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Summer Worsley, Dive Instructor

DIVE GUIDE

Diving in Egypt

Picture yourself gliding along a deep reef wall covered in brightly colored soft and hard corals. The visibility is 100+ ft, the temperature is 78 degrees, and the current is virtually non-existent. The chance of spotting whale sharks, turtles, hammerheads, and mantas is high.

Where are you diving? You’re in the Red Sea, of course!

Lucky Egypt has been blessed with 2 coastlines, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The northern, Mediterranean coastline is home to the ruins of the ancient Alexandrian lighthouse, and the Red Sea boasts some of the most spectacular reef systems in the world.

Divers have been drawn to Egyptian waters since the very beginnings of SCUBA diving. In fact, Jacques Cousteau was so impressed by the bounty he found underwater here that he attempted to make a submerged village in the southern Red Sea.

The waters in the Red Sea are teeming with a biodiversity rarely seen elsewhere. With more than 1,200 species of fish, pelagic life, dugongs, and vividly colored corals that are unrivaled across the world, it’s easy to see why the Red Sea remains a bucket-list trip for divers. It doesn’t hurt that diving here is remarkably affordable too.

Grab your weight belt, sling your tank on, and join us as we dive into this remarkable location.

A diver swim with huge turtle underneath

Photograph by Torben

Types of Diving in Egypt

One of the best things about diving in Egypt is that there’s enough variation to keep you, your buddy, and your whole dive group happy.

Egypt offers deep wrecks, shallow fringing reefs, underwater meadows, archeological dives and just about everything in between.

Let’s take a look at the types of diving you can do in Egypt.

Reef Diving in Egypt

Egypt offers reef lovers a myriad of fringing and offshore reefs to choose from. Because the corals here are used to temperatures that reach and even exceed 82 degrees, they have adapted in such a way that the colors are far more vibrant than in other parts of the world. Divers who visit the Red Sea for the first time often comment on just how colorful it is.

This sea is not just one of the warmest ones in the world, it’s also one of the saltiest. This unique environment means that there is marine life here that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

One such species is the Red Sea walkman, named so because it really does walk, on all six of its legs. Part scorpion fish and part arachnid, this creature has to be seen to be believed.

Macro Diving in Egypt

Fans of macro life will find plenty to turn their attention, and cameras, to in the Red Sea. Colorful nudibranchs, seahorses, frogfish, and the notorious harlequin shrimp all call the Red Sea home.

If you’ve got a very keen eye you might even be able to find the incredibly shy leopard blenny hiding behind hard corals.

Muck divers will enjoy combing the seagrass meadows in Dahab and Marsa Alam looking for all manner of weird little creatures hiding away. Look out for the ghost pipefish which looks exactly like a leaf of dead seagrass.

Wreck Diving in Egypt

No doubt you’ve heard of the SS Thistlegorm. This remarkably well-preserved wreck lies upright at 100 ft, courtesy of the Third Reich. Inside the wreck, divers discover rows upon rows of Norton motorbikes, cars, army jeeps and more.

Other famous wrecks include The Rosalie Moller, The Giannis D, and the eeriest of them all, The Salem Express.

But these are not the only wrecks Egypt has to offer. Because of the country’s strategic position, and the Suez canal, many a ship has been sunk here during war times. Many more have met their end on submerged satellite reefs.

Hard-core wreck divers who want to go off the beaten path can even find wrecks that have been rarely dived - if they’ve been dived at all.

How to Dive in Egypt

There are a few different ways to dive in Egypt with a range of options to suit all budgets.

Plus, because of the diversity of the dive sites, there are choices to suit both beginners and those with a little more experience under their weight belts.

A diver swim near the Liveaboard

Liveaboard Diving in Egypt

All of the well-known liveaboard companies operate out of Egypt so you won’t struggle to find a good operator. As an added bonus, many of these trips are very wallet-friendly when compared to liveaboard safaris in other parts of the world.

