Eilat Coral Beach Nature Reserve

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The most beautiful marine reserve in the world – colorful gardens beneath the sea

The reefs of the Gulf of Eilat are the only coral reefs in our country, and among them a wonderful and colorful world of corals, fish and a huge variety of unique creatures can be seen. The Coral Beach Nature Reserve in Eilat allows visitors easy access to the reef, as well as essential beach services, including a shop, showers, toilets, sunshades, deck chairs and sun loungers.


 

Main points of interest


  • Wading pools – shallow pools near the shore, in which little children can paddle.
  • Bridges over the reef – bridges built over the reef, from which the coral reef and the colorful fish swimming around it can be seen. The bridges also offer safe access for diverse and snorkelers to the eastern side of the reef that faces out to sea, without damaging the reef and its inhabitants.
  • Lookouts over the reef and the wildlife that populates it – visitors to the nature reserve can enjoy the beauty of the colorful creatures living in the reef even without being professional divers. With a diving mask and snorkel (which can be hired at the beach) it is possible to peek into the rich and amazing world and the protrusions of coral around the fringing reef.

Scuba divers can dive along the façade and slope of the reef to see the wonders of the reef at the greater depths.

 

Lookout points


From the bridges built over the reef there are views in several directions:

  • Eastward - To the Red Sea, with our neighbors Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the background, the city of Aqaba, and the Edom Hills;
  • Westward - To the Eilat Hills and Mt Tsfahot;
  • Northward - To the city of Eilat and the southern Arava;
  • Southward- To Sinay, in Egypt;
  • Downward - It is possible to see the reefs and the colorful sight created by the corals and the passing fish.

 

Identity card


Status

The nature reserve was declared in 1964.

There are two marine nature reserves nearby: the Eilat Southern Sea nature reserve, declared in 2002, and the Coral Sea nature reserve, declared in 2009.

Reasons for declaration

These marine nature reserves contain Israel's only coral reefs, in which there is a wide range of corals, invertebrates, and fish.

The coral reefs in Eilat are among the northernmost coral reefs in the world, and so they contain many unique species, as well as others originating in the ocean that have acclimatized to local conditions in the Red Sea. 

The reefs contain a variety of different habitats, together creating a complex and diverse ecosystem.

The purpose of the nature reserve is to prevent or reduce as far as possible the local disturbances caused by human activity, while allowing the public to enjoy nature without harming it.

Geographic location

Some 7 km south of the city of Eilat, on the Eilat – Taba road.


 

Conservation activities of the Nature and Parks Authority


  • Activities to conserve the reef – local actions to neutralize and minimize damage to the coral reefs in the reserve.
  • Visitor guidance and access to the marine environment – using signs, bridges and markings to direct visitor access to the marine environment in a way that will not damage the coral reef, and also prevent injury to visitors.
  • Closing off the core area and sensitive areas – prohibiting access to sensitive parts of the reserve (such as the reef table and lagoon area), and the area defined as the heart of the reserve (the Japanese Gardens) protects the reef and the core area from direct and local disturbances.
  • Explanation – the Coral Beach Nature Reserve staff hold explanatory activities for the public, intended to increase awareness of nature protection and help prevent visitor damage to the coral reef, deliberate or accidental. The Eilat district education center holds activities for various different groups of people, explaining the importance of conserving the reef.
  • Laws, regulations, and enforcement – nature conservation laws and regulations gives the nature reserve inspectors the authority to enforce the law and to caution or punish visitors who do not obey the rules of behavior of the reserve. Enforcement deters people from damaging the reserve, and is always accompanied by explanation.
  • Controlling the number of visitors – because the reserve is fenced, the staff is able to limit the number of visitors and prevent pressure that the reserve is unable to handle.
  • Protecting areas that have an impact on the reserve – protecting reefs near to the nature reserve, and the areas that are the habitat of young stages of the creatures that later populate the coral reef, such as sea grass carpets.
  • Cleaning – daily cleaning of the beach to prevent solid waste (such as plastic bags) getting into the sea, and cleaning the coral reefs. In addition, the Nature and Parks Authority plays a central role in dealing with sea pollution incidents, including pollution from sailing vessels.
  • Promoting and supporting academic research, as well as restricting and guiding research - on the one hand, promoting research is important for preserving the coral reefs, because there is still a considerable lack of information necessary for answering vital and relevant questions relating to nature conservation. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the area of the nature reserve is small relative to others around the world, and the research burden it carries is the highest in the world. Therefore, the Nature and Parks Authority regulates the burden of research in the coral reefs.
 

