Diving Sharm el Sheikh

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Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

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Country: Egypt  Area: Egypt

Water Temp: 22 - 28°C (72 - 82°F)

Visibility: 15 - 50m (49 - 164 ft)

Hawksbill Turtle Nesting - Late May to Early June, Green Turtle Nesting – Late June to Early July, Coral Spawning – First Full Moon in Apr & Sep, Schooling Hammerheads on Jackson Reef – Jul to Sep

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The most popular diving destination in the Red Sea, the waters around Sharm El Sheikh offer some of the most stunning and famous dive sites not just in the Red Sea but also the World. 

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Sharm el Sheikh is located on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula which is at the extreme Northern end of the Red Sea. Sharm has become a very popular tourist area for package holidaymakers and divers as it is the main departure point for many liveaboards and diving day trips as it is the most popular diving destination in the Red Sea.

Sharm is easily accessible by daily flights from lots of Europe and domestic flights from the rest of Egypt. Most holidays to Sharm are package holidays including both the flight and accommodation and are very good value for money and usually a lot cheaper than organising the trip yourself with a separate flight and hotel. Lots of the dive centres are also linked to a hotel and you can get some good hotel/diving combo deals also.

Bright red anemone with Clownfish, Credit

Climate

The climate in this area is a sub tropical desert climate with warm winters and a very hot summer, along with agreeable water temperatures most of the year which all adds up to a year round pleasant dive season. Although the dive season is year round there are more popular times of the year than others due to marine life seasons and the water temperature which is at its coldest in February and then warms up and peaks at its warmest of around 28C in the high season of August.

This is a quite large difference in temperature so you will need to make sure you take the appropriate exposure protection for the time of year you are visiting. At its coldest a 5mm full length wetsuit will be adequate for most people but if you feel the cold or are planning on a week’s liveaboard diving then a drysuit may be worth considering due to the loss of core temperature that can occur with taking part in long, deep dives 4 times a day.

Moray Eel, Credit

Marine Conservation

Sharm el-Sheikh is unfortunately criticized for its environmental unsustainability and practices of degradation due to the regions rapid expansion. A handful of local non-profits are established in Sharm el-Sheikh and work to conserve the marine life through advocacy and education with local operators. Researchers conduct deep studies into the Red Sea given its unique marine ecosystem; however, there is a consensus that greater conservation efforts must be initiated.

Thomas reef, Credit

 
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Diving

Sharm el Sheikh serves a host of dive sites which you can reach from day boats and liveaboards. There is also a huge variation in type of dive that you can take part in from famous historic wreck dives, spectacular wall dives, and colourful reef dives full of diverse marine life; Sharm can pretty much deliver for every divers experience and interest.

When you choose to dive from Sharm the first decision you need to make is how, land based or liveaboard based. Both options allow you to dive exciting and popular sites but if you do want to visit sites that you cannot reach by day boat, which tend to be less crowded and tend to have a greater chance of seeing larger marine life, then a liveaboard is the only way to do this.

Liveaboards are completely dive focussed and allow non divers can book a place they are not really suitable. So, if you are travelling with a non diver or family and want to do other activities than just scuba dive then land based day boat diving is going to the choice for you.

Ras Mohammed Underwater, Credit

The Red Sea is home to a wide range of diverse marine life from tiny nudibranches to the largest fish in the world, the Whale Shark. Like any area in the world there are better places and times to see certain species. If you are a major Shark enthusiast then the Southern Liveaboard itineraries will definitely provide you the best chance to see a wide range of shark species, including Grey Reef Sharks, White Tip Reef Sharks, Silky Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Thresher Sharks and the Oceanic Whitetip Shark.

The best sites for an encounter with these amazing creatures are The Brothers Islands, with its resident Grey Reef Sharks, occasional Hammerheads and in the winter months the shy Thresher Shark. Other sites are Elphinstone Reef which is famous for common pelagic encounters including the Whale Shark in season and Daedalus which commonly has schooling hammerheads events at the right time of year and the chance to see all of the previously mentioned sharks. All of these dive sites are offshore pinnacles and islands with dramatic reef walls down to 40m which then drop down to 100’s of meters deep which does mean strong currents and choppier seas, so you will have to be a more experienced diver to dive these sites and the best way is by liveaboard.

Shoaling Barracuda, Credit

An area that can be easily reached by day boat from Sharm is the Straits of Tiran which contains four reefs Woodhouse, Thomas, Gordon and Jackson. These reefs are positioned where the Gulf of Aqaba ends and the Red Sea starts which creates strong currents around the reefs and steep reef drop offs, which aren’t suitable for beginner divers. This is also the reason for the diversity of marine life and plenty of shark action. The Jackson Reef in particular is famed for its schooling Hammerheads which can be seen between July to September.