Trips generally depart from Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, Safaga, and El Gouna, depending on the route.

For divers who are seeking a bit of a challenge, head to the reefs known as Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone. These are commonly explored on a 7-day safari departing from Hurghada. Huge drop-offs, oceanic whitetips scouring the reefs, and the kind of kicking currents that bring in pelagic life are the calling cards of this trip.

If you’re looking for something a little more sedate, try the route known as ‘the northern wrecks and reefs’. These trips depart from Sharm el-Sheikh and take in the SS Thistlegorm, Abu Nuhas, Ras Mohammed National Park, and the Tiran islands. Keep an eye out for the schooling hammerheads at the back of Jackson Reef.

Resort Diving in Egypt

If your preference is to kick back, relax, and maybe make a couple of dives, Egypt is ideal for this. With hundreds of beautiful hotels perched near crystal clear waters and beautiful reefs, you’ll easily find somewhere you like.

Many of these hotels have house reefs or day boats for divers and snorkelers.

Shore Diving in Egypt

Not a fan of boats? No problem! Because many of Egypt’s 2,000 miles of reef are fringing, they can be accessed directly from the shore.

Most beachside hotels have dive centers that are equipped to take you shore diving to a few sites if not all the sites that can be accessed by boat.

Of the shore diving locations, Dahab is probably the most famous. With over 20 dive sites in and around this small town, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied for a week-long dive vacation. Divers are loaded into old jeeps, and Toyota Hiluxes and carted off to dive sites which include the infamous and world-famous Blue Hole.

Also popular here is a dive trip to Ras Abu Galum National Park. To get the dive tanks to the dive site, local Bedouin guides assist divers in loading their tanks onto camels who then carry all the gear along a coastal trail. Although this may initially sound like a tourist gimmick, transit via camel really is the most efficient way to get to this National Park!

Special Equipment You’ll Need to Take

There is no special equipment required to dive in Egypt. You should bear in mind that the water is very warm for most of the year so you may want to leave your 7mm suit at home.

If you do happen to forget anything, you’ll find that dive centers and retailers are well-equipped.

Marine Life in Egypt

Because of the unique ecosystem in the Red Sea, the biodiversity is rich and varied. From whale sharks sailing near the surface to dugongs in Marsa Alam munching on seagrass, there’s a good chance to see something extraordinary on a dive trip here.

All of the dive sites in the Red Sea are characterized by vibrant soft and hard corals in a multitude of hues. Nearer the surface, these colors are brighter, but even at depth, the clear waters allow a lot of light to reach the reef.

What’s There to See at Different Depths?

For larger pelagic life, divers should head to the southern parts of the Red Sea. Here, the deep reefs and currents bring in hunters: oceanic whitetip, sailfish, giant trevally, schooling tuna and more, like to hang out in the blue.

These can be spotted at any depth and it’s not unusual for a dive group to be surprised by a whale shark on a safety stop!

Closer to the reef, popular finds include turtles, mantas, eagle rays, giant morays, huge Napoleon wrasse, great barracuda, and massive honeycomb rays. Again, these animals can be found within the 130 ft limit of recreational diving so you won’t miss anything by being shallow.

Most macro life is found in shallower water, above 65 ft, with the exception of long-nosed hawkfish who like to perch on ginormous gorgonian fans at around 130 ft.

Best Time to Dive in Egypt

For larger pelagic life, divers should head to the southern parts of the Red Sea. Here, the deep reefs and currents bring in hunters: oceanic whitetip, sailfish, giant trevally, schooling tuna and more, like to hang out in the blue.

These can be spotted at any depth and it’s not unusual for a dive group to be surprised by a whale shark on a safety stop!

Closer to the reef, popular finds include turtles, mantas, eagle rays, giant morays, huge Napoleon wrasse, great barracuda, and massive honeycomb rays. Again, these animals can be found within the 130 ft limit of recreational diving so you won’t miss anything by being shallow.

