We took advantage of the hot summer weather to do a bit of travelling around Israel with some special guests. While it is quite hot in Israel these days, it is also hot in much of North America. So the temperature differential is not as great as at other times of the year, especially if the guests happen to be from St. Louis...
We started at Sakhne, also called "Gan Hashlosah" - the park of three. This is a huge spring water park. The park is made up of three connected pools containing natural spring water that is, apparently, 28C all year round. There are waterfalls, a wading pool and various facilities. Since this is natural spring water, the pools are filled with fish of all different sizes. In fact, there are so many that you can expect to be nibbled on gently by schools of fish in different parts of the park. But the water is beautiful, reasonably refreshing and fun. There are shallower parts and some very deep areas. There are lifeguards in most areas of the park.
All along the pools of water, there are areas to set up picnics, barbecues or to play some games. As long as it isn't too hot, it would probably be a great place for ultimate frisbee, football or maybe some volleyball.
Since we were there in early July, it was close to 40C and it was quite hot. We were able to spend most of the time in the water, in reasonably shady areas. From Ra'anana, the distance to Sakhne is about 110 km on a mixture of highways and slower roads. It takes about an hour and a half to get there. The cost of admission is about 40 shekels a person, with other rates for seniors and soldiers.
After a few hours of enjoying the water, we decided to try something different and take a guided ATV ride. We found a place that was about twenty minutes away from Sakhne called Xtreme B'Emek. Located near Yokneam, Xtreme features guided rides on RZR ATVs. They have two different types of vehicles - the slower ones, that can get up to speeds of 40 to 70 km/h and the faster vehicles that can get up to 100-120 km/h. We went with the slower vehicles.
For about 100 Shekels per person ($25 USD these days), we took a 1 1/2 hour guided ATV drive through a national park. We passed through a number of fields, some forest type terrain, small hills and some very bumpy roads. Not very many animals along the way - a handful of cows and a fox or two. But when we entered open field areas, we stepped on the gas and managed to get up to speeds of about 70 km/h or so, according to the guide. It wasn't exactly "extreme" but it was quite fun.
We were all wearing seat belts and sand goggles and travelled in groups of three per vehicle. Our guide, Osama, was great. He was quite safety conscious and paid attention to the comfort level of the drivers in each vehicle in terms of vehicle speed. The vehicles are all automatic and you need to provide driver's licence details for each driver - as well as sign an extensive waiver regarding damage to the vehicle and personal injury.
Our guide did not speak any English. Neither did his guard dogs - a pit bull and a rottweiler. That was all fine with us. Our guests were dog lovers and these dogs were quite friendly around the guide. We handled the communications with Osama which was fine for our guests.
It sounds like it would be quite a bit of fun to try the faster vehicles but they are more than double the price.
There are hundreds of places that offer ATV trips in Israel. This was my first trip and it was quite a bit of fun. It sounds like these types of trips in the Negev or even better as long as the heat isn't too crazy.
We were considering other plans for the day as well but between these two activities, we felt like we had used up our time reasonably. Overall, both are fun activities that we would recommend for a wide range of age groups.