Dolphins’ Reef is one of the most unusual attractions in the southernmost town of Eilat, and even in the whole of Israel. This ecological site by the Red Sea enables visitors to watch, experience and even interact with dolphins in their natural habitat. The site, opened to the general public in 1990, was built on a U-shaped reef in Eilat with magical vistas of the mountains and the sea. The site is inhabited by a pod of six dolphins who live, hunt, play, court and socialise in the natural surroundings. The operator of the location emphasises the importance of strengthening the ties between human beings and the creatures that surround us. Therefore, it boasts a powerful, unique and emotional experience of interacting with the dolphins at the site.
Of the six dolphins living at the site, only one came to the reef as a gift from the Russian navy. The dolphins were taken from their home in the Black Sea to the current site. The site, unlike most of the others in which dolphins are kept in a closed area, initially aimed at showing how the dolphins lived in their natural surroundings as part of an “open sea” policy. Under such policy, the reef dolphins were free to swim in the high seas without restriction, and they could return to the reserve whenever they wanted. In 2002, environmentalists disagreed with this practice concerning of the unpredictable behaviour of bathers who encountered dolphins at various beaches; the policy was overturned. Today, the dolphins are confined to the reef. At its peak, the ridge contained 13 dolphins, but once the open sea system was abandoned, tension arose among the dolphins so that some of them were freed to roam the high seas.
There is a lot of activities on the reef that can be enjoyed by individuals, couples and families with children. The primary activity, of course, is to interact with the dolphins which can be approached via floating pontoons and observation posts, without disturbing their daily life. A unique experience is a guided swimming or diving tour with the dolphins; for an hour or more, visitors can swim with them underwater and enjoy their company. The site is also famous for its tranquil ponds situated in shady niches in the midst of a delightful green botanical garden. For those who intend to clear their mind and find peace, tranquillity and self-indulgence, and to stay away from daily grinds, they can sit and relax beside the pools with a sea view. The Reef also offers workshops and talks that are suitable for groups and individuals, covering subjects like the movement of waters, man and dolphin, myth and reality, and more.
One of the most popular stories on the site is the “wedding” that took place between Sharon Tendler, a regular visitor of the site, and Cindy, the leader of the pod of dolphins, on the reef in 2005. Tendler, who is from the United Kingdom, came to the reef and stayed there for many years. She spent a lot of time under the water with Cindy until she decided to marry him. The ceremony, for which Sharon wore white with a garland of flowers on her head, was held for them in water. Even without this unusual story, Cindy would be one of the most famous dolphins in Eilat. He arrived at the Dolphin Reef in late 1990, together with the rest of the dolphins from the Black Sea, and became the leader of the pod on the reef in Eilat, fathering all the dolphins who were born there. In 2006, when he was about 40 years old, Cindy died and was buried out at the high seas.