Archive for Taba Heights

Pharoah’s Island Snorkelling

In line with virtually all other sea side resorts in Egypt, snorkelling trips are available for visitors to Taba and Taba Heights. The destination is Pharoah’s Island and it is also known as Farun Island. It lies just off the Sinai coast around 40 minutes sailing time from Taba Heights marina. On the island, the most prominent landmark is the old fort built in the time of the Crusades by the Saracens.

The snorkelling trip is operated on a wonderful boat with masts and plenty of deck space so you can soak up the sun. The setting in the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba is wonderful with the mountains of the Sinai on one side and spectacular views across to Jordan on the other. However, the exceptional views are found beneath the clear, warm waters.

Before you put on your mask and enter the water, the guide will brief you on a few points about the snorkelling area. Dive boats also visit Pharoah’s Island so although its easy to just look down and watch the array of marine life, you have to be aware of other boats, divers and where you are.

Once the formalities are complete, your snorkelling group enters the water and you are an observer on a magnificent underwater world full of life and colour. Many people believe that scuba diving is the best way to see the amazing marine life on the coral reefs but, like I learned while on Oahu Private Tours , snorkelling has one big advantage. Normal scuba gear is what is known as open circuit. In Layman’s terms, this means that when you breathe out using scuba gear, you release a stream of bubbles into the water.  This tends to upset the fish so it’s harder to get close to them. However, there are no bubbles when snorkelling and you can drift along in your own silent world and you’ll be amazed at how just close you can get to the little fish without frightening them away.

Clown Fish, Pharoah’s Island

The array of fish and things to see while snorkelling at Pharoah’s Island is quite simply mind blowing. Ideally you should try to get closer to the coral as many of the creatures stay close to it but remember not to touch as there are plenty of things such as Fire Coral and Lion Fish that can give you a nasty sting. It is quite possible you will see the little Clown Fish which everyone loves. If you are very lucky, you may even see a Frog Fish which is found in this part of Egypt. Trips to Pharoah’s Island  are popular and run on a daily basis.

 

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Positioned in the North East of the Sinai, Taba Heights is a private resort centred all round an 18 hole PGA standard golf course. It’s position on the foothills of the mountains offers remarkable views over the Gulf of Aqaba to Jordan and Saudi Arabia just 6 miles away. The location together with the fact it doesn’t get crowded makes Taba Heights among the most beautiful places in Egypt.

With over three miles of natural beaches there are plenty of secluded places offering excellent snorkelling opportunities. Dive boats head out from the international marina daily and there are a number of shops and places to eat in the area beside the El Wekala referred to as the Uptown. Weekly in Uptown, there is a street festival where guests and residents come together for an evening of entertainment. For anyone staying in the hotels down the sea front, complimentary buses operate shuttling people around the resort.

A variety of hotels are dotted round the golf course making this a wonderful desert setting. The 5* hotels are situated alongside the beach and further up the hills at the highest point of Taba Heights is the 4* El Wekala Golf Resort. It’s an all-inclusive hotel that also has its own section of beach with a bar and pool. There is also a Dine Around Privilege allowing guests to sample the dinner at various restaurants in different hotels in Taba Heights.

The holiday resort is a superb base to explore the surrounding area in addition to excursions to Eilat and Jerusalem in Israel and the spectacular Petra in Jordan. For all those unwilling to travel too far, St Catherines Monastery is a renowned trip and this can be coupled with a trip to the casual resort of Dahab.

For those seeking to explore the coral reefs, there are choices for scuba divers and snorkellers as well. Farun Island (or Pharoahs Island) is a common spot for boats with both snorkellers and divers. There’s an ancient fort on the island built by the Saracen Salahdin during the time of the Crusades. The excursions all leave from the harbour and for divers, there are many outstanding sites suitable for all abilities of scuba diver presenting an amazing array of marinelife. For now, Taba Heights is still a rather unknown gem in the Sinai however with so much to offer holidaymakers it is becoming more and more successful.

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On a recent diving trip to Taba in the Gulf of Aqaba, I took literally hundreds of photos underwater as I normally do. There were plenty of the normal suspects such as clownfish, moray eels and lion fish and I was able to identify all of them….except one.

Some of the dive sites in Taba have expands of sea grass and they are fantastic for finding lots of little creatures that live there. Its also a good reason why when you are diving on such sites that its no problem to crash onto the sea bed. It was here that I spotted a little slug which was about an inch long (2.5cm) and I managed to get a good clear picture of it.

One of the other divers had a laptop and we managed to get the image on the screen in between dives to get a good look at it. However, we checked a couple of marine guides and the dive guides had never seen it before. When I returned to the UK, I searched the internet trying to identify it but to no avail.

One possibility is that is a juvenile slug which has not yet developed its adult colours. It is common in the marine world for juveniles and adults of the same species to have very different markings.

I did see a number of Ceylon Gymnodoris and I’m starting to wonder if the little slug I took a photo of is a juvenile.

I’d be interested to know what you think and if you could identify my little mystery slug, that would be even better.

These are just two photos I took in Taba and you can see the entire collection from my diving trip on my Flickr page;
Taba, Egypt in April 2011

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Apr
24

Diving at Taba Heights in Egypt

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Located at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba, Taba is one of the lesser visited diving areas of Egypt and although it doesn’t get the larger life such as sharks and manta rays, the dive sites offer a colourful and diverse selection of marine life.

One of the great things about diving in Taba is that there are only a few dive boats operating so often you will be the only people at the dive site which is in striking contrast to Sharm el Sheikh a couple of hundred miles away at the southern tip of the Sinai. Although the diving is superb in Sharm, the number of boats at popular sites like Jackson Reef or Shark & Yolanda means that it does get quite busy underwater.

The dive sites around Taba Heights don’t take long to get to which means there is usually the option of a 3rd dive of the day…never a bad thing !!  The site that attracts most boats is Farun Island (aka Pharoah’s Island). There is an old fort and lookout post on the island built during the times of the crusades by the Saracen Saladin who was the great rival of Richard the Lionheart. As well as being a popular dive site, it is also the destination for snorkelling trips. Nonetheless, it’s a lovely setting and an easy site to dive.

Taba is a paradise for underwater photographers. The sites are generally quite shallow and there is a superb array of marine life just waiting to be captured on film (or more likely, on memory card). One of the more unusual creatures found in the area is the Frogfish. It is a type of Anglerfish, has a face only a mum could love and is fairly immobile. They are ambush predators and an attack can be as fast 6 milliseconds. Their mouths move so fast that no other animals can see it happen.

Other marine life that can be found in Taba includes a number of species of Moray eel, colourful nudibranchs as well as the ever popular clownfish, lionfish, sea stars and shrimp. The one thing that isn’t allowed in Taba is night diving. This is due to the fact that it is so close to the borders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel so dive boats aren’t allowed to operate at night. It’s a real shame as there is no doubt that night dives in Taba would be as spectacular as diving during the day.

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