Baby Anemone Clown Fish, Credit

Another popular creature in the Red Sea are the Sea Turtles. The 2 most common species that can be seen year round are the Hawksbill and Green Turtle. The Hawksbill can be seen in a lot of the dive sites from the north to the south. The Green Turtles are  seen less, but are almost guaranteed to be seen in the Southern dive site of Marsa Shouna, which can be reached by liveaboard, eating away at the bays sea grass. In the same bay there are also regular sightings of a Dugong, you do have to be lucky, but it can’t hurt to keep an eye out.

Angelfish on Ras Za'atar Reef, Credit

The Red Sea does offer more than just exhilarating and memorable marine encounters: there are a huge variety of wrecks, a lot of which have a very interesting history.  Most of these wrecks can be penetrated, but before you do you should ensure you are experienced and confident enough with your general diving and in particular your buoyancy. The main wreck location is Abu Nuhas which is a shallow reef which is a shipwreck graveyard and home to a diverse selection of wrecks all very close to each other.

The most famous wreck and a must dive in the North is definitely the wreck of the Thistlegorm. This was a cargo ship which was bombed during the second world war and is now broken in half and sitting on the sea floor at 30m. The wreck is such an interesting dive site as is still holds much of its cargo in the holds such as cars and motorbikes; it is also becoming an artificial reef and is host to a large amount of marine life.

Liveaboards

Liveaboards from Sharm visit the surrounding area, such as the Straits of Tiran and Ras Mohammed along with further south dive sites such as The Brothers and Elphinstone, which tend to be visited less in the winter low season due to weather conditions and choppy seas. There are many choices of itineraries to choose from so you will need to research the routes for each before you make a decision to ensure you pick one best suited to your level and interests.

It is worth noting that many of the Red Sea liveaboard itineraries do have a minimum dive number and experience level required. This tends to be 20 dives with PADI Open water, or equivalent, for most of the North and 50 dives with PADI Advanced, or equivalent, for the South. This is due to a lot of the dive sites in the south, such as The Brothers Islands being deeper with more difficult dive conditions and strong currents.

Middle Garden Reef, Sharm el Sheikh, Credit

Day trips

You don’t have to take part in a Liveaboard holiday to still see some amazing dive sites, the day boats from Sharm can still reach some of the best and most famous dive sites of the Red Sea. Just around the corner from Sharm on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula is the Marine Park of Ras Mohammed. This is a world famous dive site with some spectacular reef and wall dives and the Shark and Yolanda Reefs are the most popular dive sites.

These tend to have a strong current so are mostly dived as a drift dive from Shark to Yolanda Reef. The drop in location is usually above Anemone City which unsurprisingly is an area covered with thousands of colourful anemones and anemone fish with a sheer wall dropping off into the blue. The end of the drift dive finishes by the wreckage of the Yolanda, whose cargo was many bathtubs and toilets which can make for some entertaining photos!

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How to Get There

Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport is located about 10km north of Na’ama Bay and has flights 4 times daily to Cairo, with two per week to Luxor, both operated by Egypt Air. From the airport, visitors can take either a minibus or a private taxi to the coast.

A less expensive alternative is to reach Sharm el Sheikh by bus. Busses from Cairo (6 hours), Alexandria (9 hours), Dahab (one hour), Nuweiba (2.5 hours), Luxor (14 hours) and St Katherine’s Monastery (3.5 hours) run almost daily. From the bus terminal, there is a constant mini bus and taxi service that carries passengers to Na’ama Bay. 

Coloured coral on Jolanda wreck, Credit

For guests arriving from Hurghada, there is a luxury high-speed ferry connecting the two ports a few times per week. Hotels and travel agencies in Hurghada can assist with bookings, which should be organized in advance.

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 Where to Eat & Drink

Sharm el-Sheikh has a wide variety of restaurants that serve anything from spicy Thai to rich Italian to classically Egyptian food, all at great value. Quality spans from small beach side cafes to top quality meals at the highly regarded Arabesque restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel and Starlight at the Hilton. Western chains, including Starbucks and TGI Friday’s, can be found in the bays that surround Na’ama, if searching for something a little more erm.. familiar.

Lionfish sitting on coral, Credit

The nightlife in Na’ama Bay is bustling, diverse and lively seemingly every night of the week. In the evenings, the quiet boardwalks and streets transform as the town livens, earning its reputation as the ‘Las Vegas’ of Egypt. From nightclubs such as Pacha and the Hard Rock Café to British-style pubs like the Tavern Bar, there is plenty of variety for all preferences.

Interspersed amongst the clubs and pubs are numerous Bedouin inspired cafes that rely upon classic oriental décor that carries visitors back to the culture of Sharm el Sheikh before it was quite so resort-focused. The neighbouring and smaller bays to Na’ama have a somewhat quieter nightlife.

