The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
The renowned northern Red Sea is a region characterised by beautiful contrasts – from dusty red deserts to sublime blue waters, and ancient culture to bustling modern resort towns. And with a tempting selection of world-class dive sites on its doorstep, including spectacular reefs and ghostly wrecks, the northern Red Sea truly offers something for every diver.
The northern Red Sea represents the entire spectrum of Red Sea diving experiences – from eerie wrecks and vibrant coral gardens, to adrenaline-pumping drifts and big fish – all set against a stunning backdrop of mountainous desert and inviting blue waters. The Red Sea’s isolation and diversity of marine habitats created the ideal conditions for the evolution of new species - in fact, it is thought that 10% of fish species in the Red Sea are found nowhere else. Combined with the area’s fascinating history and an abundance of fabulous resorts, it’s easy to see why the northern Red Sea is one of the most popular dive destinations in the world.
As well as being a popular gateway for liveaboards, Sharm El-Sheikh is home to plenty of fantastic local diving and offers day-trip access to the Straits of Tiran, Dahab and the Thistlegorm and Dunraven wrecks. Located just 12km away, and including Tiran, Sanafir, and the Shark and Yolanda Reefs, the renowned Ras Mohammed National Park boasts a variety of shallow scenic plateaus, exhilarating drift dives, underwater caves, and big drop-offs descending into the blue. Not far away on the east coast of Sinai, Dahab also offers clear waters and gentle currents, dazzling schools of fusiliers and orange anthias - as well as the famous Blue Hole, a perfectly-circular sink hole in the reef that descends into the depths.
Over on the Egyptian mainland, Hurghada provides ideal conditions for learning to dive, and is another popular departure point for liveaboards heading south. Visitors to Hurghada can encounter plenty of incredible marine life including humphead wrasse, sea moths, bluespotted rays, and stargazers. And if that’s not enough, the northern Red Sea is also home to some world-class wreck dives including the SS Thistlegorm, Dunraven, Giannis D, Carnatic, and The Rosalie Moller.
The northern Red Sea offers an abundance of shallow fringing reefs and deep drop-offs accessible directly from the shore. Throw in the ever-present possibility of a dolphin encounter and you’ve got yourself one of the best snorkelling destinations in the world. There are many snorkelling spots across the entire northern Red Sea, ranging from Dahab’s famous Blue Hole, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Ras Mohammed, all the way to Hurghada and the Giftun Islands.
Snorkelers can find a rich variety of life just meters from the surface including shoals of orange anthias, surgeonfish and fusiliers, as well as endemic species such as the Red Sea Clownfish and the Bluecheek butterflyfish. Triggerfish, pufferfish, lionfish and blue-spotted rays are also common. Reefs in the northern Red Sea often start just meters from the shore and remain shallow for large distances. Look out for designated walkways between or above the reef that allow swimmers and snorkelers to access the water without damaging the coral.
The northern Red Sea stretches from the Egyptian mainland across to the Sinai Peninsula and includes such famous holiday destinations as Hurghada, Sharm El Sheik and Dahab. Jutting south like an arrowhead, the peninsula splits the Red Sea in two creating a maze of coral reefs and islands that mark the entrances to the Gulf of Aqaba and Gulf of Suez. It is these stunning reefs and offshore islands - along with the wrecks of ships that failed to navigate a safe path - that have attracted intrepid scuba divers for decades.
As the gateway between Africa and Asia, the Sinai Peninsula has long been the backdrop for ancient cultural exchange and conflicts. Today it is recognised for this immense cultural heritage and continues to attract visitors drawn to sites including Mount Sinai - where it is believed Moses received his 10 Commandments - and Saint Catherine’s, the world’s oldest Christian monastery. Other, more down-to-earth attractions include once sleepy Bedouin fishing villages such as Dahab, on the eastern side of the peninsula, where visitors can enjoy a relaxed, hippie-like atmosphere, or the famous Sharm El-Sheikh further south near the Straits of Tiran. Together with Hurghada on the Egyptian mainland, Sharm has become one of the Red Sea’s most popular tourist destinations, developing into a busy city with bustling beaches and vibrant nightlife.
Divers can enter through either Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh International airports. Direct flights to Hurghada are available from some major UK cities but most visitors to the area should expect at least one stop. Guests can also choose to fly through Cairo where they can connect to their destination from the same terminal – perhaps the easiest, yet most expensive travel option.
The Red Sea’s climate offers mild winters with cooler temperatures from November to April, and hot summers from May to September. August is the hottest time of year, with temperatures exceeding 40°C at times, making the sea feel like a bath but making some land-based activities uncomfortable. Diving is possible year-round, although March to May and September to November are often considered the best times to visit – avoiding the intense summer heat but providing some superb diving conditions.
Sharm El-Sheikh is one of Egypt’s best known tourist destinations, boasting a vibrant atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and a range of activities from bustling nightlife to adventurous watersports. The once traditional fishing village of Hurghada has also become a busy tourist hotspot, now sprawling over 20-miles along the coast, and packed full with delightful restaurants and cafes, and tour operators offering exciting excursions. For a slightly slower pace, guests should consider Dahab, with its rustic appearance and all-together more bohemian vibe.