Taba Heights, Egypt (review published 2006)

Where in the world can you laze on a beach enjoying clear views of no fewer than FOUR different countries?
Think about it… it’s not easy.
Well, to your right would be Saudi Arabia, straight ahead would be Jordan, to your left would be Israel and at your feet would be the golden sands of Taba Heights in Egypt.
OK, so I cheated a little on the fourth country… but this purpose-built Red Sea resort in the Sinai peninsula, 20 kms from the Israeli border, still boasts an unrivalled location.
Which means it’s excursion heaven!
Longwood Holidays was the first UK operator to charter a flight to Taba and helped pioneer Taba Heights. It now has an exciting portfolio of trips from the resort to Israel, Jordan and other areas of Egypt.
Holidaymakers are a two-and-a-half hour coach journey through the desert from St Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Founded 1,400 years ago, it’s the oldest Christian monastery in the world and its imposing walls have never been tested because it is sacred to Jews and Muslims, too.
You could also take a night time hike to Mount Sinai’s summit. There are 3,000 steps but your reward will come at sunrise as light floods the desert with spectacular colour.
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St Catherine’s Monastery, Egypt

Taba Heights has its own marina and sailing time to Jordan is just one hour. A further two-and-a-half hours through the mountains and rock formations of Wadi Rum and you’re at Petra.
The Rose Red City’s breathtaking buildings, 2,500 years old, are carved into the dazzling sandstone and are rightly referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
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Petra, Jordan

On a trip to Israel you could look ten years younger after floating in the Dead Sea. Cover yourself in therapeutic mud then relax in the hot springs and sulphur pools.
You can combine a Dead Sea trip with a visit to Jerusalem, taking in Biblical sites such as the Garden of Gethsemane and Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall.
Dead Sea

The Dead Sea, Israel

Egypt’s bustling capital, Cairo, is much further away – but its treasures are not out of reach. You can visit the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum with an overnight stay.
And if it’s action you want, how about swimming with dolphins, snorkelling around an island castle or riding a quad bike through canyons – it’s all on your doorstep.
But as tempting as these excursions all sounded, it was still difficult to drag ourselves away from Taba Heights.
The resort lies between cinnamon-coloured mountains and a 5km stretch of pristine beach and boasts the largest diving and watersports centre on the Red Sea, a golf course (nearing completion) and four hotels (a fifth will open soon).
Our hotel, the 5-star Hyatt Regency, was simply stunning. It’s built in the style of a traditional Nubian village and its domes and arches are magically illuminated at night.
All the air conditioning units and staircases form part of the overall scheme and there is nothing to spoil the illusion of authenticity.
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Hyatt Regency, Taba Heights

It was designed by the same people responsible for Disneyland Paris and perhaps, like Disneyland, the only criticism you can level at the architecture is that it’s just too perfect.
The low-rise hotel is spread across 44 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens which help to generate a relaxed atmosphere for guests. The lawns are remarkably green for their desert setting.
All 426 rooms are spacious with large balconies or terraces and have mountain, garden or sea views. There are rooms directly on the beach but the best ones overlook the lagoon.
You’re spoilt for choice for pools.
There’s a large sculptured pool, an even larger split level pool with waterfalls and bridges, a 50m lap pool, three children’s pools, an outdoor jacuzzi and a seawater lagoon next to the beach.
There are two pool bars plus a beach bar.
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Hyatt Regency, Taba Heights

The Hyatt’s private beach is kept spotlessly clean but it’s not one where you can easily wade into the sea to cool off because a coral reef comes up to the shore.
However, a 50m jetty will take you to the edge of the reef where you can climb down a ladder into 12ft of what can only be described as fish soup.
The sea is teeming with so many fish of different colours and sizes you just don’t know where to look first – parrotfish, pufferfish, stingrays and, if you’re lucky, turtles.
At the end of the Hyatt’s beach is a raised platform taking you over a  much narrower stretch of the reef and into waters only waist-to-chest high. Here, I swam with an octopus.
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Hyatt Regency, Taba Heights
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Most guests stay on a half board basis and mouth-watering buffets are served at breakfast (7-11am) and dinner (7-11pm).
But if you fancy a change of scenery there are three other specialist restaurants at the Hyatt serving Italian, Lebanese and seafood dishes and you are credited with between 20 and 30 Egyptain pounds (£2-3) per person.
You can also use your credits if you fancied eating at other hotels in Taba Heights on a ‘Dine Around’ scheme. Free shuttle buses do a loop of the resort every half hour.
Other facilites at the Hyatt include a gym and health club, a casino and a children’s club.
We found the staff to be friendly, efficient, helpful and fluent speakers of English.
The hotel was nearly full during our visit but it was so quiet around the pools and on the beach that you’d have thought it was half empty.
There was never any need to get up at the crack of dawn to put your beach towels on the comfy sunbeds (although, of course, some still did).
Overall, Taba Heights and the Hyatt Regency offer terrific service, fantastic accommodation, an amazing location and unbeatable value for money.
But don’t just take my word it.

The hotel boasts an extraordinary 26 per cent return rate which means one in four of its guests have holidayed there at least once before and in many cases, many times more.

Be king just for one day

Honeymooners or holidaymakers celebrating a special occasion should enquire about the Presidential Suite, which can be booked on a daily basis as part of a longer holiday.
It has a spectacular beachfront setting and the ground floor opens onto a private veranda and a large heated pool. Upstairs, the plush master bedroom opens onto a balcony with sunbeds.

The suite also features a dining room, a lounge with fireplace, a fully equipped kitchen, a walk-in wardrobe and a guest bedroom and bathroom.

Top tips

  •  Join the Hyatt Gold Card Passport scheme and email the Hyatt Regency your membership number. You’ll get a number of perks including free room upgrades and late check-outs (subject to availability), money off a massage, free use of the tennis courts and free breakfasts in bed.
  • Don’t be alarmed by the armed guards at checkpoints on your hotel/airport transfers and on excursions – they are there for your protection.
  • When snorkelling, don’t be tempted to touch the marine life, especially Lionfish, and never step on the coral – for your own safety.
  • Start your days early because a ‘badly positioned’ mountain means an hour’s tanning time is lost!
  •  Don’t rely on Taba airport’s duty free shop for all your gifts for loved ones – it’s tiny.
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Marine life, Taba Heights

Travel facts

  • Longwood Holidays is the UK’s leading independent Red Sea specialist. Its reps all live in or near their resorts – and live there  permanently as residents rather than alternating between resorts or countries.
  • Longwood has five flights a week to Taba departing Gatwick on Mondays and Thursdays and Manchester on Mondays and Fridays. Prices for seven nights half board at the Hyatt Regency start at £399 (departing April 20-27) £419 (May 7) and £409 (June 7).
  • Longwood guests arriving at the Hyatt Regency between April 24 and June 29, 2006 will receive a free upgrade to a sea view room (subject to  availability), a free massage and a 15% discount on all beverages (local and imported).
  • Longwood also offers diving courses at Taba Heights. A beginner’s PADI Scuba Diver course starts at £165 while qualified divers can book five days’ diving (10 boat dives) from £155.
  • For brochure descriptions, for more details on excursions and to check late availabilty offers log on to www.longwoodholidays.co.uk

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