Most macro life is found in shallower water, above 65 ft, with the exception of long-nosed hawkfish who like to perch on ginormous gorgonian fans at around 130 ft.

Divers swim under the huge Corals

Photograph by Torben

Scuba Diving Conditions in Egypt

Conditions are very good for scuba diving on most days of the year in Egypt. The seas are mostly calm, visibility is good, and diving is conducted all year.

Of note here is that the tidal change in the Red Sea is very low, mostly around 3 - 4 ft. Because of this, diving conditions are not hugely affected by tides.

Visibility

As a general rule, the visibility is good in Egypt. Divers can expect the vis to average around 50 - 65 ft. At times it can be less, but after a change of wind or tide, it normally clears up very quickly.

Remember though, poor vis can be because of microscopic creatures such as plankton. These creatures often bring in filter feeders like manta rays and whale sharks, so poor visibility can actually be a blessing in disguise.

Depending on the dive site, the visibility in Egypt can be exceptional hitting 130 ft or more.

Current

The Red Sea is not known for huge currents and you won’t find divers hanging on with reef hooks here. This is not to say that there aren’t currents, there certainly are, but they may be less of a concern in Egypt than in other diving spots.

In most of the dive sites with current, dive boats will use tenders (zodiacs) to pick up divers after the dive and bring them back. This means that divers can conduct drift dives instead of having to worry about fighting a current to get back to the boat.

Interestingly, the higher up the Red Sea you go, the weaker the currents are. Locations such as Taba and Dahab in the Sinai Peninsula experience far less current than locations further down Egypt’s mainland coastline.

Divers wishing to explore Alexandria’s ancient ruins should note that this section of the med is prone to stronger currents than the Red Sea.

Depth

One of the beautiful things about the Red Sea is that phenomenal depths can be reached just off the shore. For this reason, the vast majority of Egypt’s dive sites can be enjoyed by both technical divers and recreational divers alike.

For example, techies may like exploring some of the deeper formations such as Neptune’s Chair at 245 ft, while recreational divers can explore The Canyon at 100 ft, all in the same dive site.

Many canyons, caves, and interesting geological features can be found between 50 and 130 ft. In terms of reefs, these can be enjoyed from as little as just 20 ft.

Diving Safety in Egypt

Diving in Egypt is conducted professionally with all water activities being overseen by the Egyptian CDWF (Chamber of Diving and Watersports). Dive centers and liveaboard operators must conform to internationally applied ISO standards.

Recompression chambers and hyperbaric doctors can be found in Dahab and Sharm el-Sheikh, in the Sinai Peninsula. And in Hurghada, El Gouna, Safaga, Marsa Alam, and Hamata on the mainland.

As with any destination, it is recommended that you choose your operator wisely and don’t simply opt for the cheapest diving you can find.

It is recommended that all divers have travel or dive insurance which covers all aspects of their holiday. Most travel insurance policies cover divers to 100 ft or the depth to which they are certified. Check that your policy does cover diving and if it doesn’t, consider taking out week-long coverage from DAN (The Divers Alert Network).

Getting to Egypt and the Dive Spots

Many dive travelers fly in to Cairo first and from there take domestic flights with EgyptAir or Nile Air to Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, and Marsa Alam.

Direct flights to these locations are also often available from major cities across Europe.

To get to Safaga, travelers should fly into Hurghada and then take a transfer. To get to Dahab or Taba, fly into Sharm el-Sheikh and then do the same.

A diver swim with a huge number of fish

Popular Dive Sites

With so many fantastic dive sites across the country, it’s hard to select just a few. The following are some of the most popular dive sites in Egypt. Let’s start in the north and head south.

The Blue Hole

This amazing sinkhole, one of only 3 true blue holes in the world, sits directly offshore. The hole itself is around 160 ft wide and drops to a depth of around 400 ft inside. Sitting directly inside the reef table means that this geological anomaly also features a deep reef wall outside the reef table.

