The historic peninsula of Sinai lies at the extreme northern end of the Red Sea, cut off on its west coast from the Egyptian mainland by the Gulf of Suez, and from the Arabian peninsula on its east coast by the Gulf of Aqaba. This area has had a rather bloody past but that doesn't stop scuba divers flocking to see this underwater wonderland now.
Located quite close to the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm El Sheikh is the most popular dive destination in the Red Sea and is the departure port for many liveaboard safaris around the peninsula and the northern Red Sea, as well as for diving day trips from the local holiday resorts.
The local dive sites are often used for student training and for introduction dives. However, you don't need to travel far before you reach the exciting stuff.
To the east at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba lies Tiran Island and the Straits of Tiran, famed for their superb reefs and large fish and shark action. To the south lies Egypt's first marine protected area and national park, Ras Mohammed, with its colourful soft coral walls and buzzing marine life. And over on the west coast of the Sinai Peninsula but still easily accessed on diving day trips from Sharm El Sheikh, is the Dunraven and the world famous Thistlegorm World War II shipwreck. No trip to the Red Sea would be complete without a dive or two here.
It should not be forgotten too that Sharm El Sheikh is not so far from the northern Hurghada dive sites so wrecks such as the Rosalie Moller and the Abu Nuhas family of wrecks are often visited by Sinai liveaboards departing from Sharm.
This resort town is Egypt's premiere dive destination and offers its tourists everything they could wish for. With nightlife, choice restaurants, shopping opportunities and desert safaris, scuba diving in Sharm El Sheikh is convenient, varied and great value for money.
Dunraven Wreck - The 80m long Dunraven steamship was built in Newcastle, England in 1873. In March 1876, on her voyage up the Suez from India to the UK, she caught fire and sank to the seabed at 30m off Shaab Mahmoud, south of Sharm El Sheikh, with her cargo of cotton and wool. The wreck was only rediscovered in 1979. Show more
The wreck now lies in 2 pieces, with its stern and large brass propeller to the north and the reef of the Sinai Peninsula to the west. It's possible to dive the entire length of the ship's interior so enter at the deepest section - the stern.
The cavernous hull of the Dunraven is adorned with soft corals and black corals and is full of schooling goatfish and glassfish, squirrelfish and a few groupers and moray eels. Pass some ballast stones, the large boiler room and several breaks in the hull until you reach the bow at 15m. Here you can ascend and swim back along the upper surface of the ship.
The exterior of the hull is now covered in hard corals, with sea whips and gorgonians hanging from the vertical sections. It's a great place to spot nudibranchs, crocodilefish, scorpionfish and colourful clouds of fairy basslets.
Rather than ascending up the buoy line to end your dive, you might choose instead to swim over the the reef slope. This is one of the top Sharm El Sheikh sites for fish density - the marine life here is very lively with a good chance to see Napoleon wrasse and turtles.
Overall, the Dunraven may not offer the spectacular artifacts of the Thistlegorm but then it doesn't attract huge crowds of scuba divers from Sharm either, so it will definitely be worth your while to include it in your Red Sea holiday.
- With its historical cargo of World War II machinery and equipment, all neatly stowed in its open holds, the Thistlegorm would be a highlight of diving anywhere in the world, not just in Sharm El Sheikh. It couldn't have been more conveniently located for diver exploration if it had been scuttled for the very purpose rather than sunk by German bombers. This most famous of Sinai dives and the most popular dive site in the world, has to be experienced several times to truly appreciate all its wonders.
Tiran Strait - The 4 reef systems that make up the Tiran area - Jackson Reef, Woodhouse Reef, Thomas Reef, Gordon Reef - are popular with experienced and adventurous divers. The coral reef plateaus are loaded with fish life and the deep wall drop offs offer the opportunity of encounters with hammerhead sharks, pelagic fish and occasional tiger sharks. On Jackson Reef you are most likely to see hammerheads from July to September.
Some Red Sea liveaboard trips out of Sharm El Sheikh take in the best of the Sinai Peninsula diving region, from the straits of Tiran across to Ras Mohammed and the Thistlegorm. Other Sinai liveaboard itineraries focus on the southern section of the peninsula and the wrecks of northern Hurghada. Fully-inclusive liveaboards are highly cost effective and minimise travel time between sites.
Day trips from Sharm El Sheikh will visit the local dive sites, as well as the Straits of Tiran, Ras Mohammed, the Thistlegorm, the Dunraven, and even up to the Blue Hole at Dahab. Day trips are good for those that prefer to sleep on land, but daily travel times can be as long as 3 hours each way.
For the ultimate Red Sea holiday of a lifetime, why not combine your dive trip with a tour to discover the historical sights of Egypt? You can take an overland tour of Cairo or a Nile River cruise: Egyptian antiquity tours.
It is possible to dive Sharm El Sheikh all year round. Water temperatures in the Sinai Peninsula peak at 27-28°C during July to September. After the European summer the temperatures fall from 27-25°C in October and November. They continue downward from December to January, before reaching an annual low of 22°C in February. The water warms up again from 23-26°C between March and June. Air temperatures follow a similar pattern with an average of 35-38°C in the summer and 22-24°C in the November to February winter period.
October and November are peak season for scuba diving in Egypt with what could be described as 'low season' being the winter months of December to January, when the surface can become choppy. This can bring the otherwise excellent winter visibility down a little and even make some of the sites inaccessible.
Good for: Wrecks, value-for-money, wall dives, underwater photography, drift dives and visibility
Not so good for: Small animals
Depth: 5m - >40m
Visibility: 20m - 30m
Currents: Gentle - moderate
Surface conditions: Generally calm
Water temperature: 22°C - 28°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~40
Access: Sharm El Sheikh liveaboards and daytrips
Recommended length of stay: 1 week