Few locations crop up in conversations about scuba diving the way that the Red Sea does. If it isn't the first destination to crop up in a wow conversation, it is typically among the first 3. Join an Egyptian liveaboard to experience the best diving that this region has to offer.
The Red Sea takes its name from the periodic algal blooms that occur here painting the sea with a reddish hue, and not the red-tinted Egyptian mountain ranges that surround it. It's a diver's paradise, with the warmest of warm seas, very little wave action and unsurpassed visibility.
The Red Sea is considered to be one of the 7 Wonders of the underwater world, harbouring more than 1,000 species of invertebrates and over 200 species of soft and hard coral. This forms the basis of a marine eco-system which includes 1,100 species of fish, of which just under 20% are endemic to the Red Sea, i.e. these fish species can only been found here. The high level of endemism here is one of the main factors that makes Egypt scuba diving so interesting.
The Red Sea dive sites offer you unobstructed opportunities to spot tropical marine life in crystal clear waters, ranging from sharks and dolphins to gorgonian fans and feather-stars. Variety is in no short supply either and depending on where you choose to dive. Your diving holiday can include shallow patch reefs, drift dives and walls, or a collection of some of the most interesting wrecks you are likely to find anywhere. In other places vibrant reefs stretch out far into the sea and form intricate labyrinths of plateaus, lagoons, caves and gardens.
One moment you could find yourself on a coral garden atop a summit and the next a sheer wall could plunge thousands of feet into dark ocean depths. The Red Sea's abundance of marine life and depths of the reef are a thrill that many divers will tell you is unbeatable.
Diving in Egypt as a whole is a pretty special attraction and like a box of Quality Street - everybody has their own favourite. Some would say that Sharm El Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula has the best of what the Red Sea has to offer. The legendary dive location that is Ras Mohammed, wrecks the likes of the Thistlegorm and the Straits of Tiran are all easily accessible from Sharm El Sheikh. Dotted with at least 10 other interesting wreck sites, the area is also alive with big fish such as barracuda, turtles and eagle rays.
For jaded divers who have seen it all, the further south you go in the Red Sea, the higher the quality of the diving. Hurghada and Marsa Alam offer you a starting point from which to explore the Abu Nuhas wreck system, and incredibly rich sites and pelagic shark action at The Brothers, Daedalus Reef and St. John's which satisfy even the most experienced scuba divers. These areas in the south of Egypt are your best bet for encounters with oceanic whitetip sharks and large schools of fish. They are also home to interesting caves and have many tunnels to explore.
There are 2 ways to experience diving in the Red Sea:
Red Sea liveaboards on the other hand, are always a top choice for those who want to see more than any land-based stay in the area can offer. These dive cruises can take you around the best of the Northern region (Sinai Peninsula and the Hurghada wrecks) or Egypt's Southern Red Sea. Breathtaking scuba diving, fantastic boats and inspiring topside scenery all await you here.
For the ultimate holiday of a lifetime, why not combine your Red Sea dive trip with an adventure tour to discover the historical sights of ancient Egypt? You can take an overland tour of Cairo to visit the pyramids, the Sphinx and the famous museums, or a Nile cruise through the Valley of the Kings: Egypt antiquity tours.
Egypt is a fine choice for diving any time of year but the water temperatures do vary significantly. From June to August the water can reach 30°C but it falls to a chilly 22°C in February. Do bring an appropriate exposure suit for the time of year - northern hemisphere winter = 5 or 7 mm full length, northern hemisphere summer = 3 mm shortie to long.
Air temperatures in Egypt can reach a high of 40°C (104°F) in August and fall to 20°C (68°F) in the winter (December to February), which may also dictate when you travel.
Whale shark season occurs from the end of May until the end of July when this majestic creature can be spotted mainly in the northern Red Sea but also here and there in the south. These warm summer months tend to be the best time for a range of creatures. The plankton blooms bring manta rays in to feed and turtles also nest at this time. The summer months are also the best for spotting hammerhead sharks throughout the Red Sea.
The winter months have the benefit of less extreme air temperatures, superior visibility and, for many visitors to the Red Sea, often mean escaping the cold climate of Europe. Many creatures including grey reef sharks, dolphins and dugongs can be spotted year round, with some preferring the cooler water such as thresher sharks.
Good for: Wreck diving, value-for-money, visibility, wall dives and large animals
Not so good for: Small animals
Depth: 5m - >40m
Visibility: 20m - >40m
Currents: Gentle - strong
Surface conditions: Calm, can be choppy in some places
Water temperature: 22°C - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: >200
Access: Red Sea liveaboards and daytrips
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 2 weeks
More detailed information on Egypt's dive sites: