Scuba Diving Egypt – Red Sea

No matter how impressive the above-water attractions, the real jewel in the Egyptian crown has to be the simply staggering diving in Egypt Red Sea. One of the world’s top diving destination.

Egypt, one of the world’s oldest civilizations, bears testament to some of mankind’s earliest triumphs. The pyramids of Cairo are one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the nearby Museum of Egyptian Antiquities houses the legendary treasures of Tutankhamen. At Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings, wall paintings in the tombs of the ancients have amazed viewers for generations.

But Egypt is much more than ancient monuments and pyramids. It’s a cruise down the Nile, a luxury hotel and hot nightlife, it’s a vast invigorating desert and, especially for divers, it’s the Red Sea.

SCUBA DIVING EGYPT – THE RED SEA

The Red Sea takes its name from the periodic algal blooms that occur here painting the sea with a reddish hue, and not the red-tinted Egyptian mountain ranges that surround it.  The Red Sea is considered to be one of the 7 Wonders of the underwater world, harbouring more than 1,000 species of invertebrates and over 200 species of soft and hard coral. This forms the basis of a marine eco-system which includes 1,100 species of fish, of which just under 20% are endemic to the Red Sea, i.e. these fish species can only been found here. The high level of endemism in the Red Sea is  one of the main reasons that makes Egypt scuba diving so interesting.

The Red Sea is a cleft of deep blue water formed millions of years ago when the Arabian Peninsula split from North Africa and the Indian Ocean flooded the basin from a small opening at its southern end. It’s relatively isolated and with little freshwater flowing in, the 1,200-mile-long sea is saltier than most other bodies of water and features eccentric and colorful twists on Indo-Pacific marine life. Just beyond where the cool, azure waters lap the desert shores lie beautiful reefs, millions of fish, fantastic visibility, sheltered reefs, towers, pinnacles, walls, coral gardens and wrecks. The all make up a siren call to scuba divers and mark the Red Sea as a world-class scuba diving destination.

HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS

Nothern Red Sea – Hurghada & Wrecks, Sharm El Sheik, and Sinai Peninsula

Hurghada was the first commercial dive base in the Red Sea and is now a thriving resort that caters almost exclusively to divers. It offers a fantastic choice of dive sites, many of which are sheltered and within a thirty minute to one hour boat ride from resort. Outstanding reefs and drop-offs are available, whilst Hurghada’s location also gives access to the legendary wreck graveyard of Sha’ab Abu Nuhas.

Soma Bay is located just 45km from Hurghada airport. The resort boasts some of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the Red Sea and panoramic views of desert mountains.  Soma Bay gives access to some of the best dive sites in the Red Sea and offers fabulous snorkelling, shore and boat diving.

El Gouna is situated just a short drive north from Hurghada and offers easy access to the best of the Northern Red Sea and over 40 dive sites. Boat diving is the norm here, with some beautiful, sheltered reefs situated under an hour’s boat ride from resort.

Its proximity to the legendary wreck graveyard of Sha’ab Abu Nuhas makes El Gouna a superb choice for wreck divers.  During fine weather, the excellent wrecks of Abu Nuhas can be easily visited and enjoyed by El Gouna guests. There are also some fantastic wall and drift dives on offer plus the chance to dive with dolphins!

Nuweiba is situated around 70km north of Dahab, and its palm-fringed beaches nestle magnificently between the deep blue of the Gulf of Aqaba and the mountains of the Sinai. Nuweiba is a quiet getaway with some fantastic shore diving that makes it a great choice for novice divers and underwater photography fans. Nuweiba is also superb for snorkellers with the spectacular marine life of house reefs just a few fin kicks from the shore.

A Sharm El Sheikh diving holiday offers you a spectacular and diverse range of dive sites that are amongst the best in the world. From the famous Ras Mohammed Marine Park, to some of the most renowned wrecks in the Red Sea, the sheer number of sites means that there is something for all divers. Boat diving is the norm in Sharm and there are also some superb house reefs for diving and snorkelling.

Dahab, meaning ‘gold’ in Arabic, has an enviable location at the foot of the Sinai mountains about 100km north of Sharm el Sheikh. A Bedouin settlement for many years,Dahab is well known for its unique, laid back atmosphere and some of the most adventurous and spectacular diving in the Red Sea.

Legendary sites like the Blue Hole and the Canyon attract adrenaline seekers year after year, but easy access to sites from the shore, plus jeep and camel dive safaris, mean that Dahab is a great choice for divers of all levels of experience. Its deep waters also mean the chance to see not only large numbers of reef species but also the occasional pelagic and even the odd shark.

Southern Red Sea – Marsa Alam, Hamata, Safaga

The Southern Red Sea reefs offer  frequent encounters with pelagic sharks, large schools of fish and healthy coral reef systems. Of the many sharks that you can see here with regularity include hammerhead sharks,  thresher sharks and silvertip sharks, as well as plenty of the usual reef sharks that most divers are familiar with.  And the chance to see the elusive oceanic whitetip sharks.

Safaga offers some exceptional diving and is still relatively undiscovered.  Tucked in just south of Hurghada, most diving is conducted by boat to reach the spectacular offshore reefs and wall dives of sites like Panorama Reef, Middle Reef and Abu Kafan.

