Guest post by Darya Short
Its strategic location on the Bay of Aqaba has since ancient times afforded the Israeli city of Eilat, the capacity to serve as a port to the likes of King Solomon, the trading Nabateans, the Romans and even the Crusaders.
Now, with picturesque scenery of the Red Sea shore, the Jordanian mountains overlooking Aqaba in the East and Egypt’s Sinai in the west; the city is a world-famous, sought-after travel destination.
It has an international airport and is famous for being a holiday resort for locals and foreigners alike with the bonus of being a Goods and Services tax-free city.
There are the regular ‘touristy’ things to do like lying on the beach, visiting the malls with cheaper shopping, exploring natural sites like the reef or the Timna mines or mingle with the locals along the boardwalk with its flea market. atmosphere .
Since there are so many experiences to choose from for special needs and autism families; parents should make sure they bookmark these outstanding attractions to try during their family visit.
The concept of a boat with a glass underside works well in Eilat because of the treasure trove that the Red Sea offers, under the rippling aquamarine waters which is the renowned coral reef, of course!
The Coral stretches for just over a mile and is one of the most northern reefs in the world. It is teeming with life and from the boat one gets the best view of the scenery above the water level and the fantasy world below.
There are quite a few companies who offer the glass-bottomed boat service so whether you choose Israel Yam, Jules Verne, Galaxy or one of the others, your child will have guaranteed a memorable experience.
The boat leaves the marina and heads south following the northern section of the coral reef. The Jordanian border is to the left, and the Egyptian border lies to the south. The captain steers the ship parallel to the coast for close on an hour before turning the vessel around for the return journey.
The boat ride is a very relaxing; taking about 2 hours in total while the captain of the ship explains the views both above and below the water line.
Autism Travel Tips
- It is important to call to make a reservation for the boat of choice in advance. You can also go to make a booking at the Marina.
- Some of the lines offer light refreshments; all of them provide water.
- There are snacks and drinks available to purchase, but it is advisable to take your own if you have a tight budget or on a particular diet like GFCF.
- Even when it is sweltering on land, there is nearly always a cool breeze on the water, so take something to cover your shoulders if you are sensitive to the changes in temperature.
- Make sure to follow the captain’s safety instructions for seating and when to go down to the glass bottom of the boat for viewing.
Snorkeling the Coral Reef
After the boat ride, for those who want to get a closer look at the corals without committing to a full scuba dive, there is the option of snorkeling.
At the Coral Beach National Park, visitors can rent snorkeling equipment or bring their own. Strong swimmers can go snorkeling off the pier and float along with the current while taking in the amazing sights.
For younger swimmers, there are shallow pools for paddling and snorkeling too.
Autism Travel Tips
- This location is one of the National Parks of Israel and has a gift shop where one can buy snacks, drinks and ice creams.
- If one is planning on spending the day there, it is advisable to take your picnic lunch.
- There are shaded areas, but it is still necessary to protect your child from the sun.
- It is noteworthy to mention the public showers and toilets get cleaned daily.
- It is critical to adhere to the instructions of the lifeguard as well as the rules of the Park as the coral reef is a protected Nature Reservation.
- Parents need to prepare the kids and explain that the coral can’t be touched or removed from the beach.
Close to the northern entrance of Eilat, travelers will find the Botanical Gardens that have become more well-known and popular in recent years offering an alternative to those vacationers who want a break from the beach scene and shopping.
It is quite a surprise to find such a large variety of plants that are not indigenous to the desert growing so well in that region.
The Gardens are set up almost like an adventure trail, so visitors can follow a path that winds up, down and around through various created sections of foliage and vegetation representing different climates of the earth.
It is well set out, educational and interactive.
There is even a rainforest section that provides cooling mist on the hot days and a little pond and waterfall. There are monkey bars and slides that children can climb on and into, and it can be like an adventure through the various regions of the world.
Autism Travel Tips
- Plan to spend about 2 hours at the Gardens.
- There are a lot of shadings but do make sure you have protection from the sun.
- Visitors are not allowed to bring food into the Gardens, but there is a tea-room that sells simple refreshments.
Eilat is a vibrant city that caters to holidaymakers from all over the world.There are activities night and day, and it is impossible to be bored. At night, the atmosphere is enhanced with the addition of bright, iridescent lights and one feature with the backdrop of the Bay stands out.
It is the Fireball – a bungee-based ride that shoots people into the air while being strapped to a seat in a safety cage.
The operator buckles the rider in and activates a tension mechanism that stretches the bungee cords. When the tension trigger is released, the pen goes hurtling up at a tremendous speed, attached to the cables. After being catapulted almost vertically, the cage bounces and flips a few times before it returns gently back to earth, all accompanied by special effects.
Autism Travel Tips
- This ride appeals to those who love an adrenaline rush.
- It is not for anyone who is easily frightened or has heart complaints.
- The ride is open day and night.
- If you see it open and operating, you can go and wait in line. There is no need to reserve a place.
- The cage has two seats so one can share the ride with a friend or family member you can scream and have fun together.
Day Trip to Timna
For an entirely different experience, visitors should try the Timna Park.
Located about 20 minutes’ to the north of Eilat by car into the desert, it is quite a fascinating place. The color of the sand and mountains as well as the uniquely bizarre land formations give it an other-worldly feel adding to the rich history.
Timna features the world’s first copper mines, and the Park authority does an excellent job for both children and adults bringing the past to life through a multimedia presentation that explains the history of the copper industry in the region.
Visitors can opt to take an in-depth explanation and a walk-in tour of a scale model of the ancient Tabernacle that the Israelites carried around in the wilderness.Other visiting options include driving around the park and stopping at the various attractions, climbing or hiking on well-marked trails. Timna is also a favorite place to go camping, offering night tours that are good to take advantage of especially when it is scorching hot during the months of July to September.
Autism Travel Tips
- Even though the Park is in the desert, there is a restaurant on the property as well as clean toilet facilities and a gift store that sells out of the ordinary mementos and souvenirs.
- Even though paths are well marked for safety, climbing is done at your risk.
- All the archaeological and geological attractions are interactive, and one of the favorite activities is to fill little bottles with colored mineral sands to take home as a souvenir.
- The multi-media presentation is at very specific times, as are the other activities so make sure that you schedule your visit accordingly.
- The Park office opens at 8 am and closes at 4 pm Sunday through Thursday and between 8 am and 3 pm on a Friday and in the hot summer months.
- Once visitors to the Park are in the gates, they can leave when they choose.
Darya Short lives in Israel, with her husband and their two teenage children, one of whom has Sensory Integration challenges.As a family, they try to see as much of the Israeli countryside as possible, visiting National Parks, museums and other historical and archeological sites.