Divers often enter the water at ‘the bells’, another opening in the reef table a short walk from the blue hole itself. A popular route is to descend into the bells, swim through a short tunnel at around 65 - 75 ft, and then dive along the wall, gradually ascending until the ‘saddle’. The saddle, at only 26 ft, takes divers into the blue hole where they will exit.

Dahab’s infamous blue hole has earned itself the unfortunate misnomer of ‘the diver’s graveyard’. Because such great depths are located so conveniently close to shore, this dive site has become somewhat of a favored location for world records and limit-pushing dives.

For recreational divers, this dive site has no current, good visibility, and is generally an easy dive so there’s no need to be put off by its fearsome reputation.

The Canyon

Also in Dahab, this great underwater cavern is spectacular and can’t be missed. Divers head from shore through a lagoon entrance and into the dive site. A popular route is to descend slowly over the coral gardens where eagle rays are sometimes seen, toward the canyon which beings at 60 ft.

From there, the sea floor suddenly opens up and divers can descend into the main chamber, the bottom of which starts at 100 ft. The canyon gradually winds down with the walls becoming tighter to an exit at around 150 ft. Recreational divers stay at 100 ft, while technical divers often dive through the full canyon.

Shark and Yolanda Reef

Located in Sharm el-Sheikh and best accessed by boat, Shark and Yolanda reef is part of the Ras Mohammed National Park. Actually comprised of 3 pinnacle reefs located next to each other, divers here are treated to some of the most beautiful soft corals in the world.

Giant moray eels have become accustomed to divers and it’s not uncommon to see them coming out to meet dive guides they’re familiar with. This site can be dived both shallow and deep.

The route is dependent on the currents, but most dives start at shark reef and then head toward Yolanda and finish the dive at the tiny ‘satellite’ reef at the end.

The SS Thistlegorm

Another Sharm el-Sheikh dive site, the Thistlegorm is widely regarded as one of the very best wreck dives in the world, this British merchant navy ship was sunk by German forces on the 6th of October 1941.

The wreck lies upright and can be easily reached and explored at a depth of 100 ft. Inside the wreck divers find Norton motorbikes, old boots, tanks, and much more.

This dive site is very popular and it can be crowded. Ask your dive center which days are likely to be the least busy and try to dive the wreck then.

Jackson Reef, Tiran Islands

Located close to Sharm el-Sheikh, Jackson reef is famous for schooling hammerheads who like to hang out in the blue water at the ‘back’ of the reef at around 100 - 130 ft.

The front side of the reef is where boats generally tie off. Here, divers find beautiful coral growth including gorgonian fans. There is always a chance of spotting something big here so keep your eyes out on the blue.

Sha’ab Samadai Reef

Commonly known as ‘dolphin house’ this Marsa Alam reef offers divers a rare opportunity to dive with a pod of wild spinner dolphins who call the reef home.

This dive site is offshore and can be visited as a day trip or as part of a liveaboard route.

Divers should know that the dolphins are not always around, but the vast array of other exciting marine life here never fails to disappoint.

Abu Dabbab

One of the very few places in the world where divers can see dugongs in the wild. Two resident dugongs, Dennis and Dougal, have been calling Abu Dabbab home for years.

Also located near Marsa Alam, this dive site is like an underwater meadow with wide stretches of sand and seagrass. Guitar shark and green turtles also like to feed in this area.

Daedalus Reef

Located in the ‘deep south’ and accessed via liveaboard, this reef is teeming with pelagic life. The currents are quite strong so this reef is best for experienced divers or those who know how to handle themselves in a current.

Thresher sharks, oceanic whitetips, manta, and giant trevally, all hang out in the blue here. And because the reef is so remote, some of the most pristine coral in the world can be seen here.

Depths range from just 65 ft - 140 ft and even deeper.

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