The Red Sea, famed for being the northernmost tropical sea in the world, is an inlet of the Indian Ocean, located between Africa and Arabia, and connects the Mediterranean Ocean to the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal. Its position and the lack of rainfall combine to make this the saltiest and warmest sea in the world.
A large draw-card for tourists is the fact that they can float on the surface of the sea, due to the high saline concentration of the water. People also flock to this sea for the purported health benefits attributed to the increased amount of salt in the water.
Another remarkable feature of the Red Sea is its fascinating underwater inhabitants. The shallow coral reefs teeming with marine life coupled with a multitude of wrecks found in deeper water, create one of the most sought-after diving experiences in existence.
To gain access to these dive hotspots, divers depart on liveaboards or daytrips sailing out of three different ports: Hurghada, Port Ghalib (accessible from Marsa Alam Airport), or Sharm El Sheikh.
The climate along the coast of the Red Sea is regarded as subtropical desert, with mild winters and scorching summers. As it rarely rains in this area, the sun shines all year round.
Autumn/Winter: September to February
Temperatures tend to be pleasant, during the day, however, on the rare occasions high winds can make it feel a lot cooler. Daytime temperatures average 27°C and drop to 17°C overnight. On the coldest nights, generally between December and February, temperatures have been known to drop to 5°C.
Spring/Summer: March to August
Temperatures are hot, and it can be humid; however, a cooling breeze sometimes blows in from the sea, mitigating the humidity. When winds blow in from the interior of the country, temperatures can peak in the mid-40s, but they generally sit around 35°C during the day and dip to 23°C overnight.
Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit, as the temperatures are mild and comfortable.
The vast shallow shelves of the Red Sea play host to more than 1,000 invertebrates, 200 hard and soft corals species, 44 species of shark, and the fastest fish in the seas – the Sailfish. Up to 20% of the marine life found here are endemic to the Red Sea.
Considering that this sea holds one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, the condition of the marine ecosystems is astoundingly healthy and vibrant, mostly due to the protection provided by the Ras Mohammed National Park. Some of the reefs in this area are over 7,000 years old!
The constant underwater volcanic activity in this area contributes to an ever-changing seascape. New islands, formed as recently as 2011 and 2013, are continually appearing due to the proximity of the Zubair Archipelago. These pristine islands and the volcanic activity contribute to the marine biodiversity in this area by providing it with an abundance of nutrient-dense materials to feed off.
The wrecks that are found here are comprised of tugboats, cargo ships, tankers, and most famously, the SS Thistlegorm – a British steamship sunk by German bombers during WWII.
21 – 29°C – 3mm shortie, wetsuit or rashie
Whale sharks – May to July, North Red Sea
Oceanic Whitetip Sharks – October to January
Hammerhead Sharks – June to September
Thresher Sharks – September to February, offshore reefs like the Brothers and Daedalus
North Red Sea
Abu Nuhas Reef
An offshore reef, commonly known as 'Ship Graveyard', with over seven shipwrecks littering the ocean floor, 4 of which are accessible for recreational diving, namely: Carnatic, Chrisoula K, Giannis D and Kimon M. For inexperienced divers who are keen to explore wrecks, these dive sites are shallow and easy enough to make that dream a reality - just keep in mind that currents can be strong at times. Max Depth: 32m
Two small islands, called Big Brother and Little Brother, known around the world for their pristine coral, steep walls, plunging drop-offs and fantastic shark encounters. Swim with oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, silvertips, and grey reef sharks, to name just a few. Occasionally, you might even be lucky enough to spot the ever-shy Thresher shark! The reefs in this area are teeming with brightly coloured reef fish flitting about, as well as larger pelagic fish including barracuda, giant trevally, tuna, and elegant manta rays. Big Brother also has two diveable wrecks: Aida and Numidia. These dive sites are best suited to experienced and tec divers due to the strong currents and deep drop-offs. Max Depth: 40m
Similar to The Brothers, this small island offers sweeping walls covered in brightly coloured coral, and lots of pelagic activity. On the northern tip of the island, you can spot schools of hammerheads, trevally and tuna in the strong currents; while the southern side of the island is known to be frequented by Tresher sharks. The dive sites around this island are best suited to experienced and tec divers due to the strong currents and great depths. Max Depth: 40m
A Blue Hole dive, suitable for all levels of divers and snorkellers, if you stay in the shallows. For very experienced and tec divers, there is an arch starting at 56m, connecting the blue hole to the Red Sea. Diving under this arch is considered one of the most dangerous dives in the world - a high level of caution, and an abundance of experience is essential to attempt this dive. Max Depth: >40m
Dolphin House Reef
An offshore reef with a lagoon that is home to a pod of spinner dolphins, this is a popular start or finish spot for liveaboards. The coral and fish life in this area is beautiful, and dive conditions are usually optimal for all levels of divers. Max Depth: 40m
Most well known for its fabulous drift dives along steep walls blanketed in pristine coral and teeming with life. Oceanic whitetip sharks frequent this area between October and December, and manta rays, dolphins, and tiger sharks can also sometimes be spotted. Other large pelagics in this area include barracuda, giant trevally and tuna. If diving the Red Sea on a liveaboard, this dive site is visited in tandem with The Brothers and Daedalus Reef. Max Depth: 40m
