Scuba diving in the Red Sea started in the 1950s when Greek and Italian workers began spear fishing while residing in Egypt. Explored by the Austrian zoologist Dr. Hans Hass, a well-known underwater movie maker, and the famous French diver Jacques Cousteau, the Red Sea has amazing coral reefs that are a magnet for thousands of species.
Diving has matured since then, today you’ll find fully equipped facilities, liveaboard diving, a myriad of programs and internationally certified instructors. The Red Sea resorts of Hurghada, Sharm El-Sheikh, Marsa Alam, El Gouna and Taba are wonderful destination that offer diving holidays packages and facilities all year round because of their moderate temperature. It doesn’t matter if you have never dived before, if you’re a beginner or a veteran, you’ll find the right program for you and you’ll surely be coming back for more.
If you don’t like crowded dive sites, try to avoid the high season from July to December. Grey reef sharks, dolphins and dugongs can be spotted year round. Whale shark season occurs from the end of May until the end of July. At this time the plankton blooms bring manta rays in to feed and turtles nest. Hammerhead sharks can be seen all over the Red Sea. The Thresher Shark can be best spotted in winter. Pick the driest season in December-February or the calmest times in June-August and dive in! For snorkelling the best period is the summer season (from May to October). The coldest water is in December and January.
For many divers, a visit to the Red Sea is an opportunity to see some of the underwater world’s most charismatic species. During the warm summer months (May – July), plankton blooms in the northern Red Sea attract filter-feeding behemoths, including the whale shark, renowned as the world’s largest fish; and the balletic manta ray. Summer is also a good time for spotting schools of the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark.
For shark-lovers, southerly reefs like Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone offer the best chance for swimming with the elusive oceanic whitetip. These magnificent sharks have a reputation for unpredictable behavior, but with the guidance of a knowledgeable operator, it is possible to safely encounter them in their own environment. Other megafauna highlights include the dugongs of Abu Dabbab lagoon near Marsa Alam and the friendly spinner dolphins of Samadai Reef.
With more than 1,800 miles of coastline, Egypt is a surprisingly great destination for scuba divers and snorkelers looking for unique and exciting experiences. The country’s proximity to both the Mediterranean and Red Seas provides an amazingly diverse set of underwater environments that offer settings that simply can’t be found anywhere else. With so many great options to choose from, the biggest challenge that most divers face when planning a trip to the “land of the pharaohs” is figuring out where exactly to go. Here 8 of the best dive sites across the country.
While there are numerous great locations across Egypt that provide fantastic opportunities to go scuba diving, any list of the best destinations has to start with Sharm El Sheikh. With over 30 fantastic dive spots accessible from this resort city alone, you can spend a week here and barely scratch the surface of what it has to offer. From great reef systems to sprawling shipwrecks, Sharm El-Sheikh has it all. Thanks to its position along the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez, it has a level of diversity and scope found in only a handful of other places around the world.
Truly one of the best dive spots across the globe, the only downside of Sharm El-Sheikh is that it can get busy and is a bit touristy. But because of the level of traffic that it sees, there is also an extensive infrastructure in place to help divers book tours, find equipment, and connect with local guides. This adds a level of convenience that is much appreciated when there are so many options from which to choose.
An emerging dive spot that is perfect for the adventurous traveler looking for new and unique experiences, Ras Gharib is another good alternative to the busier resort cities. Found on the Gulf of Suez, wreck diving takes center stage here with several well-mapped locations and several lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path places to explore too. The most famous of the wrecks is the S.S. Scalar, an oil tanker that was sunk by German U-boats during World War II. But there are other ships and aircraft scattered about the region as well, providing divers with opportunities to leave the reefs behind and experience something completely different instead.
Another resort city, not unlike Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada provides a similar dive experience with more of an emphasis on the Red Sea’s abundant sea life. That said, there are still several impressive wreck dives to be had here, along with fantastic coral reefs to explore as well. A busy tourist hub in its own right, Hurghada has plenty to offer both on and off the water. It is an especially appealing destination for beginner to intermediate divers, as several local companies offer certification programs. Advanced divers will still find plenty to like, too, as this is yet another well-rounded scuba haven on the Red Sea.
One of the most famous and popular national parks in all of Egypt, Ras Mohamed sits at the junction of the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. Here, the corals are abundant and healthy, which provides a diversity of wildlife for divers and snorkelers to enjoy. During the warm summer months, large schools of fish appear along the reefs, with the waters teeming with color and motion. For those looking to catch sea life in its natural habitat, the park can be awe-inspiring. And since these waters are protected, they are crystal clear and pristine, too, making for a fantastic dive experience at any time of the year.
Not quite as touristy as Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada, Marsa Alam has grown into a nice alternative to those bustling resorts. Situated on the Red Sea, this town offers excellent day trips to some impressive dive sites throughout the region. One of Marsa Alam’s best claims to fame is that travelers can go shore diving, spotting colorful wildlife and reefs by simply walking off the beach and into the water. That can save on money and time for those who don’t want to spend hours on a dive boat and would prefer to come and go as they please.
Accessible only by a liveaboard boat, the Brothers are a pair of coral reefs found in the heart of the Red Sea. The two sites are well known for the beauty and abundant sea life, with colorful fish appearing by the thousands. Dubbed Big Brother and Little Brother, the two reefs are best suited for experienced divers who feel comfortable in waters that include fast-moving currents. Here, they’ll not only find a large number of big fish, but they’ll also discover shipwrecks and corals in all of the colors of the rainbow. Sharks are frequently spotted in these waters, too, including hammerheads, whitetips, and threshers. If you don’t mind staying aboard a ship rather than at a resort, this is a location that shouldn’t be missed.
Dahab is another dive site that offers easy accessibility to many great locations right from the shore. One of the most popular of those spots is the Blue Hole—not to be confused with the Blue Hole in Belize—which is a submarine sinkhole more than 300 feet deep. This can be a tricky, technical dive, however, so it is best reserved for advanced divers. Others may take to “the Canyon” instead, which is a nearby coral reef that is renowned for its abundant colors, sea life, and large fish. The laidback culture found in Dahab gives it a nice change of pace over the more touristy resorts, which makes this a favorite of veteran Red Sea divers looking to avoid the crowds. That quiet atmosphere is a welcome respite to the busier destinations like Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh.
If a quiet and relaxed scuba destination sounds good to you, El Quseir is a great option for visitors to Egypt. This is a spot that is perfect for beginning divers to cut their teeth, with some very accessible sites that can be reached right from the beach. This makes shore diving a viable option, as it is much less intimidating and daunting for those who are just starting. Venture out a bit further from shore, however, and you’ll soon discover some of the most pristine coral reefs in the entire Red Sea. There, you’ll find lionfish, rays, sea snakes, turtles, and dozens of other aquatic animals. And thanks to El Quseir’s 5,000-plus years of history, there is plenty to see back onshore as well, reminding divers that they are indeed visiting one of the oldest civilizations on Earth.
Getting to Egypt. It is possible to get to Egypt by land, but most visitors fly in. Cairo has direct scheduled flights from London and New York, with indirect routes from pretty much everywhere, and there are low-cost flights from Britain to Luxor and the beach resorts.