Wildlife

The coral reef is one of the largest natural structures created by living creatures, and the main contributor to its construction is the stone coral (Zoantharia). The corals and other creatures populating the reef, such as fish, crustaceans, sea sponges, echinoderms, and other invertebrates, create a highly diverse and complex living environment.

The Gulf of Eilat has unique environmental conditions that enable the development of the coral reef, the northernmost reef in the world. The elongated shape of the gulf and the fact that it is surrounded by high mountains creates a different wind regime from that of the deserts that surround it. As a result, the climate along the coast of the Gulf is stable throughout the year. The water temperature is also high and stable (relative to other places), due to the high level of radiation and the depth of the Gulf, which goes down to around 900 m. The geophysical structure of the Gulf is characterized by the absence of continental shelf, and the incline of the seabed is a continuation of the steep continental incline. These factors are important for the development of the coral reefs, which usually exist in tropical areas where the climate is stable and warm. The conditions that enable the existence of coral reefs at such a northerly latitude are also responsible for the unique nature of the reef in Eilat relative to other tropical reefs. The structure of the Gulf and the straits through which it is connected to the Red Sea (the Straits of Tiran), and the prevailing oceanographic conditions encourage the development of unique creatures. Many species on the reef are endemic, meaning that their distribution is limited to Red Sea coral reefs.

The variety of habitats in the nature reserve:

The coral reefs in the reserve create a large variety of habitats. Because of its position and depth, each one is characterized by different biotic and abiotic conditions, and these determine the composition of the community of organisms that populate it.

The habitats of the reef are:

The fringing reef in Eilat - a relatively young reef (around 2,500 years old), parallel to a relatively short section of the coast, about 1 km in length - the Coral Beach Reserve.

The upper part of the fringing reef is called the "reef table". The reef table is very flat, and its height is determined by extreme low tide events that occur every few years, causing massive coral death in the upper section. Because the reef table is in very shallow water (less than 1 m at high tide), it is subject to many changes, mainly as a result of extreme low tide events and southern storms, in which the waves break on the reef and create mechanical erosion of its upper part.

The façade of the reef is the section of the fringing reef that faces eastward, to the open sea, and this is the most developed and diverse part of the reef, which usually has the greatest coral cover. This area too is subject to wave energy, breaking over it during storms.

The lagoon is the relatively shallow area (up to 2.5 m in depth) between the fringing reef and the seashore, and it is usually characterized by a calcareous sandy seabed with "patches" of reef scattered over it. Because it is relatively disconnected from the open sea, and because of the large surface area of the reef coming into contact with the atmosphere (relative to its depth), it is characterized by larger amplitudes and higher temperature and salinity than the open sea.

Coral protrusions are found both in the lagoon, and at a distance from the fringing reef towards the open sea. The reef protrusions in many cases enjoy good currents, and therefore are often very well-developed and diverse.

The reef incline is a section of the reef with varying coral density and cover, and it also has sandy areas. Because of the changes in water depth in this section, the quantity of light reaching the reef also varies. The variety of morphological and environmental conditions of this area can be seen in the wide range of micro-habitats, and in many cases produces considerable diversity of species.

