The diverse and vivid coral reef in the Red Sea. (Photo: Marko Teräs/Flickr) The diverse and vivid coral reef in the Red Sea. (Photo: Marko Teräs/Flickr) The diverse and vivid coral reef in the Red Sea. (Photo: Marko Teräs/Flickr)

Exploring Eilat's beautiful Coral Reef Nature Reserve

This protected marine ecosystem teems with life.

In the Red Sea just south of the city of Eilat, a colorful coral colony brims with life. Stretching nearly 4,000 feet along the coast, Israel's only coral reef is dense with fish, sea lilies, mollusks, anemones, and even sea turtles. Snorkeling and scuba diving are common in and around the Coral Reef Nature Reserve, providing indelible memories for those who take part. Below, take a visual tour of one of the most beautiful marine environments that Israel has to offer.

View of the beach from the waterSnorkelers swim the perimeter of the coral reef. The number of snorkelers and divers is regulated by park staff to ensure the ecosystem continues to thrive. (Photo: fabcom/Flickr)

Mountains backdropFor those who don't want to enter the water, the beach is a shady summer paradise. (Photo: Sergei25/Shutterstock)

Looking down at the reefIn some areas, the reef is just below the surface of the remarkably clear water.  (Photo: Ron Zmiri/Shutterstock)

Coral reef in the Red SeaOther parts of the reef descend to depths anywhere from 12 to more than 100 feet below the surface. (Photo: Kim Briers/Shutterstock)

Hawksbill sea turtle A single reef can sustain an entire food web, from the fish that feed directly off of the coral (like parrotfish) to the top predators (like sharks) and even decomposers (like sea worms). (Photo: israeltourism/Flickr)

hawksbill-sea-turtleSome lucky divers get within inches of Hawksbill sea turtles, which inhabit coral reefs around the world. (Photo: Rich Carey/Shutterstock)

Scuba diver A large shoal of glassfish swim near a scuba diver in the Red Sea. (Photo: Rich Carey/Shutterstock)

reef-fishCorals (which are technically animals themselves) provide shelter for tropical fish, which often wedge themselves amongst the corals' exoskeletons. (Photo: Elisei Shafer/Shutterstock)

Bottomfeeder fishFish nibble on sand-covered coral. (Photo: Sergei25/Shutterstock)

From the top of the reef to the sand below, the coral reef's ecosystem is comparable to a rainforest. Though reefs make up barely 0.1 percent of the ocean, over a quarter of the ocean's animals thrive there. Offering myriad opportunities for discovery, each reef is unique and precious to its environment — and to the ocean as a whole.

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