THE GULF OF AQABA is an extension of the African Rift, and affords deep water close to the shore. This makes it ideal for repeat dives - testing regulators, for example. It also has some pretty coral reefs that are home to the full gamut of Red Sea marine life.
All the usual suspects are present. There are thousands of anthias and glassfish, and dozens of the lionfish and grouper that prey on them. Eagle rays pass by and electric rays dodge about the sandy patches.
What makes Taba so unusual, however, is its population of giant frogfish.
Frogfish feed on almost anything that moves, but these Taba frogfish differ from others in that they prey on the lionfish. Yes, you read that right. These are not the pretty little frogfish that prove so popular with macro photographers. These frogfish are big enough to swallow a lionfish!
Thats probably why one example I photographed looked so green. Well, youd feel a bit green if youd swallowed a fish thats famous for its poisonous spines, wouldnt you
It provides a new perspective to the image of a bulldog that has swallowed a wasp.

FROGFISH ARE ABLE TO SWALLOW prey fish that are actually bigger than they are. They have rubbery, flexible bodies that can encompass almost anything they can suck into their cavernous mouths.
A member of the Antennariidae family, which includes other anglerfish, they lie in wait for the unwary, dangling above their mouths a lure that has developed from what was once a dorsal spine.
This lure looks like a little fry or a worm, and entices any fish that likes to eat such small delicacies. The lionfish is tempted to dart in and grab it. The joke is on the would-be hunter.
The frogfish is quicker than the unfortunate lionfish. It gulps, and in a moment the resulting inrush of water has dragged the unsuspecting predator-turned-prey into that cavernous interior. The frogfish does this in one of the fastest movements of any animal recorded. One has been scientifically photographed at such a high speed that its thought to take only around 1/6000th of a second to grab a meal. Thats fast food!
Frogfish are able to change their body colour and texture to mimic their surroundings, and one would expect them to use this talent as camouflage, lying in ambush as they do.
These Taba frogfish are, however, quite cocky. They are almost flamboyant in the way they pose in colours that contrast magnificently with their surroundings, instead of adopting the colour of the sponge or coral on which they sit.
Then they walk about on their modified pectoral fins, using them like flexible feet. At around 30cm long and more, these fish are easy to spot, and if you see one youre bound to see its partner somewhere nearby, although its probably wearing a totally different colour scheme.
Not only that, but although giant frogfish are normally easy to approach, these frogfish actually approach divers. During our regulator test, a large dark green one even came and sat on my head!
When I mentioned this to Hugh Watson, the Welsh manager of the Aqua-Sport diving centre, he recognised the specimen I had described and told me that he was recently doing an introductory dive (Hugh, not the frogfish) when he spotted it bouncing along the featureless sandy seabed a long way from where he was. There was no reef nearby.
The frogfish bounced purposefully up to him and attached itself to his chest. The trainee diver was taken aback, but Hugh was relaxed. Its the sort of thing that happens under water at Taba.

DIRECTLY OFF THE BEACH outside the Taba Hilton and the adjacent Nelson Village are some pretty patch reefs on sand, and two areas of deeper coral reef called the Canyons and Black Coral. They arent very big areas, but for the underwater photographer they form isolated treasure troves of colour, and this is where the frogfish normally hang out.
Craig Budden, the owner of Aqua-Sport, told me that because these coral areas were effectively on its property, it was active in conserving them for all to enjoy. For this reason it allows only guided or supervised dives.
Willi Halpert, a true pioneer of Red Sea diving, set up Aqua-Sport in Eilat, Israel, way back in 1962. When he retired in 1992, he sold the business to Canadian Craig and his English wife Dafna, who is now the British Consul in Eilat.
They still have the diving centre in Eilat, but in 1995 opened another at the Taba Hilton and, in 2007, at the nearby Movenpick Resort, both across the border in Egypt.
The Hilton was originally the Aviya Sonesta hotel, and probably at the time one of the best hotels in Eilat.
After the Camp David Agreement, when the Israelis handed back the captured Sinai to Egypt, there was some dispute about the actual border. The Aviya Sonesta, and its associated Nelson Village, appeared to be on the wrong side of the line.
A compromise was reached, and it stayed in Israeli hands for a few more years that saw guests flying in to Ovda airport to be ferried to and fro across the border in special buses.
Eventually the hotel was handed over to the Egyptians and became the Taba Hilton, but its still strange to think that it actually switched countries. Today, visitors fly in via Tabas own airport.

THE TABA HILTON HAS BEEN completely rebuilt recently. It has 326 deluxe air-conditioned rooms, augmented by a further 84 rooms in the Nelson Village.
Within its grounds are Italian and Oriental restaurants and a pub, and two enormous pools accommodate those who prefer not to swim in the sea. Theres a childrens club and tennis courts, too.
Its an easy place to learn to dive, because there is little in the way of currents or tides, and the water is accessed directly from the beach.
Besides those interesting shore dives, the Aqua-Sport PADI 5* dive centre operates a daily dive boat called Splash from a nearby jetty that is less than a cricket pitchs length from the border.
This boat visits dive sites including Coral Island, but if you think theres a danger that this wouldnt give you enough variety of diving during a weeks stay, it also has a modern liveaboard, the mv Coral Dreams, which does three-night trips down the Egyptian coast to dive sites beyond Nuweiba and Dahab.
Guests staying at the Taba Hilton can also arrange to do dives with dolphins and on the wrecks in Eilat. And if they like frogfish, theyre in luck.

* The agent for Aqua-Sport International ( in the UK is Crusader Travel (www.crusadertravel. com). It can organise inclusive dive trips flying with Thomson Airways or Monarch Airlines to Taba from London Gatwick or Manchester. A typical eight-day trip costs around £750 per person, with a diving package that includes three days by boat and two from shore. A variety of dive-package combinations is available. The Taba Hilton is an all-inclusive resort.