Diving in the Southern Red Sea
Encounters with Pelagic Sharks
Over recent years liveaboards to the Southern Red Sea have grown dramatically in popularity, to such an extent that new towns have sprang up down the Egyptian coastline to facilitate such activity. The popularity of such diving trips might even rival that of Northern Red Sea, and certainly most experienced divers would now head straight for the south.
This change in appeal has taken place partly due to liveaboard divers' preference to avoid the hustle of busy day trip diving and resort towns such as Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada. But also because experienced divers have come to recognise the huge attractions that the Southern Red Sea reefs have, such as frequent encounters with pelagic sharks, large schools of fish and healthy coral reef systems.
Scuba diving with oceanic whitetip sharks is a rare event the world over. This fearsome predator was once thought to be one of the most dangerous fish in the sea and prefers oceanic waters, far away from coral reefs. However, the Southern Red Sea reefs' close proximity to deep waters provides an ideal environment to bring divers close up to these and other pelagic sharks.
Other sharks that you can see here with regularity include hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks and silvertip sharks, as well as plenty of the usual reef sharks that most divers are familiar with.
Not content with big shark action, the Southern Red Sea's coral reef systems are healthier and more vibrant than their northern counterparts. Volumes are good for both larger reef fish species such as snappers, unicornfish and groupers, and for pelagic fish such as trevally and tuna.
Most of the diving in the Southern Red Sea is along deep walls, however some areas of the Deep South also offer intriguing maze-like reefs with lots of tunnels and crags for exploration, a few wrecks and some sheltered bays for night diving.
However, it must be noted that the Red Sea south of Hurghada is exposed to some strong offshore currents, has deep sites and frequent surface swells. This means that liveaboard dive trips here are not for beginners. But for those with the necessary skills and experience, this area offers the most spectacular scuba diving the Red Sea has to offer.
The Brother Islands are accessible by liveaboard only as the exposed location in the middle of the Red Sea leaves it vulnerable to the whims of nature, especially the prevailing winds. This could make for challenging diving conditions.
However once you meet the Brothers, the rewards certainly make the challenges worthwhile. The Brother Islands offer stunning wall dives along the perimeter with breathtaking underwater scenery. The walls are completely overgrown with soft corals and huge forests of gorgonians. As the only significant reefs in the area, the Brothers offer the distinct opportunity to spot a variety of very large pelagic fish not commonly found at other dive sites.
Deep South - many divers are beginning to appreciate the wonders of the Deep South Red Sea. This area includes St. John's Reefs, as well as the marine parks of Zabargad and Rocky islands. The variety of diving environments is the main attraction here, with wrecks, tunnels, mazes and shallow bays, as well as the more usual Southern Red Sea dive profiles of steep walls, deep plateaus, drift dives, and big fish and sharks. From the end of December to the beginning of February you can expect to see large rays in bays all along the coast here.
The area is still remote and not visited frequently by most of the liveaboards so you can enjoy all this with a greater degree of solitude then in other parts of the Egypt.
How to Dive the Southern Red Sea
Liveaboard diving trips run out of Hurghada, Marsa Ghalib and Marsa Alam. Departures out of Hurghada tend to focus only on the Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone areas. To reach the further Deep South sites such as Zabargad, St. John's and Rocky Island, boats will depart from further down the coast at Marsa Ghalib and Marsa Alam.
Due to the long distances involved and the offshore location of many of the sites, it is only possible to dive all of these sites by liveaboard. Day trips are not possible, except to Elphinstone alone which is close to Marsa Alam.
Note also that according to Egyptian law, it is necessary for divers to show proof of 50 logged dives before they can dive in its marine parks.
Got a question?
Have a look through our Frequently asked questions
The Southern Red Sea is slightly warmer than its northern counterpart. Temperatures peak at 28-30°C between July and September. After these months the temperatures drop a little to 27-28°C in October and November. They continue from December to February to fall from 26-23°C. After the maximum low of February, temperatures warm up again from 24-27°C between March and June.
There are 2 windy seasons that can affect Red Sea liveaboard trip schedules. The summer winds can blow from May to September, and the stronger winter winds can have negative consequences from October to April. An element of chance comes into play when planning liveaboard trips in the Southern Red Sea but usually dive cruises will be re-routed if the winds are too strong to sail on the originally planned routes.
In May and June oceanic whitetip sharks can frequently be seen in the St. John's area, and from October till the end of the year at Elphinstone and the Southern Red Sea. Thresher shark season occurs in the Autumn and Winter months around the offshore islands and reefs of the Brothers and Daedalus. Hammerheads can be seen at Daedalus in the summer time when big congregations of females are attracted there. Manta ray and whale shark season at St. John's, Daedalus and Brothers is European Spring time - April/May.
Good for: Large animals, reef life and health, wall diving, drift dives, visibility, and value-for-money
Not so good for: Small animals, beginner divers, and non-diving activities
Depth: 5m - >40m
Visibility: 15m - 35m
Currents: Can be stong
Surface conditions: Can be rough
Water temperature: 23 - 30°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~125
Access: Red sea liveaboards
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 2 weeks
Dive Site Descriptions
More detailed descriptions on the Red Sea South dive sites:
• Marsa Alam travel information
View a map of:
• Southern Red Sea - Egypt
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