Scuba diving in the Red Sea: between sharks, reefs and wrecks

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The Southern Red Sea receives hundreds of divers every year looking for moments like this. Pic by bitblokes

Few places in the world are as directly related to diving as the Red Sea. This gulf of the Indian Ocean has a length of 2,200 km and reaches depths of over 2,000 meters providing rich waters and nutrients that feed their beautiful coral gardensConsidered one of the 7 wonders of the underwater world and with a crucial role in the development of maritime trade for centuries, you can visit the Red Sea through liveaboards that may take you to the best of the northern route such as Sharm el Sheik and the Hurghada shipwrecks or to the south, exciting and less crowded, with extraordinary coral gardens and the sharks of Marsa Alam.

You can go even further south, to Sudan, where you can enter the creepy Umbria wreck or access to the unique underwater city of Jacques Cousteauwho was one the first divers to recognize the value of underwater life of the Red Sea, to which he devoted much of his career.

The other way to dive the Red Sea is from resorts and hotels, that also offer the possibility of adding to the dive trip the chance to visit one of the most attractive and long-lived civilizations in history. You’ll have the opportunity to visit Cairo, with his boundless national museum, or take a cruise on the Nile and reach the Valley of the Kings, enough incentives to help you decide to take a diving trip to the Red Sea… which you will never regret.

The Red Sea gets its name by the proliferation of algae that give a reddish tint to its waters. It is the home of over 1,000 species of invertebrates, 250 species of both soft and hard coral and over 1,100 species of fish that live in clear waters with visibility up to 40 meters.

The Red Sea offers thousands of diving options, either if you are just starting out diving or if you have experience and are a lover of strong sensations: vertical walls, dozens of wrecks, coral gardens, the Blue Hole in Dahab, diving with large pelagic creatures such as whale sharks, hammerhead sharks or the fearsome oceanic whitetip shark and even places intended for those who just want to snorkel.

The Red Sea is usually one of the first destinations for divers who «leave home» for their first dive trip, mainly because of the quality of diving there and also by the large amount of options and prices offered. It is also located perfectly between Europe and Asia.

You can dive in the Red Sea at any time of year, although water temperatures can vary significantly. From June to August the water can reach 30°C, but drops to 20ºC in February. Air temperatures in Egypt can reach more than 40°C during the summer but drops to a pleasant 20ºC during the winter. The whale shark season, one of the attractions of the Red Sea, runs from late May to late July. It is then when this majestic animal can be observed mainly in the north of the Red Sea, but it also appears in some spots of south.

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Even snorkelers can enjoy the diving with whale sharks. Picture by Eric Burgers

NORTH RED SEA DIVE SITES

The possibilities of diving in the northern Red Sea route are endless and the combinations almost unlimited. You can join wreck safaris or wreck dive sites plus coral reefs. You can find «adrenaline» diving spots with strong currents and vertiginous walls, but also learn to dive in a privileged area or simply snorkel in places where corals are inches from the surface.

SHARM EL SHEIKH

Sharm El Sheikh is recognized as one of the top diving destinations in the world. It combines a collection of the best you can find in the Red Sea: color, abundance of coral, wreck diving and large variety of fauna. Sharm el Sheikh has attractions for all diving tastes, from wrecks of great beauty and fascinating history such as the Thistlegorm, extraordinary coral reefs in the Ras Mohammed National Park, with more than 1,200 species of fish and 220 of corals, adrenaline diving in Straits of Tiran with its strong currents and walls that get lost in the abyss and unexpected views of beautiful predators like whale sharks or hammerhead sharks. Sharm el Sheikh is an essential stop when diving by northern Red SeaKeep reading about diving in Sharm el Sheikh >>>

HURGHADA

Hurghada is famous for its shipwrecks, with over 10 spectacular shipwrecks where the quality of marine life is extraordinary but there are others, such as the Salem Express, that represents a great drama and diving it is overwhelming. One of the most interesting places in Hurghada is the Abu Nuhas reef, a true magnet for ships where you can find wrecks that sunk a century apart but that are separated by a distance of only a few meters.

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Hurghada Coral reefs also have a great beauty. Pic by Eric Burgers

But wrecks are not the only attraction in Hurghada. Healthy coral reefs are also loaded with colorful wildlife. There you can dive with bottlenose dolphins, turtles, schools of Carangidae, tunas, barracudas and even oceanic whitetip sharks. Keep reading about diving in Hurghada >>>

SOUTH RED SEA DIVE SITES

The Southern Red Sea diving route is much less known than the northern route and requires more experience and more dives in your logbook. The southern Red Sea is known for its lofty corals, far better treated than the northern ones and for the chances of diving with large pelagic animals, mainly sharks, in a less crowded area where strong emotions are guaranteed.

MARSA ALAM

Marsa Alam is the area that holds some of the best and most famous diving spots of the southern Red Sea. Those who have already traveled south know that Daedalus, Elphinstone or Brother Island are synonymous of diving with sharks, like the oceanic whitetip shark, the gray shark and even hammerhead or tiger sharks. Some of the best pictures of the oceanic whitetip sharks you’ve seen have been taken in this area. The reefs of Marsa Alam are plenty with healthy coral, a great environment for a huge variety of reef fish such as the giant parrotfish and a strange creature, the dugong, a sort of peaceful “sea cow”. Keep reading about diving in Marsa Alam >>>

ST. JOHNS

St. John’s is the border between the Egyptian and the Sudanese Red Sea. The six islands that make up this area belong to the Elba National Park and provide a luxury diving holiday away from the crowds. Divers who visit St. John’s are looking for strong emotions including walls that descend to 200 meters deep and strong currents that bring large predators like hammerhead sharks, turtles, dolphins, manta rays and barracudas that come to feed of the enormous variety of large and small reef fish that live here. Keep reading about diving in St. John’s >>>

SUDAN

Sudan is outside of the classic diving routes of the Red Sea because it has not built as a strong diving industry as Egypt so the access to its reefs is more complicated. Even though their underwater treasures are so extraordinary, as good or even better than the Egyptians and much less crowded. The divers who choose to Sudan as a diving destination will find pristine reefs that keep underwater science fiction stories as the laboratory of Jacques Cousteau Conshelf II, a world class wreck like the Umbria, schools of hammerheads only comparable to Cocos Island, whale sharks, manta rays and an extraordinary variety of reef fish. Sudan is still a virgin territory for challenging divers. Keep reading about diving in Sudan >>>

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