When I booked to go to Egypt it was all quite last minute and done without much research. I wanted winter sun and loads of friends recommended it to me for a November jaunt. I didn’t fancy Sharm El Sheik, as I heard it was a bit over-commercialised, so went for another option. In my mind I imagined busy markets, shisha, hot sandy beaches and some desert activities like quad biking. However, I got something ENTIRELY different, because I went to Taba.
Now, I’ve only met one other person that’s been to Taba, and the research I’ve done since I got back (which should have happened before but screw it) points to the fact it isn’t the most popular tourist area of Egypt and there are plenty of obvious reasons. It’s generally near NOTHING. You can’t really walk to anywhere from a hotel unless you are in a big complex, so if you want bustling nightlife then this isn’t for you. It’s also about an 8 hour drive from the pyramids so you’re unlikely to swan off to Cairo for the day. You might find yourself limited in daytime activities too if you aren’t into excursions and boat trips (they don’t cost much from locals but the big companies charge a fair amount) so it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
However, I think these things are actually what make it such a great place to go. It’s totally different to the usual Egyptian experience. For a start, when you land it looks like you have just arrived on mars, so try land in daylight because it’s quite spectacular. All you see is sand dunes, the occasional palm tree and a few empty roads; it looks like a totally different world. No building, no lights, nothing. It’s definitely a place to go all inclusive, so a package holiday is ideal. You also don’t find yourself hassled and pressurised into buying things when you step foot into a shop or ask about trips. Everything is really chilled out and refreshingly slow paced.
When we were driven to our hotel we were told to look out to sea, because you can see both Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia at the same time. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing, this part of Egypt, on the Bay of Aqaba, is actually in Asia, not Africa, so you’re sharing waters with middle eastern countries. Something to be aware of also.
One thing that became immediately apparent was the spectacular sunrise over Saudi Arabia. So beautiful and the perfect way to kick start a day. The hotels have amazing beaches to relax on, which we did a bit of, but one thing you cannot miss out on is the snorkelling. It. Is. Spectacular. Seriously, so amazing. I saw fish that looked like underwater flashing pink discos, blue jellyfish, electric eels, a manta ray the size of a grand dining table and the most amazing reefs. I also repeatedly found Nemo.
I recommend a boat trip to Pharaoh’s Island to snorkel around, because you make multiple stops and the local guides are great, but if there are small little beach huts offering private snorkelling, take the chance. That was when we really saw the most amazing little creatures. Except they weren’t so little. In fact, everything was pretty big.
It’s also the perfect place to go on a Bedouin experience , drink endless cups of Egyptian tea and get massages whenever you can. They do amazing seaweed scrubs and because it’s not a busy, buzzing town you get long, luxurious spa treatments in the hotels and on the beaches for very little money. Probably the biggest advantage if you are a true traveler, is that you can get day trips to Jerusalem, Israel and Petra, Jordan. These might not always be available due to the situation in the middle east, but the opportunity is there and it’s all well monitored.
The food is pretty hit and miss especially the all inclusive, and if you want a chance to try different cuisines and stay in a bigger resort, try Softel Taba Heights. I stayed in the Swiss Inn Dream Resort which was NICE, not perfect due to a kind of limited menu, but so chilled and with a lush beach area. The beach hut also offers really good private little trips out to snorkel, and the owner is well worth befriending, even for the free tea.
So essentially, if you want a different kinda experience to the norm, fancy some winter fun and are big on snorkelling, GO TO TABA.