Scuba Diving Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country of the Arabian Peninsula and has the longest coastline on the Red Sea and a wealth of diving possibilities.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known for its desert environment. Although the desert represents bulk of its vast area, the geographical terrain is rich in diversity. There are mountains, plains and plateaus, and long beaches along the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. There are oases in the desert, gushing springs in the mountains, islands in the sea, and a sprawling countryside with villages that border the Kingdom’s cities and towns. Such diversity has created a growing interest in travel and tourism in the Kingdom, both by people outside the country and local residents who frequent these locations.
The length of the Saudi coast of the Red Sea is 2400 km starting from the Gulf of Aqaba in the north to Saudi-Yemeni border in the south. The width of the plain varies from one region to another, but it widen as we head south. The maximum breadth is 45 km near Jazan whereas the narrowest is about 20 km at Rabigh. In the far north, the foothills of Madyan Mountain meet with the sea water.
SCUBA DIVING SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi Arabia has the longest coastline on the Red Sea – over 79 percent of the sea’s eastern shoreline – and a wealth of diving possibilities. From the Jordanian border on the northern Gulf of Aqaba to the Yemeni border in the far south.
The Kingdom’s coasts overlook the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, which are famous for being suitable for diving sport, in particular, because of their warm waters and splendid coral reefs. The Saudi coasts are considered a favorite destination for the professional and beginner divers. Many opportunities are available here to practice scuba diving to explore the shipwrecks and watch marine life, representing a great experience within the water with temperature ranging between 24° and 34°C.
The Red Sea is one of the richest seas of the world for coral reefs, diverse and dense, which confers special beauty on the shores of the Kingdom. There are around (200) types of coral reefs with varieties of shapes, styles and colors, because of the availability of appropriate conditions for the growth of the coral, including the breadth of the continental shallow shelf, high water temperature, moderate salinity ratio, serenity, and bright sunlight. The coral reefs in Makkah Province are distributed along its coastline stretching from Rabiq until the south of Qunfudah. However, they seem to be more prevalent in some areas than the others.
Like the countries surrounding the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia enjoys the colorful and full of reef life, and WWII wrecks. Here you can have visibility to 30 meters, wrecks, coral gardens, hard coral, soft coral, fringing reefs, shallow reefs, deep reefs, canyons, caverns, big fish, small fish, moray eels, stingray, whale shark, manta, dolphin, pilot whales.
DIVE SEASON: The best time to visit Saudi Arabia for scuba diving, snorkeling vacations or desert romps is the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn and winter that is November through January. This is prime time because the visibility goes up, there are more sharks & sometimes frisky pods of spinner dolphins will be seen cavorting in the boat wakes in route to your dive sites. You may want to avoid the “slack season” of July through September, when air temps & humidity can be a bit withering. You were made for Arabian Sea diving.
VISIBITY: Saudi Arabia has a wealth of underwater flora, and marine life along the Red Sea. Sea life is abundant with a variety of hard and soft corals. The waters have an average visibility of 20–30 meters or 60 feet to 90 feet.
WATER TEMPERATURE: 19-28 C/66-82 F offers year round diving.
WEATHER: Generally, it’s hot with little rainfall. The Dhofar Mountains in the south have seasonal rainfall and heavy fog from June to September, but some parts of the coast may have no rain at all in any given year. Air temperatures vary from 22-37°C/72-99°F and can peak at 50°C/122°F.
CLIMATE: Saudi Arabia has a desert climate. In seaside Jeddah it is warm for most of the year, though winter is probably the most pleasant time for a visit. Riyadh, which is inland, is hotter in summer and colder in winter, when occasional heavy rainstorms occur. Early spring and late autumn are lovely times to visit this desert capital. The Rub al Khali, or “Empty Quarter,” seldom receives rain, making Saudi Arabia one of the driest countries in the world.
LANGUAGE: Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia, but English is widely spoken. It is used in business and is a compulsory second language in schools. Among the non-Saudi population, many people speak Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, and other Asian languages such as Farsi and Turkish.
ELECTRICITY: In Saudi Arabia the standard voltage is 127/220 V. The standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type A / B / F / G. Below you find pictures of these power sockets and corresponding plugs.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR) = 100 halala; 5 halala = 20 qurush. Notes are in denominations of SAR500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 50, 25, 10, and 5 halala. MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. Major hotels, restaurants, and shops occasionally accept American Express and Discover. ATMs are widely available and reliable.
GRATUITIES: In Saudi Arabia tipping is expected to be between 10% and 15% for good service, unless there is a service charge added to the bill. If there is a service charge there is no need to tip, unless the service was exceptional. If your food is delivered you should tip between 1 and 3 SAR.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: The Kingdom’s landline telephone system is modern and efficient, using extensive microwave radio relay, coaxial cable, and fiber-optic cable systems. In 2000, 2.9 million lines were available, and Saudi Telecom is expanding its network to 4 million lines. Seven standard earth stations link up with the Intelsat Satellite System. Mobile phones are extremely popular in Saudi Arabia. In 2002, there were more than 5 million mobile phones in use in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia’s mobile telephones operate on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), one of the leading digital cellular systems used all over the world. Internet usage is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia. More and more lines are being provisioned for Internet access to accommodate increasing demand, including high-speed service such as DSL. According to a 2003 Zogby poll, nearly two-thirds of Saudis have Internet access.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: To enter Saudi Arabia, a passport valid for at least six months at the time of the visa application is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above. Visas for Saudi Arabia are required by all nationals referred to in the chart above, except transit passengers staying less than 18 hours. Hajj visas are free, although there are charges for services provided in Medina and Mecca. Arriving from USA a passport, visa and return ticket are required.
CUSTOMS: It is prohibited to bring firearms, narcotics or pornographic publications into Saudi Arabia. Non-Muslims are permitted to bring two litres of alcohol into the country at Seeb International Airport only. You are not allowed to bring alcohol into the country in private cars at land border crossings.
GETTING THERE: The cheapest but not necessarily most luxurious way to fly to Saudi Arabia is with national airline Saudi Arabian Airlines (SV) (www.saudiairlines.com), which operates a fleet of sturdy if shop-worn American planes. Regular flights connect Riyadh and Jeddah with London, New York, DC, Houston, and a long list of regional cities. British Airways has recently resumed service from London to Saudi Arabia. Regional carriers also offer service to nearby cities.
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