If you read my post from the other day, you will know that I'm not a fan of cold water ("cold" being entirely relative). I packed my swimsuit and towel this morning, trying to be brave—and hoping the sun would come out and the prediction of an air temperature of 77° would come to pass. But as we finished our hike, rain came pattering down! The sun stayed hidden behind the clouds! There was a cool breeze! And Shlomo had already said the water here would be colder than the Dead Sea, which was really only slightly this side of tolerable.
It's always difficult to make a decision when you don't have all the facts. I had no idea just what either option really offered. Was the snorkeling reef overextended, or abundant? Was the Underwater Observatory tourist schlock, or educational? How cold was the water?
I decided on the Underwater Observatory, telling myself that part of the reason, besides avoiding getting cold, was to compare it to my hometown Monterey Bay Aquarium. I'm always interested to see how zoos and aquaria come across, in this day and age—hoping that, no matter how small, they treat the animals well and with respect.
The Underwater Observatory is the showpiece of this park, and it's really pretty swell. You head to the tall white tower shown in the photo below, then take circular stairs down down down, about twenty feet below sea level. When you come out, there are two rooms with windows, looking out onto a very healthy natural coral reef bustling with all kinds of fish. I was enthralled for the twenty or so minutes I spent down there (though I was not so enthralled with the screaming children: naturally, it's a popular place for families, and families in Israel tend to be large—and noisy). I then climbed up 100-plus steps to an observation platform with good views to Eilat and Aqaba, Jordan (hence this body of water's name: Gulf of Aqaba).
I did a little wandering around, but didn't see too much: a kids' play area, an aquarium featuring Red Sea coral reef animals, and a couple of not very large tanks holding rather large sea turtles (the last made me sad). Then it was time to be picked up for another hike.
On the bus, I learned that the water was cold! There was also a stiff current you had to swim against. The viewing was good, but me, I figure I got the better deal: good viewing and I stayed warm and dry. I made the right decision. For myself, anyway.
|Looking down on the reef from the top of the tower|
By the way, I was mystified by the octopus's eye placement, which should be like this:
until I stumbled on Disney's version: