaii when I was under the age of 10, so I felt like a kid again as I donned my snorkeling kit and headed for the water (Kelley: he looked so cute…heehee). The moment I jumped in, I was paralyzed by fear because I was literally surrounded by purple jellyfish! The guidebook did not mention these! Calming myself I took in my surroundings and realized that there was a local who was holding one jellyfish and another who was like a honey badger (the video may not be suitable for children) and just swam right through them. It turns out these ones won’t kill you and do not sting. Regardless Kelley and I still tried to avoid them and their creepy bodies like the plague.

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I wish we brought our waterproof camera from the apartment but unfortunately we did not as the snorkeling was amazing and we had a great time looking at all of the colorful fish. Here is a picture of the surrounding area, the area in the distance is Aqaba, Jordan.

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After spending a few hours in the water, we just relaxed on the beach… Yeah I just said that! Kelley created these lovely  gems…

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I am the mountain goat and she is the unicorn, a nod to Viki’s maid of honor speech at our wedding. Yeah we are weird like that. Kelley is still working on the unicorn horn to make it less phallic. After getting our daily recommended value of Vitamin D we packed up and walked back to the car. However, before making it to the car we stumbled upon the Eilat Field School. They have camping and a lot of information about hikes in the area. Eilat is the start (or end) of the Israel National Trail, which zigzags across Israel from the far north in the Golan Heights to Eilat. I am planning to go back to Eilat in the next few weeks to explore the numerous slot canyons and peaks in the area… a future post…

Enjoy!

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bob says:

    Wow, nature is amazing! And you actually did say you relaxed? 🙂

    Like

  2. Matt says:

    Yes it was a wonderful experience!

    Like

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