With many countries adding Sharm to the no-travel list! So where can you go for an easy Red Sea shore dive? Try the dive camps near Masa Alam!
The ongoing unrest in Egypt has caused a number of governments to add Sharm el-Sheik to the list of areas where all but essential travel should be avoided.
So if you’re looking for some easy, shore-based diving in the Red Sea, where to go?
You could go to Hurghada, on the Africa side of Egypt (Sharm el-Sheik is on the Sinai), but with Sharm closed for many tourists, Hurghada will be busy!
Let’s go to camp!
An alternative is to head south. About 4 hours drive south of Hurghada, and right by Masa Alam, are a number of dive camps, essentially spartan resort with a 100 percent focus on diving, rather than family vacations.
Otherwise, here's the Top 5 Family Vacation Dive Sites.
You can either fly into Hurghada and cover the 4 hours in a minibus, or fly straight to Masa Alam, from where the nearest of the camps is only about 20 minutes away.
As someone who has done both, and given the unrest in Egypt, I’d recommend the latter.
Masa Shagra Village
The camp that is closest to Masa Alam airport is called Masa Shagra Village, and sits right on beach. While these camps do not feature the luxuries of a Sharm el-Sheik resort, they’re not exactly military camps, either.
Here's an interesting article on How to Open a Dive Resort.
Centered around a very nice dive area, where each diver in the camp can store their gear in a personal locker (bring your own padlock, though), a beach lounge area, and a large restaurant area with terrace dining, the camp offers four options of accommodations: bedouin tents, luxury tents, huts, and chalets, in progressing order in terms of cost.
The tents are the simplest form of accommodation, placed right on the beach. They feature two beds and the sound of the rolling waves to lull you to sleep. The luxury tents have a wooden floor, a fridge, and a number of other extras.
The huts are stone-wall huts in Arabic style, somewhat small and simple, but nice if you’re in the area in the off-season, where the nights can get a bit windy and chilly.
The most luxurious form of accommodation are the chalets. Placed a bit away from the rest of the camp for privacy, these chalets are larger versions of the huts, with a full bathroom, air conditioning, and your own terrace for lounging on between dives.
I’d recommend either a luxury tent or springing for the chalet. Neither is terribly expensive, so why pamper yourself a little?
The camp sits right on its own house reef, a V-shaped reef that starts right beneath the surface and continues down to 40+ meters.
The inner reef, inside the V, is very well protected against currents and waves, while the outside of the reef allows for good drift dives for those who are interested.
Between the two sides of the reef is a pristine sandy bottom. The reef abounds with life, with stingrays, Napoleon fish, and even dolphin making routine visits.
Here's an interesting article if you want to go Wreck Diving in Egypt: The Salem Express.
Diving on the house reef is unlimited, so you can dive to your heart’s content. You can even get dropped off or picked up (or both) by Zodiacs within the reef area.
If you need more variation, the camp can arrange both boat and shore-based dives in the area, including a trip to the famous off-shore reef Elphinstone, which is about a 30 to 40-minute Zodiac ride away from the camp.
Food, drink, and more
A stay at the camp typically includes full pension, meaning all your meals are taken care off.
You eat all three meals at the restaurant in the center of the camp, on a hill overlooking the camp and the reef. Chose between inside dining or al fresco on the terrace.
Food is plenty, tasty, and well-made. Expect a mix of Egyptian and European dishes. Water, coffee, tea, and some soft drinks are also included, but if you want wine, beer, or brand-name sodas, you’ll have to pay extra.
Things are generally very cheap, though, and you’d be hard pressed to spend more than about $50/€40 during your entire stay.
The camp even features wifi, at a minimal extra cost. The wifi is guaranteed to work in the restaurant and around the lounge, but may or may not extend to the tents and chalets (depends on far away from the center of the camp you’re staying).
For return travellers, there are an additional two camps to the south of Masa Shagra, so there are plenty of options for repeated trips.