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Other Activities

Sharm has many other things to do than the brilliant diving and chance to explore the Red Sea, there are also many desert tours. These can include camel trekking on local Egyptian camels or Quad Biking through the deserts sand dunes.  Sharm also has a busy nightlife so after your day of diving you can unwind and relax at a choice of many beachside bars or restaurants.  So whether you are after a dedicated dive holiday or a relaxing week away with a couple of days of diving mixed with some time by the pool or exploring the desert, Sharm caters for every need.

Sharm is heralded as a great location for vacationing families, given its wide variety in accommodation, meals and activities. Numerous dive centres offer bubble-making classes for curious children.

Snorkelling, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Credit

 

 


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Tips

Currently, there are occasional travel advisory warnings for Sharm el-Sheikh, given Egypt’s political instability. Though Sharm has remained generally stable throughout the disruption, it is worth consulting travel authorities prior to making reservations.  Once there, Sharm is a generally safe town that requires the standard precautions in regards to valuables.

When visiting the various markets around Na’ama Bay, particularly the Old Market, shoppers should be prepared to be calm yet firm when negotiating prices.

Batfish shoal over Thistlegorm wreck, Credit

Official taxis in Sharm are blue and white, and must have the name and picture of the driver in the cab. While these taxis allegedly do have meters, they are often (and suspiciously) broken, so you must negotiate a price before departing.

 It is strictly forbidden to take any seashells or coral as souvenirs. This law is actively enforced and if caught, visitors will be fined. 

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Rating 10/10

Swimming With My First Manta

Sharm el Sheikh7 Jul 2013 - 21 Jul 2013

Snorkelling off the coast of Om El Seid Sharm El Sheikh, encountered an oceanic Manta Ray passing the reef, most incredible moment of my life. Also swam with Napoleon Wrasse, Barracuda, Blue Spotted Stingrays, Spotted Eagle Rays, Panther Torpedo Rays, numerous Trigger Fish aswell as an enormous Giant Trevally and of course plenty of other beautiful and colourful species!

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Showing 3 of 7 comments. Show all
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Tom Molyneux

Yeah that's the plan definitely! Would certainly be another tick for the bucket list!!

scuba diver 954785 m

Leon Dubose

Gah! That will be amazing!

mediving

Vandra Allison

omg so cool!

Rating 10/10

Eilat Coral reef, Israel

Sharm el Sheikh6 Mar 1990 - 20 Mar 2013 with Diving One

06 Mar 1990 - 20 Mar 1990 !!

This was the most amazing Scuba diving experience I've ever had! The red sea is one of the most colourful and exotic oceans in the the word! On one side you've got the crumpled dried out desert mountains of Eilat (on border of the Sinai, Egypt) and on the other side you've got the ever-ultra marine stunning sea, with endless colourful glittering corals and al types of weird colourful & beautiful fish. I dived to a depth of 30 meters and felt like I'm in an underwater haven. All around you are these silent colourful sea creature and you really feel like your just one of them when you're in there. Wish I can go back there real soon. Couldn't find 'Eilat' as a diving spot so i used this sharm Al shech spot instead.. I've also been to the so called "blue hole:" which is quite frightening, you reach a depth of 1 or 2 KM deep after one step into the water, the thought that a shark might come out of the deep deep blue got me`shaking.

But I'M IN LOVE WITH THE RED SEA!!!

A MusT for anyone heading to the Mid east!

I saw: Seahorses
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Scuba diving

Clemence Castagne

I love the Red Sea! Only dived Sharm but hope one day soon to go more south or maybe now to Eilat.

scubadiver

Mickael Jeunes

Sounds cool. Plus seahorse pics are excellent.

balitulambentauchen2b

Katie Evett

I love Seahorses :)

Rating 9/10

MY Cyclone - Northern Wrecks Reefs

Sharm el Sheikh14 Apr 2012 - 22 Apr 2012

Where to go was the the dilemma, the Red Sea is always a good option, the weather and water temperature is pretty much spot on depending on the time of year and there is still an abundance of marine life along with the possibility of shark sightings.

We chose a Livaboard as we simply wanted a pure diving holiday, it was excellent value for money and the accommodation was great.

We visited all of the usual wreck sites inc. the Thistlegorm and all of the usual suspects of Sha'ab Abu Nuhâs reef, sadly we couldn't visit the Rosalie Moller due to the area around the Straits of Gobal being closed by the military.

A number of the reefs we visited are still in spectacular condition, as is Ras Mohammed National Marine Park, all in all I would recommend this holiday to any diving enthusiast.

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scubadiver

Mickael Jeunes

Nice report Tanya! The wreck looks cool - which is the wreck in the photo?

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