Author: Shaikha Khaled

Picture this. You just arrived at Umluj Bay. The port is buzzing with movement. Locals selling juice and iced coffee, salty fishermen coming back from an early morning hunt, and tourists rushing to get to their boats to set out to sea. You finally get onboard your boat and take a moment to look out at the port’s “parking lot”. Somehow, the water is clear and a school of small fish is hiding from the sun under your shadow. A cool breeze sends little ripples through the water, and you embark on your journey away from the mainland.

The sea is calm today. You sit at the bow of the boat, overlooking the gradient of blues around you. Your captain informs you that you’re headed to Umluj’s natural pools. You look around again and see that the Red Sea’s shade light blue darkened briefly. Upon a closer look, you notice tiny bursts of purple, pink and yellow scattered throughout the dark patches. These are some of the world’s most pristine and resilient coral reefs. A flash of turquoise zips between the corals, and your captain tells you that a parrotfish is looking for lunch. As you continue towards Umluj’s iconic natural pools, you spot more colorful patches and realize Umluj is full of bright gems like these.

So far, you’ve seen the pale blue-green of the port, the sapphire blue of the deep sea, the lighter teal that surrounds the colorful coral sea mounds and the brighter blue that mirrors the sky. Now, as you approach the final destination, you’re met with a crystal clear, Tiffany’s blue. Just off to the right, you notice the outline of what looks like a person walking on water, and discover that you’ve arrived at the famous shallow pools. Although there are other boats around, the area is spacious and each boat has its own private pool. Your captain steers the boat towards the edge of the pools, and he anchors at a point where the Tiffany’s blue meets the deep sapphire, giving you the option to take a dive or go for a watery walk in the crystal clear pool.

You choose to wear your goggles and dive in. The water is cool, like a light breeze, and refreshing after your ride from the port. You open your eyes and find flowing beds of sea grass surrounded by soft, white sand. You swim around and appreciate the serenity, as the blue waters surround you. It’s time to explore the sandy, shallow pools. You take one, two, three steps and find the water now only reaches your knees. You spot another boat to the far left, where a group of kids are playing ball in an extra shallow pool, while their parents each lounged on an inflatable swan. As you take in the beauty and versatility of the prismatic pools, you realize that Umluj’s little gem has something for everyone, no matter the age or adventure.