Scuba dive in the land of the Pyramids and Pharoes and enjoy the magical world that lies beneath the Red Sea.
Think Egypt and chances are you’ll immediately picture pyramids, the temples at Luxor and the River Nile. But there is another side to the country. In recent years the Egyptian coastline has come alive to the opportunities created by diving.
Alongside the most visited resorts of Sharm and Hurghada are the upcoming destinations of El Gouna, Dahab, Safaga, Sharm Fugani, El Quseir and Marsa Alam. Indeed, such is the rate of development along Egypt’s Red Sea coastline that it’s almost impossible to find an area untouched by western culture. Thankfully however, this hasn’t resulted in high levels of crime, but you will find a population keen to help you, and to sell things to you.
The Egyptian Red Sea has been a major shipping route for years and, thanks to the bottlenecks at the entrances to the gulfs of Aqaba and the dangerous reef systems a huge number of vessels have sunk. This is excellent news for the diver because these wrecks are teaming with marine life.
You can book regular dayboat packages where you stay in a hotel and leave from the dive centre’s dock each morning. There are also jeep safaris where you travel the dessert shore and dive from land. Or there is the dearest option of a live aboard, which gives you the ability to reach the reefs far beyond the reach of day boats.
If you are travelling from the UK it is best to organise your trip there at an ABTA bonded company rather than in Egypt. Avoid bucket shops selling low cost tours as these usually offer poor accommodation and diving operations that are of a low standard.
Sharm el Sheikh
Sharm – the most popular dive resort on the Sinai, Sharm consists of two bays (Sharm el Maya and Naama) which are divided by the headland. Both are overcrowded with tourist accommodation. Sharm has excellent access to many areas around the Sinai Peninsula, all boasting incredible coral formations and abundant fish life. Most popular are the Straits of Tiran, home to several wrecks and the Jackson group of reefs, and the Ras Mohammed Marine Park, which is a protected area encompassing both sea and land. The diving at the latter destination is centred on a huge wall, but there are numerous sites on smaller reefs. Sharks used to be common to the area but heavy diving activity has scared them away. However the currents do bring in large pelagics such as jacks and barracuda, and occasional whalesharks and manta rays turn up.
This one time port village has grown at an alarming rate to meet the demands of dive tourism. However the town does still have a life of its own, with numerous bars and restaurants. There are some very good reefs with many that are rarely dived. Active conservation and a strict ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ policy have rectified early damage caused by diving.
El Gouna and others
The newer resorts of El Gouna and Safaga feature numerous hotels with land-based dive centres and offer superb diving from boat and from the shore. The same is true of resorts further to the south (El Quseir, Sharm Fugani and Marsa Alam) which offer superb diving in areas that are almost unspoilt.
The Abu Nuhas reef
Numerous shipwrecks can be found along the Abu Nuhas reef, all of which are rich in life and promise excellent dive experiences. You can reach the reef using day boats from El Gouna, but a live aboard is recommended.
The wreck of the Thistlegorm
Perhaps the most exciting wreck in the Egyptian waters, this World War Two British supply ship can be reached from Sharm, although it may be better to dive here using a live aboard from the resort of El Gouna. The wreck is littered with BSA motorbikes, Bedford trucks, machine guns, shells and other supplies.
The Deep South
The far south of the Egyptian Red Sea boasts a superb array of stunning reefs around Elphinstone, the Brothers, Zabargad and Rocky Island. The diving here is hard going due to strong currents and high winds however the area offers a diversity of life which is greater than anything you will find further north. However, greed has resulted in many of the better areas becoming over dived. On the far south of the Egyptian Red Sea, the reefs around Elphinstone, the Brothers, Zabargad and Rocky Island are world-class destinations. All are rich in life and pelagic species such as oceanic white-tips, hammerhead sharks, mantas and white sharks are regular visitors.