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Wrecks And Reefs | Diving The Red Sea

Over the years, Red Sea diving has become the stuff of legend; a diver’s paradise where all of the most exciting aspects of the underwater world come together in a body of water so startlingly blue it is like a rare sapphire in the middle of the arid desert. Bordered by seven different countries, the Red Sea is so named thanks to the sporadic algae blooms that tint its waters from time to time throughout the year. It is a place well deserving of its reputation as a world-class dive destination, where sheer coral walls, technicolor reefs, breathtaking topography and globally renowned wreck sites jostle for attention. Amazingly for an area with a relatively high level of salinity, the Red Sea is also home to a staggering number of marine species, ranging from colorful reef fish to impressive ocean pelagics. Its diversity is thanks in part to the exchange of water that takes place with the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean through the Gulf of Aden, resulting in the presence of no fewer than 1,100 species of fish. Of those fish, almost 20% are endemic species found nowhere else in the world, making the Red Sea truly a destination like no other.
Screen shot 2010-10-07 at PM 08.40.03Although it is possible to dive from many of the countries adjacent to this unique sea’s shores, diving in Egypt has come to define the Red Sea experience. Firstly, Egypt is a fascinating destination in its own right, boasting some of the most famous terrestrial sights in the world- the treasures of Tutankhamun, the Valley of the Kings, the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians and the Nile to name but a few. Secondly, and most importantly for divers, Egypt is home to an impressive diving infrastructure that makes sampling the country’s underwater riches an absolute pleasure. Whether it’s a luxurious resort holiday, a casual beachfront dive centre or an unforgettable Red Sea liveaboard that you’re after, Egypt diving has it all. There are several locations along the Egyptian coastline from which to start your underwater adventure, including Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, Hurghada and Marsa Alam. Each of them boast astounding marine life, unbeatable visibility and warm water temperatures, so how exactly does one go about choosing between them?
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Scuba diving in Sharm El Sheikh has long been the preferred way to explore the Egyptian Red Sea, and for good reason. The town is the jumping off point for the breathless, thriving dive sites of the Straits of Tiran, and the country’s oldest national park, Ras Mohammed. The latter was described by Jacques Cousteau as one of the best dive sites in the world, and its incredible diversity in terms of both reef and pelagic species substantiate that claim. Another popular feature of Sharm El Sheikh diving is the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm, a British merchant navy ship that was sunk by the Germans in 1941 and is now possibly the most famous of all the many Red Sea wrecks. Dahab is a favourite among technical divers thanks to the prevalence there of exceptionally deep dive sites, while Hurghada and Marsa Alam act as the departure points for liveaboards to the Red Sea’s spectacular southern sites. The most famous of these are Elphinstone, The Brothers and Daedalus Reef, where intense pelagic action offers the best opportunity for encountering hammerheads and the magnificent oceanic whitetip. The Brothers islands are also home to two beautiful wrecks, the Aida (only appropriate for technical divers) and the Numidia.

Wherever you choose to go, the Red Sea consistently provides some of the most rewarding diving on the planet. The summer months (from May to July) see plankton blooms that bring whale sharks and mantas in their wake, and are also the best time to spot hammerheads. From September through until April is oceanic whitetip season, while the elusive thresher sharks also prefer the cooler water of the winter months. Visibility in the Red Sea is typically unbelievable, and can range from 50-230 feet. Summer water temperatures hover at around 86° F, with the coolest temperatures falling to around 70° F in February. There are dive sites to suit all abilities, with a range of depths and currents to cater to first-time divers and experienced adrenalin junkies alike. The list of reasons to visit Egypt’s Red Sea is pretty much infinite, proving that for once, it really is possible to have it all.

Photo by Daniel Selmeczi

Photo by Daniel Selmeczi