For a small, ocean-loving subset of visitors, this dusty corner of the Middle East is renowned for more than political turmoil. Every year, from February to May, the coral reef off Eilat's coast is an unparalleled place to spot some of the planet's strangest, most beautiful animals: nudibranchs, or tiny, jewel-like sea slugs. While the words "sea slug" probably don't ignite your imagination like "great white shark" or "blue whale," there may not be more spectacular critters in the entire ocean.
Thanks in large part to its conservation efforts, Palau is now one of the best places on the planet to get up close and personal with sharks underwater, as my wife and I, both certified divers, discovered on a recent visit. Surprisingly, seeing sharks up close is simple -- and not nearly as terrifying as you might think.