The sandy seabed is the habitat of many different bottom-dwellers, such as arthropods, echinoderms, and a variety of fish. In some parts of the sandy seabed sea grass grows, providing a unique, important and diverse habitat.

A cross-section demonstrating the main habitats created by the coral reef in Eilat

A considerable biodiversity exists in the coral reef in the nature reserve. Around 100 species of coral are the main contributors to creating the breathtaking structure and habitat called the coral reef. For this reason, the reef-building stone corals are considered to be "key species" - species with a central impact on the overall ecosystem of the reef.

Other living beings populating the reef with a significant role in maintaining the ecosystem include the herbivorous reef fish, which feed on seaweed, regulate the quantity of seaweed and prevent it taking over the reef. Predatory fish also regulate other animal species. Another example is the sea urchin species, which find their food on the rocky surfaces of the reef, thus preparing the reef for settlement by young corals.

Many varied and complex systems of reciprocal relations exist on the coral reef. Because of this, causing damage to one of the species is liable to lead to a chain reaction and damage to the entire ecosystem.

The multi-hued reef fish are breathtakingly beautiful, but in addition to the pleasure they give to divers with their many unique colors, they also play a very important role on the coral reef. The herbivorous fish, for example, regulate the seaweeds populations that threaten to cover the coral and take over the reef. Many species of fish live in symbiosis (reciprocal relations / partnership) with the corals and with the other organisms that inhabit the reef.

Examples of this are the cleaner fish (Labroides), which feed on parasites that live on the reef fish, and wait at "cleaning stations" for fish in need of cleaning to arrive. The Steinitz Goby (Labridae) lives in partnership with a crustacean by the name of big-claw snapping shrimp (Alpheus djiboutensis). The two use a burrow dug out by the shrimp for their protection, while the fish serves as a scout and warns of danger. The two-band anemonefish (Amphiprion bicinctus), a unique species endemic to the Red Sea, lives among the stinging tentacles of the sea anemone (Actiniaria). In exchange for the anemone concealing the fish from predators, the fish increases the exchange of water around the anemone by moving its fins.

From time to time, passing species visit the Gulf of Eilat - creatures that do not live permanently in the Gulf, but visit occasionally (usually in an annual cycle according to the temperature, food, breeding season, and so on). Examples of such species are: sharks, including the whale shark (Rhincodon Typus) - the largest of fish, which may reach 18 m in length, and does not pose a danger to people; sea turtles (Chelonioidea), which feed on soft corals and sea sponges on the coral reef; dolphins (Cetacea) - large sea mammals that live in pods in the open sea and occasionally approach the shore; and mantas (Manta) - huge Batoidea that resemble birds and feed on plankton. Although the species are not regularly to be found in our area, and are not key species, they are considered to be "flagship species" - famous species that aroused considerable interest among the public, whose conservation will indirectly result in conservation of the overall ecosystem. The density of some species increases as a result of changes in environmental conditions on the reef, and if there is no element regulating the increase of the species, they become "invasive species" and are liable to affect the balance of the complex system of the reef. In this way, for example, the density of a coral-eating gastropod of the horn drupe (Drupella cornus) species increased sharply, and the possibility of initiating its removal from the corals was examined in order to reduce the damage. The findings show that despite the immediate damage caused by the horn drupe, it plays an important role in maintaining the biodiversity and, in practice, this gastropod almost exclusively harms the most common species, giving an advantage to the less common species, and so it was decided not to intervene in outbreaks of this kind.


 

Flora


Sea grasses are marine plants that grow like a carpet over the seabed in shallow coastal areas. The sea grass carpets have a high primary production capacity (in other words, they create organic matter from inorganic matter through photosynthesis), and are an important habitat for many species of animals, and are therefore considered key species that engineer and influence their environment. The sea grasses create a habitat for creatures that live on the seabed, within their branching root system. In addition, their leaves provide a hiding place or food for many creatures. 