Marsa Alam is the gateway to the exciting Southern Red Sea and its myriad pristine reefs. Once the sole preserve of liveaboard boats, legendary sites such as Elphinstone Reef and Sha’ab Samadai (Dolphin House) can now be reached by daily dive boats.

Hamata is the most southerly diving resort in the Egyptian Red Sea and lies opposite the magnificent Fury Shoal Reef system. The remoteness of this area and the pristine and rarely visited sites makes Hamata the ultimate ‘get away from it all’ dive destination.

Shams Alam is a perfect ‘get away from it all’ destination for divers, with access to more than thirty dive sites by day boat or rib as well as an excellent house reef.  Situated further south than its neighbour Marsa Alam, Shams Alam offers fantastic, pristine Southern Red Sea diving from a peaceful shore base, situated along some of the most scenic coastline in the Red Sea. The day diving boats are the only ones operating in this area.

DIVE INFORMATION

DIVE SEASON: Diving is always good, year round. Whale shark season occurs from the end of May until the end of July when this majestic creature can be spotted mainly in the northern Red Sea but also here and there in the south

There are 2 windy seasons that can affect Red Sea liveaboard trip schedules. The summer winds can blow from May to September, and the stronger winter winds can have negative consequences from October to April. An element of chance comes into play when planning liveaboard trips in the south but usually dive cruises will be re-routed if the winds are too strong to sail on the originally planned routes.

VISIBILITY: Usually clear, visibility can range from 15-170 metres/50-230 feet

WATER TEMPERATURE: Depending on the season, water temps range from the low 70s in winter to the low 80s in summer

WEATHER: Egypt’s climate is hot and dry, however, in the winter the north is quite cool. The air temperature ranges from 21-40°C/70-104°F. Diving is always good, year round.

HOW TO DIVE EGYPT: Most of the diving in the Red Sea area is done with a shore-based, day boat dive operation or a live aboard dive boat.

MARINE LIFE: The Red Sea offers an amazing diversity of fish on nearly every dive. Thousands of anthias sweeping across a coral wall will compete with coral groupers, wrasse, blue spotted rays, butterfly fish and angelfish for your attention. But, don’t get too caught up in the action – you might just miss that majestic whale shark gently cruising by.

GENERAL INFORMATION

CLIMATE: Egypt’s climate is hot and dry and  has two main seasons: a mild winter from November to April and a hot summer from May to October. In the coastal regions, average air temperatures range from the 60s to 100 degrees or more in summer., however, in the winter the north is quite cool. The air temperature ranges from 21-40°C/70-104°F.LANGUAGE: Arabic, but given the importance of tourism, you’ll hear English, Russian, German, French, Italian, Polish, Czech and more spoken.

ELECTRICITY:  220 volt

CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: Egyptian Pound. Credit cards are widely accepted. Branches of major banks are available in abundance in all the major cities.  ATMs are also widespread throughout the branches and in other locations such as supermarkets, petrol stations and shopping malls.

GRATUITES: mainland, tipping–or what is known as baksheesh–is common. Tip taxi drivers only when he has rendered a service you find helpful. Porters and others should be tipped when bags are carried or room service is delivered. Live-aboards, tip the crew at the end of the week, roughly 10 percent of the cost of the charter.

PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Mobile phones: you can chose to roam with your international number by registering on any of the three mobile phone operator networks in Egypt. Alternatively you may want to purchase a temporary visitor line from one of the providers. Internet – wireless internet is available in a large number of restaurants, hotels and coffee shops throughout the country. Some may provide the service for free while others may charge you for it. Hotels offer wired and wireless access in the comfort of your own room. Some cities, like Sharm El Sheikh, are fully connected using wireless internet connectivity.

VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: Egypt is relatively easy to enter and/or obtain visas for if necessary. A passport and visa are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Egypt. Tourists can obtain a renewable 30-day tourist visa on arrival at Egyptian airports for a $25 fee, payable in U.S. dollars

CUSTOMS: According to the Egyptian law, you are not allowed to import more than 200 cigarettes (or 25 cigars, or 200g of tobacco) and 2 litres of alcohol. It is also illegal to bring in drugs, firearms, and cotton.
On the other hand, it is considered illegal to export narcotics (drugs), firearms and cotton. Locally purchased gold and silver can be exported if for personal use or in small quantities.
Egypt’s strict laws control the import and export of antiquities and artefacts that are more than 100 years old. You will thus need to apply for a license to export any item of the sort.
There is no limit to the amount of currency you can bring in or out of Egypt. However, the traveller is requested to declare amounts of 500 Egyptian Pounds or foreign equivalent.

GETTING THERE: Egypt has 10 international airports that welcome millions of tourists and visitors each year. Most of these airports welcome regular flights from several international destinations, as well as charter flights, departing mainly from Europe and the Middle East to the paradisiacal Red Sea coast airports.
Egypt also has its own national airline, EgyptAir, which flies from the main cities of the European Continent, North America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.Divers enter at Hurghada and Sharm el Sheik International airports. You can also fly through Cairo and connect to your destination from the same terminal.

USEFUL INFORMATION

Egypt Tourism Information

Map

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