|IMAX||The Underwater Observatory and Marine Park||Chow Time||Wow; A Good Time|
EILAT - Located in Israel's southernmost tip on the coast of the Red Sea, the city of Eilat is continually reinventing itself. With 46 hotels and an abundance of bars and restaurants, the battle for the vacationer's pocket produced a burst of attractions and leisure activities.
I admit to being one of those people who usually passes through Eilat on their way to the Sinai desert; but after the fabulous weekend I spent there, I wondered why so many Israelis prefer Turkey as their holiday destination.
My wife and I arrived in Eilat without the kids, and decided to make good use of this rare freedom and explore as many attractions and activities as possible. We were 20-something again, and on our way to the IMAX Theater.
The crowds flock to this elegant theater resembling a silver pyramid, which can be seen from anywhere in the city. The theater's host, who goes by the nickname Fig, gave us a tour of the futuristic attraction, where animated characters of old meet their contemporary counterparts.
When the show ended, we didn't see anyone trying to steal the 3D glasses. Suddenly everything seemed so civilized.
*IMAX, 4 Yotam street, NIS 49 (about 11 Dollar) for adults, NIS 45 (10 Dollar) for children. The movie Haunted Mansion costs NIS 55 (about 12 Dollar).
Accompanied by Eytan, an expert on marine life and one of the park's directors, we began our journey at the impressive aquarium, which
We moved on to the shark pool, where Eytan explained there are 450 different shark types in the world, 10 percent of which inhabit the Red Sea. We discussed the most recent shark attack incident in Eilat, and the eerie fact that the frightening sea predators prefer female Swedish tourists as their victims. Other amazing creatures, such as sea bats and cats, dwell in the pool as well.
Our next stop was the sea turtle pool, where we enjoyed feeding Hanaleh, an impressive green sea turtle. We also spotted some hornbill turtles, a breed that is nearing extinction because the Chinese enjoy eating them so much.
The Amazon exhibit featured red piranhas, an anaconda, and a few mysterious eels. But I was captivated by the alligator turtle, whose shape hasn't been altered in 250 million years. This peculiar creature can weigh as much as 80 kilos (about 176 pounds), even though it is only 65 centimeters (about two feet) long. This turtle is the heaviest animal in the world, relative to its size.
* The Underwater Observatory and Marine Park, located seven kilometers (roughly four miles) south of the city (towards Taba Beach). NIS 79 (about 18 Dollar) for adults, NIS 69 (about 16 Dollar) for children (including Oceanarium).
For the main course we had stir-fried tiger shrimps in cream and coconut milk, served with Mexican rice and lamb ribs in a spicy peppers and tequila sauce.
We were on our last legs when dessert was served in the form of two impressive white chocolate ice cream cones.
It's easy to guess what we did after lunch: we went back to the hotel and had a long, air-conditioned siesta.
*Santa Fe restaurant, Caesar Hotel facade. NIS 80-100 (about 18-22 Dollar) on average per person.
For fear of waking up hungry at the Hilton Queen Sheba hotel, I pre-ordered a plate of sushi from the Yakimono restaurant that was sent to our room at 6 p.m. We opened our eyes and curtains, gazed at the blue sea and red granite mountains, and ate our meal. Now we were prepared for a night on the town.
We decided to see the Wow show at the Royal Garden hotel. The theater was so spacious and well kept it was hard to believe we were in Israel. The start of the show was somewhat disappointing, and I thought "Wow, what a drag," but it picked up soon enough.
The dance numbers were a bit tacky for my taste, but the rest of the show was exciting. The Chinese child acrobats, as well the tightrope walkers and Rubber Girl, were all amazing.
We had a good time and felt we got our money's worth.
*Wow show, Royal Garden hotel, NIS 55 (about 12 Dollar) for hotel guests, NIS 95 (about 21 Dollar) for visitors.
Papagaio Restaurant; A South American Feast
It was getting late, and we knew we had to eat dinner or we would never get to it. We went to the Eilat branch of Papagaio, a Brazilian
The restaurant serves 11 different kinds of meat dishes (sorry I can't remember their names, I was too busy eating), salmon, and seven kinds of salad. Once again, we could not resist ourselves and wrapped up the meal with excellent desserts.
*Papagaio, Dan hotel promenade. NIS 108 (24 Dollar) per person, not including drinks.
Jeep See; Waking Up to the Desert
The following morning I joined Meir from Jeep See tours on a desert excursion (my wife decided to pass, seeing that she's not a big fan of the desert, especially in the early morning hours). We drove on the northern path that runs along the Roded and Netafim brooks, the Ein-Netafim spring, and the flamingo pools.
We saw a number of desert animals, and even stopped by a vein of Pyrite stone (fool's gold) that contains real gold. However, a ton of pyrite stone must be crushed to produce only 30 grams (about one ounce) of gold dust.
*Jeep See. 2.5 hour tour: NIS 90 (20 Dollar) for adults, NIS 70 (about 16 Dollar) for children.
4 hour tour: NIS 140 (about 31 Dollar) for adults, NIS 110 (about 24 Dollar) for children.
PagoPago Restaurant; Divine Desserts
Exhausted and hungry once again, we chose Pago Pago, a restaurant built on a raft that floats calmly amid famous people's yachts in the lagoon.
We had the Thai salad for starters, followed by a serving of delicious sushi and more terrific seafood. But what I remember most is the excellent taste of the desserts that lingered even as we flew back home.
*Pago Pago, Lagoon. Telephone: 08-6376660