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...Highlights: hammerhead sharks, shark action, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, schooling fish & big pelagics, non diving activities...
...Diving environment: healthy reefs, wrecks, walls, drift diving, caverns, beginner and advanced divers, very popular...

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.

Red Sea's Egypt diving scenes: clouds of fusiliers engulf the legendary Thistlegorm - photo courtesy of Ashraf Hassanin
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It 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 which region of Egypt you choose to visit, your diving holiday could 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.

The Highlights

More detailed information on dive sites of the Red Sea:

The Northern Red Sea

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 Red Sea scuba diving 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.
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Sharm El Sheikh is located on the historic Sinai peninsula in the far north of the Red Sea. The town itself is among the best places on the Egyptian coastline for variety of restaurants, hotels and nightlife. It is popular among people doing dive courses since there are many nearby sites suitable for instructional dives. It is also a very popular spot for certified divers doing daytrips or boarding one of the liveaboards that depart from here. Daytrips from Sharm can reach sites as diverse as Ras Mohammed, the Straits of Tiran, the wreck of the Dunraven and of course, the famous SS Thistlegorm. The liveaboards operating in the northern Red Sea visit all of these sites and more.

Ras Mohammed is the site of the first national park in Egypt. Its location is at the confluence of waters from the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba. This mix results in a wide range of diversity in terms of coral and fish life. Its best known dive sites include Shark Reef and Yolanda Reef, 2 peaks rising up from the depths and home to grey reef sharks, tuna, barracuda, snapper and even hammerhead sharks. As you poke around looking for sting rays, moray eels and scorpionfish around Yolanda Reef, you can indulge in some unexpected lavatorial humour! As you fin over the sloping reef, strewn over the sea-bed beneath you are dozens of toilets and other bathroom accessories which were the cargo of the sunken Yolanda wreck.

The SS Thistlegorm wreck is possibly the most famous site in all of Egypt diving, and with good reason. It is a memorable sight to see WWII motorcycles and jeeps still in the same position they were when this ship went down. They are now heavily encrusted and are part of the ocean floor. What an amazing glimpse into history this dive is! It is a very popular site and is best dived early in the morning from a liveaboard, before the daytrip boats arrive. The Thistlegorm is king among the many great wrecks in the northern Red Sea.

Straits of Tiran is a reef system adored by divers who are keen to experience deep walls and reef flats teeming with schools of fish. Shark lovers are drawn here by the promise of encounters with hammerhead sharks and possibly even tiger sharks. The 4 reefs that comprise this system are Woodhouse, Thomas, Gordon and Jackson reefs.

Hurghada is at the centre of the Red Sea diving world. While courses and daytrips are both conducted from Hurghada, it is unarguably the main port for Egypt liveaboards. From this location boats can either travel north to do northerly routes (including many famous wrecks) or south to do southerly routes, or a combination of the 2! Local sites reachable by daytrip include Giftun Island and further to the Abu Nuhas wrecks and Salem Express, offering a good variety of experiences. You might even encounter dolphins at local sites near Hurghada.

Abu Nuhas a.k.a. the Shaab Abu Nuhas Reef is a shallow reef that has caused the sinking of more boats than anywhere else in the Red Sea. There are currently 5 wrecked cargo ships lying off its northerly slopes. Most of them, including the Giannis D, the Chrisoula K and the Kimon K met their watery fate in the 1970s or 80s. However, the oldest of them is the Carnatic which sank en route to India in September 1869. Its cargo of gold, wine and cotton went down with it, although sadly none is left these days. What is left of the frame of this boat is now completely part of the marine world and covered in soft corals, encrusting sponges and hydroids.

The Southern Red Sea

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 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.
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The Brothers Islands are a central feature of diving in the southern Red Sea. For many regular visitors, no Egypt diving vacation is complete without a liveaboard trip that includes these famous twin islands. They are easily identifiable by the sight of a Victorian-era lighthouse rising up from the larger of the 2 islands. Numerous memorable dive sites surround these islands, including 2 wrecks: the Numidia and Aida. The Brothers are among the best sites for diving with sharks. Most frequently sighted species include whitetips, silvertips, grey reef sharks, hammerheads and even oceanic whitetips and thresher sharks.

Daedalus Reef is another of the most visited sites of the south. Sometimes the steep walls of Daedalus are flushed with strong currents which hold the promise of predator action. Among the larger species likely to be seen here are schools of hammerheads, tuna and manta rays. Daedalus Reef is in a very remote location, over 80 km from Marsa Alam, and like many of the Red Sea's best dive sites, it is only visited by liveaboard.

Elphinstone is a site that is often mentioned in the same breath as Daedalus and both sites regularly form part of the same liveaboard itinerary. Named after a British military commander, this reef is characterised as drift diving over healthy reefs, past sheer walls and exploring little caverns. Sharks, schools of various reef fish and colourful little delights like red-toothed triggerfish and purple and orange anthias make this an colourful experience! Elphinstone is popular both for liveaboard divers, but also as a daytrip destination, given its proximity to Marsa Alam.

St. John's Reefs are found in the deep south of Egypt, not far north of the Sudanese border and are therefore considered slightly off-the-beaten-track. The dive sites here enjoy unusual topography featuring channels, caverns, overhangs and tunnels, atypical of the usual diving in the Red Sea. There are plenty of sharks and pelagics around this region too, as well as dolphins and mantas. Other creatures of note in this area include dugongs, squid, Spanish dancers, bigmouth mackerel and bumphead parrotfish.

How to Dive Egypt

There are 2 ways to experience diving in the Red Sea. For more information on your options, and all the other travel information you might need for a visit, view our Egypt liveaboard or day trips sections.

Resort stays will allow you the opportunity to base yourself close to a selection of fine dive sites. See our Sharm El Sheikh day trips, Hurghada and Marsa Alam day trip sections.

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) ot the south (from the Brothers down to St. John's and the Sudanese border). Breathtaking scuba diving, fantastic boats and inspiring topside scenery all await you here: North and Wrecks, Southern Red Sea.

For the ultimate holiday of a lifetime, why not combine your Red Sea scuba diving 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.

The Diving Season

Diving in Red Sea - photo copyright of Egypt Tourism [photographer: CHICUREL Arnaud/hemis.fr]
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Egypt is a fine choice for scuba 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. Sightings are quite rare though. 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 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.

For more on the climate across Egypt, visit WikipediaOpens in a new window.

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Where is Egypt and How Do I Get There?

Review our map below of Egypt and its location in the world. Here, you will find information on how to get to Egypt.

Map of Egypt (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of the world (click to enlarge in a new window)

Reef Summary

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
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 2 weeks

Useful References

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