A lesser-known area to dive in the Gulf of Suez, this is the perfect spot for the more intrepid diver looking for new discoveries. It is a shipwreck graveyard that has only recently started being explored - so far four wrecks have been chartered, the most famous of which is the SS Scalar, an oil tanker from WWII. Definitely not for the fainthearted, a high level of experience is required to dive here. Max Depth: 40m
Ras Mohammed Marine Park
A pristine reef within day-trip distance of Sharm El Sheikh and dotted with various exciting dive sites. Fascinating underwater topography, pristine coral reefs bursting with life, shallow walls, thrilling pelagic encounters, and small caves are only a few of the experiences that you have to look forward to. For a less crowded dive experience in this area, a liveaboard is recommended. Max Depth: 25m
Straits of Tiran
Made up of 4 spectacular reefs overflowing with brightly coloured reef fish, large pelagic fish, exhilarating drop-offs, and a wreck and deep canyon for tec divers to explore, there is something for everyone here. Mostly conducted as drift dives due to the current, some areas can also be visited using a mooring line. Max Depth: >40m
South Red Sea
In a quieter area of the Red Sea lies this unspoiled coral reef resplendent with vivid reef fish, pelagics, and sharks. Take your pick of dive sites ranging from fringing reefs and lagoons to drop-offs and wrecks - there is something for everyone here! Dolphin Reef even offers the opportunity to swim with a pod of dolphins. Max Depth: 36m
St. John's Reef
Lying right on the border of Sudan, this little-known reef is isolated and unspoiled, making for a phenomenal diving experience. Caves, tunnels and overhangs enveloped in soft corals and patrolled by a multitude of schooling pelagics are the main drawcards of this gorgeous reef. Max Depth: 30m
Zabargad & Rocky Islands
Zabargad is home to what is thought to be The Khanka, more commonly referred to as the 'Russian Wreck'. The strong currents of the Rocky Islands are known to attract pelagics such as dolphins, turtles, sharks and manta rays. Both of these areas feature fringing reefs full of colourful coral, black coral trees, sea fans and beautiful marine life. Max Depth: 25m
This bustling, ever-moving, ever-changing capital city of Egypt is a must-see! Steeped in rich history and assaulting your senses with deafening noise, overwhelming smells and astonishing traffic, this is a city that takes a little getting used to, but which has so much to offer! Visit the breathtaking Great Pyramids of Giza - a real feat of human engineering from the ancient Egyptians. Don't forget to go and have a look at the Sphinx while you're there! The Grand Egyptian Museum is the largest in the world, entirely dedicated to exhibiting antiquities from a single civilisation and displaying artefacts never before seen by the general public. Bazaars are a staple in Cairo; the largest and most famous of which is Khan el-Khalili - well worth a visit for all of your shopping needs. For those interested in religious monuments, Old Cairo is littered with small, beautifully decorated churches, and El-Azhar Mosque, dating back to 972AD, is located in the heart of the Islamic Cairo district. The Citadel hosts the Alabaster Mosque, famous for its white walls and slender minarets. For a more modern, hipster experience, head across the Nile to the small island of Gezira, which has a distinctly European feel to it.
Absolutely overflowing with temples and tombs, this area is a testament to the engineering prowess and deeply rooted culture of the Ancient Egyptians. Visit the Temple of Karnak, a monument proudly displaying the ambition and grandeur of the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom pharaohs. Hidden between escarpments just outside of town, is the legendary Valley of the Kings - the final resting place of the kings of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties, including the tomb of the boy-king, Tutankhamun. Luxor Temple has a long and colourful history. First, a temple, frequently changed, updated and extended by succeeding pharaohs, converted to a church during the Christian Era, and finally transformed to a mosque during the Islamic Era, it shows the ever-changing face of Egypt through the centuries. Other notable monuments and sites to visit include Amun Temple Enclosure, Queen Hatshepsut's Temple, Medinet Habu, the Tombs of Nobles, Colossi of Memnon, Luxor Museum, Ramesseum, and the Valley of the Queens, among many others. For a unique experience, take a Felucca ride up the Nile to Banana Island, where you can relax and unwind, or hop into a hot air balloon and watch the magnificent sunrise over this historic city.
This laid-back city spread along the banks of the Nile is the perfect respite from the busier cities of Cairo and Luxor. Once the gateway to Africa and an important trading post for the Ancient Egyptians, the best way to discover the charm of Aswan is to climb on board a felucca and view the town from the water. Explore the distinctly different Nubian culture and picturesque villages that are so much a part of the small islands that make up this town, including Elephantine Island which hosts Aswan Museum and the Ruins of Abu. Other sites to visit include the Nubian Museum, a day-trip to Abu Simbel, Philae Temple, the Tombs of Nobles, the Monastery of St. Simeon, the Kalabsha, and Aga Khan Mausoleum, among others.
A trip to Egypt would be incomplete without a cruise down the Nile. With itineraries ranging from 14 days aboard 5-star riverboats to day-trips along the river, there is an option for every traveller to experience this cornerstone of history.
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