Israel is a geographically diverse country in Western Asia. It is on the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and borders the Gulf of Aqaba in the south. The Dead Sea is to the east of the country. Israel shares land borders with Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan and Palestine in the east, Egypt and the Gaza Strip in the southwest. Jerusalem is the (disputed) capital and largest city. The main scuba diving destinations are Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba, Tel Aviv, and the less popular Dead Sea.
The temperatures in Israel are as varied as the geography. They range from desert conditions in Eilat, to typical coastal Mediterranean climates in places like Tel Aviv. Eilat's desert climate is regulated by the Red Sea; the best time to visit Eilat is in September and October. In the summer months, the temperature is often over 40 degrees Celsius and the highest temperatures are usually in July and August. In the winter, the temperature is between 18°C-21°C, with the coldest months in January and February. Tel Aviv has mild rainy winters and hot dry summers with relatively high humidity. In winter, average temperatures typically range from 9°C-17°C. In summer, average temperatures typically range from 24°C-30°C.
Israel is a popular tourist destination for its religious, archeological and historical points of interest, as well as its beaches and scuba diving. In Eilat, the mountain ranges are a great attraction for hiking and sightseeing in the desert. Israel has the world's highest density of museums, and visitors enjoy the fascinating art and culture that the country offers. Tel Aviv, the second largest city and economic hub of Israel, is frequently named the cultural and entertainment center. Welcoming over 2.5 million international visitors annually, it is known as the "city that never sleeps", offering great nightlife and varied entertainment.
The scuba diving in Israel is divided into two areas - Eilat and Tel Aviv. Eilat is on the Gulf of Aqaba in the south and the most popular destination for scuba diving vacations. Tel Aviv is on the Mediterranean coast and has a collection of easy dives that are good for training.
Perfect diving conditions exist in the Red Sea, making Eilat the ideal location for scuba diving in Israel.
Water temperatures are between 19°C-29°C, and there are few currents with excellent (40 meter plus) visibility. Eilat is good for divers of all levels, from novice to technical. Almost all recreational dive sites in Eilat are shore dives, allowing divers flexibility and choice when planning their dives. Top-rated dive sites are the Nature Reserve, Japanese Gardens, The Caves, Neptune Tables and the wreck of the Satil.
The different dive sites in Eilat offer a wide array of marine life such as turtles, eagle rays, stingrays, typical reef fish, frogfish, groupers, sea snakes, crocodilefish, octopus and a variety of eels. During the summer months, there is a chance to see whale sharks and sometimes dolphins. The dive sites are predominantly coral reef, which have a healthy variety of hard corals, branching corals, and soft corals. Sea fans, gorgonians, sponges and anemones are abundant.
In Tel Aviv, divers can visit sites such as Gordon's Caves, The Bird Head Canyon and the Ceasarea Underwater Old Port. Gordon's Caves are a popular dive with an interesting rock-formed topography and a selection of swim-through and penetrable caves. Octopus, axefish and thornfish can be found. The sunken port of Caesarea is a unique diving attraction with a signed and roped route for divers to follow. Built by King Herod, divers can see the port entrance, the towers and the wall, which are host to a variety of marine life such as octopus and nudibranchs.
Israel has a good selection of dive operators on the coast of the Mediterranean, and in Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba. These range from PADI Dive Resorts to PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centers. All operators offer equipment rental and Nitrox is available for certified divers. Technical and rebreather diving is supported by some of the operators - mainly in Eilat. The full selection of PADI diving certification courses are available, but always check that the operator can accommodate your needs before you travel. By far, the best scuba diving is in Eilat, although Tel Aviv is a nice place to learn to dive too.
Highly rated PADI dive operators in Eilat include Shulamit's Eilat Diving Adventures, U-Dive, and Israel Dive. They have all received great reviews on TripAdvisor. Based in Tel Aviv, PADI 5 Star IDC Center Scuba Time and PADI Dive Resort Reef Israel have good reputations. There is a decompression chamber in Eilat for emergencies.
Many international airlines operate flights to Israel. Direct flights are available from the United States, Europe, the Far East, and Africa with El Al. Other Israeli airlines such as Arkia and Israir operate flights from locations in Europe. Flight time to Israel from London is about 4.5 hours, and from New York around 11 hours. International flights land at Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) , which is located near the town of Lod - approximately a half hour drive from Tel Aviv. Some flights from Europe also land at Sde Dov (SDV) in north Tel Aviv, or at Ovda Airport (VDA) near Eilat.
It is easy to travel domestically once within Israel. Public transportation is convenient, and you can get to almost any destination for a reasonable price. Israel Railways operates a fast, inexpensive train service. Taxis are available for short or longer journeys but are more expensive. Buses are the most popular form of public transport in Israel for both local transport and intercity trips.
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