Located in the northeast corner of Africa and bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gaza Strip, Egypt is adorned with beautiful Pharoaohic temples, covered tombs and towering pyramids. It spreads over forty thousand kilometres and has a population of 80.72 million. The temperature here varies from 40 degrees celsius in summer to 25 degrees celsius in winter. Rainfall averages at around 20-50 mm per year and can be expected during winter months.
Most of the Nile valley is flanked by arid desert wastes, but its delta is teeming with life. Apart from the Giza pyramids, the Great Sphinx and the ancient temples of Luxor, visitors must also explore the coast along the Red Sea, which is endowed with exotic tropical fishes and beautiful coral reefs that make it an underwater Eden. Other tourist attractions include Coptic monasteries of the Eastern dessert, camel trips in the mountains of Sinai and the remote oases.
Marine life in Egypt
With over 1100 species of fish, and more than 200 species of coral, 25 species of sea urchins, 40 species of star fish, 40 species of shark, 100 species of mollusc and 170 species of crustaceans, Red Sea is home to 18% of all marine life on planet. The coral reef extends up to 2000 km along the coastline and is more than 6000 years old. They are mostly made of porites and stony acropora corals. The unusual offshore reef formations are generally attributed to high levels of tectonic shifts that characterize the region. Sanfir and Taran are some of the most important breeding areas for a population of the endemic and endangered White-Eyed Gull. Osprey can be spotted in the months of September and October. Sea turtles are among the most popular creatures to be seen in the Red Sea. Hawksbill and Green turtles can be seen throughout the year.
Diving in Egypt
From historic wreck dives to spectacular reef dives, Red Sea truly caters to every kind of diver. This diver’s Mecca is also a photographer’s paradise. The scenic underwater flora and fauna is definitely worth many a picture-perfect postcard! Like any other place in the world, there are certain times of the year and areas where specific species can be spotted. Grey Reef sharks and shy Thresher sharks can be spotted in the winter months. Whale sharks, Daedalus and Hammerheads can be found throughout the year. Not only does the Red Sea offer exhilarating and memorable marine encounters, it also offers a huge variety of wrecks; many with fascinating tales of their own.
The walls start a hundred feet from the shore and plunge straight down several hundred metres, which means strong currents and rough seas, so you will have to be a certified rescue diver or higher if you to wish to dive in such sites. The water temperature is around 20 celsius degrees in winter and 25 degrees celsius in summer. You can choose to dive from a day boat or a live board boat. Both options allow you to dive popular and exciting dive sites, but if you wish to dive in sites that cannot be reached by day boat, then live board is your only option. Liveboards are completely dive focussed and allow you to perform upto four dives a day. Diving can be done throughout the year round with visibility ranging from 20 to 40 meters. The diving spots in Egypt are mostly distributed around Sharm el-Sheikh, the Straits of Gubal and the Straits of Tiran.
Sites off Sharm el-Sheik
Located to the south of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm el-Sheikh is one of the most famous deep-sea diving paradises in the world. Its crystal clear waters are home to some of the world’s rarest tropical fishes and magnificent corals. This diving destination covers most of the dive sites between the Naama bay and the Strait of Tiran. Some of the well known dive sites in Sharm el Sheikh are:
Also called ‘The Delightful Cape’, this site separates a vast and rather shallow sandy lagoon from the Red sea. It is sheltered from the strong currents which makes it a perfect drift diving spot for novice divers. It is an ideal place to look for splendid porite corals, beautiful Gorgorian fans, Feathertail stingrays, groupers and barracudas.
This site can be accessed by boats as well as four wheel drive vehicles. The wall plunges straight down, with many caves and underhangs alongside. You may spot Spanish dancers and cornshells in the sandy gullies.
This site was named after Bob Johnson, an underwater photographer, as a tribute to his contributions to this site. The water here is only three to five metres deep. Like Ras Ghamila, this site usually has weak currents. Therefore, drift diving and mooring in this region is not too difficult. You may spot crocodile fish, bluespotted sting rays and even a big Napoleon fish if you are lucky!
Contrary to what one would expect, Shark Bay is frequented by octopus, stonefish, and cuttlefish, but not by sharks. This site is perfect for night dives. Some divers claim to have spotted Ornate Ghost Pipefish too.
Strait of Gubal
Sandwiched between the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea, the Gubal Strait has claimed more ships than any other section of Red Sea. Consequently, it is ranked top among the best wreck diving destinations in the world. The best way to appreciate the beauty of Gubal Strait is to get a liveboard from Hurgadha and spend a few nights exploring the area with a guide who knows the location of the wrecks well. Most of the spots here are available only to the experienced divers due to the depth and strong currents.
SS Thistlegorm, KimonM, and Dunraavers are some of the interesting dives, but you must be a certified diver to go on these divea. Giannis D, Chrisoula K, and Carnatic can be enjoyed by open water divers. Beginners can enjoy their intro dive at Carina wrecks. Apart from the wrecks, there is always an abundance of sea life in these sites. Dolphins frequent the Shaab el Erg region. There are more than a thousand species of fish, a lot of them are unique to this region. These straits are a feast for the eyes if you love the underwater world.
Strait of Tiran
With four magnificent reefs next to each other, warm waters, ship wrecks and exotic marine life, the Strait of Tiran is definitely on the check list of any avid diver. The Strait is a narrow passage which separates Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula. You can reach this site easily by taking a dayboat from Sharm el Sheikh. The four reefs here - Woodhouse, Jackson, Thomas and Gordon, are named after the people who discovered it. Strong currents and steep drop-offs are the reason why diving in this area is not recommended for novice divers. Barracudas, turtles, mantle rays and sharks frequent this region. You may also see schools of batfish, snapper and jack fish. However, the real reason to dive in the Strait of Tiran is the ship wrecks. If you are a ship wreck aficionado, do not give Tiran a miss!
Who to Dive With?
For one of the best diving experiences in Sharm El Sheikh we would recommend Elite Diving who offer various dive packages, courses and holidays. Their 'Dive and Stay' packages are one of their most popular products with users.