Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
The Red Sea is known as one of the best, year-round diving destinations in the world. The Red Sea is beginner friendly as well an advanced diver’s dream. Divers of all experience levels can enjoy the plentiful sea life with thousands of fish species and 150 types of coral. It is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the water world. Egypt’s Red Sea holds at least ten shipwrecks, including navy vessels from World War 2 and steamships from the late 18th century. The Red Sea offers unhindered opportunities to swim with tropical marine life in clear waters.
The Red Sea is highly resistant to climate change and the exquisite and abundant coral is found here more than in other places in the world. The coral in the Red Sea is healthier than other coral areas and includes extensive reefs with soaring pinnacles and grand walls that drop hundreds of feet deep.
It is home to innumerable reef life including many colorful fish as well as sea turtles, blue spotted stingrays, giant clams, morays, nudibranch, and octopus. Around the best dive sights, divers often swim with Hammerhead Sharks, Oceanic Whitetip Sharks, Tiger Sarks, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Thresher Sharks, Guitar Sharks and Whale Sharks. Manta Rays can be seen between September and November and Dolphins can be seen year-round. There is a small population of Dugong, aka sea cows, that live in the Red Sea as well as Tuna, Giant Barracuda, Travallys and many different types of sea turtles.
There are several options when diving in the Red Sea. Liveaboards are available from days to weeks. This option is perfect for those wanting to visit the famous diving sites as well as the more remote, limited and pristine sites. These dives are less populated by other divers and offer one-of-a-kind experiences.
Staying in coastal resort towns close to notable Red Sea dive sites is another diving option. Day trips are arranged to reach the main dive sites. These dive sites are more popular and crowded.
The North Sea and the South Sea are two different diving experiences.
The North Red Sea’s calm waters and shallow dive sites make it a fantastic place for beginner divers to learn to scuba dive in a safe but incredible environment. Many of the northern shipwrecks are in calm, shallow waters. This makes the North Red Sea a fantastic place to learn to wreck dive. The North Red Sea is noted as the place where more people complete their scuba certification than anywhere else in the world. Although there is considerably less marine life in the north as compared to the south, the wrecks make this diving location unmatched. The two most popular, tourist destinations in Egypt’s north are Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada.
- Sharm El Sheikh: In the far north located on the historical Sinia peninsula of the Red Sea, this popular spot is known for course divers since the area contains many sites suitable for instructional dives. It is also popular for experienced divers doing day trips or liveaboards. Sites from this location include the wreck of Dunraven and the famous Thistlegorm. The SS Thistlegrom is the most famous shipwreck in the world. A British navy ship, the Thistlegrom, was bombed and sank during World War II. Seeing WWII motorcycles, locomotives and jeeps located in the same position when the ship sank as well as cargos of rifles is both amazing and unforgettable. This is a memorable glimpse into history and best dived in the early morning hours. The Thistlegrom is the crown among the great wrecks in the northern Red Sea.
- Ras Mohammed: This site is the first national park in Egypt. Because of its location, the waters of the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba merge and combine to provide a variety of different coral and fish life. This area is known for Shark and Yolanda Reef. These two pinnacles are home to grey reef sharks, tuna, barracuda, snapper, and hammerheads. Cargo from the Yolanda wreck adds to the unexpected here. Dozens of toilets and other bathroom accessories lay over the seabed.
- Straits of Tiran: Cherished by divers, the Straits of Tian is a four reef system that is comprised of the Woodhouse, Thomas Gordan, and Jackson Reefs. With deep walls and reef flats that are home to schools of fish, experienced wall divers are drawn here for the shark sightings that include hammerhead, and tiger sharks.
- Hurghada: Known as the heart of the Red Sea diving world; courses, daytrips and liveaboards happen here. Hurghada is known as the main port for Egypt liveaboards. The location is perfect for boats to travel north and south. Popular destinations include Giftun Island and the Abu Nuhas wrecks and Salem Express. It is also known as a common place to encounter dolphins. Abu Nuhas Reef is a shallow reef that has caused more boats to sink than anywhere else in the world. There are currently five wrecked cargo ships lying off its northerly slopes including the Giannis D, the Chrisoula K and the Kimon K, all which sank in the early 70’s and 80’s. The oldest, the Carnatic, sank in India in September 1869. This ship carried gold, wine and cotton when it sank.
The South Red Sea is considered world class scuba diving and is best suited for advanced, open water divers with a recommended 50 logged dives. It is less popular and offers less crowded sites and superb coral. In this area, the currents are strong, deep and far away from shore dive sites. The South Red Sea is filled with tunnels, swim-throughs, walls and a Blue Hole. The corals are unspoiled, and the sea life is abundant. The south has giant marine animals such as whitetip sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays and sometimes whale sharks, dolphins and dugong.
For experienced divers who are looking for something more, the further south the dive is the higher quality of diving. Hurghada and Marsa Alam offer exciting dives filled with pelagic shark engagement. The Brothers, Daedalus Reef and St. John’s offer the encounters with oceanic whitetip sharks and huge schools of fish that are memorable for even the most experienced divers. This area is also known for fascinating caves and several tunnels to explore.
- The Brothers Islands: Known as the central highlight of diving in the southern Red Sea, these famous twin islands are easily identifiable. A Victorian lighthouse built on one of the islands stands as a beacon of this incredible site. Unforgettable dive sites from this location includes two wrecks: the Numidia and Aida. The Brothers are among the best sites for diving with sharks including whitetips, silvertips, grey reef sharks, hammerheads, oceanic whitetips and thresher sharks.
- Daedalus Reef: This is one of the most visited sites in the south. Strong currents along the steep walls make this a perfect place to witness predators in action. A diver is likely to witness larger species such as schools of hammerheads, tuna and manta rays. Daedalus Reef is a remote location and like many of the very best dive site locations in the Red Sea, it is only accessible by liveaboard.
- Elphinstone: Another site that is only accessible by liveaboard and daytrips, this remote site is named after a British military commander. This reef is known by divers as drift diving. Divers swim over healthy reefs, along sheer walls and explore caverns. Red-toothed trigger fish and purple and orange anthias make this area a colorful dive that also includes the occasional shark and various reef fish.
- John’s Reef: Deep south of Egypt and considered off the beaten path, St. John’s Reef features channels, caverns, overhangs, and tunnels. This area is different than other dive sites in the Red Sea. There are plenty of sharks and pelagic around this area as well as dolphins and mantas. The dugongs, squid, Spanish dancers, bigmouth mackerel and bump head parrotfish can be seen in this area.
Combined with the incredible visibility and amazing sites, the Red Sea is among the top places to visit for divers. One moment a diver could find themselves in a coral garden upon a summit and the next a sheer wall that plunges thousands of feet all the while encountering an abundance of marine life and wrecked vessels. The Red Sea is a thrill that many divers will say is unbeatable and a bucket list opportunity.