Visitors to the sea grass carpets will notice creatures that are unique to this area, such as seahorses (Hippocampus), cuttlefish (Sepiida), octopuses (Octopoda), sea turtles, crustaceans, sea urchins, snake stars (Ophiuroidea), slugs and snails, fascinating sea slugs (Nudibranchia), conger eels (Gorgasia sillneri), and particularly interesting fish. Many creatures spend the early stages of their lives among the leaves of the sea grass, and then, when they grow up, they join neighboring ecosystems such as the open sea or the coral reefs. The sea grasses play an important role in other processes that take place in the sea: through photosynthesis, they are part of the carbon fixation process and reduce the level of acidity of the water, and their root systems prevent soil erosion.


 

Geology and geomorphology


The rock surface in the area of the Coral Beach nature reserve is mainly magmatic and metamorphic, with slate, mica and gneiss rocks. Slate or shale is an ancient marine sedimentary rock that underwent conversion under high pressure some 800 million years ago. The segments of slate are usually flat, with prominent, sparkling crystals of mica. The gneiss was formed at a later stage, and is a magmatic rock that has undergone a process of high pressure. In geological terms, the shores of the nature reserve are on the eastern face of Mt Tsfahot, which is made up of these rocks, and the shore is scattered with stones and pebbles made up in part of the same rocks. In addition, alluvial elements can be found on the coastal rock surface, brought from the area of the Nahal Shlomo stream, including igneous rocks (granite and diorite), pyroclastic rocks (formed in volcanic eruptions), sandstone (from erosion of the igneous rock), chalk, clay and calcium sulfate.

The beach rock forms a strip that is between 1 and 3 m wide at the water line. These rocks are formed in coastal - tropical areas by the consolidation of sand, gravel and fragments of shell and coral.

The topography of the Gulf of Eilat shore was apparently created at the end of the Ice Age, and is affected mainly by the permanent north-easterly winds and the seasonal storms that carry alluvium along the coast. This alluvium stops at the coastal projections formed by tectonic activity. Fossilized coral reefs show that in a number of periods, there were changes to the sea level. Along the length of the Gulf of Eilat is an active tectonic fault, in which many earthquakes of moderate strength are recorded.

How to get there:
The reserve is located opposite the Eilat Field School on the road from Eilat to the Taba border-crossing. 


Length of tour:
 1 hour-all day

Best season: year-round

Don't miss: snorkeling!

Other attractions: rental of snorkel equipment, souvenir shop; snack-bar, recliner (fee); beach chair; audiovisual presentation available soon.

Opening hours

Last entry one hours before above closing hour

SUMMER:
Sunday-Tursday And Saturda-9 A.M.-6 P.M
Fridy And Holiday eves- 9 A.M.- 5 P.M.

 

WINTER:
Sunday-Tursday And Saturda-9 A.M.-5 P.M
Fridy And Holiday eves- 9 A.M.- 4 P.M.

On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach: 9:00 - 13:00

  Contact us

Phone: 08-6326422 
Fax / Email: Fax: 08-6375776
st.almogim@npa.org.il

  Entrance fee

Adult: NIS 35; child: NIS 21
Student: NIS 30.
Group (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 30: child: NIS 18
Eilat resident: NIS 12
Student (with valid ID): NIS 30

Equipment rental

Mask and breathing tube: NIS 23
Mask and breathing tube for groups (minimum 20 people): NIS 20
(upon deposit of NIS 100 or credit card per mask)
Chair: no charge
Recliner: NIS 12
Flotation device: NIS 13

All equipment must be returned 15 minutes before cashier closes.

Entrance to dogs

Prohibited


    Content under construction, the information apears soon.
    Content under construction, the information apears soon.

     In the Coral Beach Nature Reserve adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:

    People with mobility impairments are able to go down and dive in the reserve, via paths and bridges, and there is a special possibility of going down to the sea.


    29.509716,34.922289
    Eilat Coral Beach Nature Reserve