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Red Sea Coast


The Egyptian Red Sea is undoubtedly the best dive area easily reached from Europe, and it rivals the Caribbean, the western Indian Ocean and other more expensive destinations in the quality of its diving. Compared to other places, dive sites can be crowded, particularly those suitable for novice divers near the main resorts of Hurghada and Sharm al Sheik. However there is generally a lot to see at all sites, and for advanced divers the wall and wreck diving is spectacular.

Visibility is generally good (10 to 50 or more metres) although it can be reduced during periods with high plankton growth or sediment in the water column due to wind - this can happen at any time of year but is probably most common in spring. In general, visibility in the north (Sharm al Sheik, Ras Mohammad, Hurghada) is best in the winter, when the water is cold, but in the south (Quseir, Marsa Alam) it is best in the summer when the water is hot enough to reduce plankton growth.

In winter, sea temperatures will be cool enough to require a 5-7mm wetsuit, particularly in the north where they get down to about 18oC. In August, water temperatures are as high as 29oC and a skin or 3mm wetsuit is adequate - and plenty of sunscreen and water since air temperatures regularly reach the low 40s.


Gulf of Aqaba
The Gulf of Aqaba is deep, and, because the sediment sinks quickly to deep water, clear. Although it does not have as many coral species as the Red Sea coast proper (about 130 species of hard coral and about 120 species of soft corals - sea fans, fire coral etc.) the reefs are spectacular on the Egyptian side of the Gulf (the east coast of the Sinai peninsula). In general, the reefs get more developed and impressive as you move south, culminating in the diverse reefs and impressive wall dives around Sharm al Sheikh and the Ras Mohammad National Park on the southern tip of Sinai.

Gulf of Suez
Unlike the Gulf of Aqaba, the Gulf of Suez is shallow, with an average depth of around 20-30 metres. Shallow depth, strong winds and a sandy bottom mean that the water column tends to have sediment in it, and this along with cool winter temperatures makes it difficult for many Red Sea species to survive. There is very little coral in the northern Gulf, and in the southern half, reefs are patchy, with only around 45-50 species represented. The opening of the Suez Canal has created a link with the Mediterranean for the first time, and scientists are interested inmonitoring the exchange of species between the two regions, as well as the effect of physiological stress


caused by the Gulf conditions on Red Sea species. The Gulf of Suez is also a very important fishing area for Egyptians.

Ras Mohammad
Ras Mohammad is the headland on the southern tip of Sinai, which along with the surrounding marine area has been turned into a very successful National Park. It is a spectacular setting, with high cliffs surrounded by reef, mangrove and seagrass meadows. It is the most northerly point in the world where mangroves occur. The exceptionally clear water means that reefs extend to over 100 metres deep. The drop-off, covered in coral, is steep and close to shore in some places, making for excellent wall diving. There are large numbers of reef fish and large pelagic (open water) species; species of particular interest to divers include Napoleon wrasse, sharks and barracudas, as well as green turtles and invertebrates like giant clams. Strong currents make it a good environment for sea fans and other soft corals which feed by filtering particles out of the water column, however they also mean that some experience is required to dive here.

Giftun Islands and Hurghada

The Giftun Islands and the reefs around Hurghada are the main diving and snorkelling site from the resort of Hurghada. There are a lot of good shallow reef sites with numerous fish, often unafraid of humans. Formerly the dive industry was uncontrolled and there has been coral damage from boat anchoring and collecting for souvenirs (please don't buy souvenirs of coral or marine animals). However the dive community has largely cleaned up its act, installing permanent mooring buoys and becoming more conscious of the need to protect the reef on which it depends. Both the Giftun Islands and the Hurghada area have extensive seagrass beds, in fact just off the beach by the Sheraton in Hurghada is some of the best seagrass beds in Egypt, with mixed stands of 5 seagrass species. The Giftun Islands also have one of the largest stands of mangroves on the Egyptian coast and important nesting grounds for hawksbill turtles and seabirds.

Safaga, Quseir, Marsa Alam and south…
As you move south away from Hurghada, the coast becomes less developed than further north - visiting this area is more difficult and expensive but you are rewarded with less crowds, unspoiled beaches, desert scenery and some spectacular dives. The reef is well developed with generally high coral cover and a lot of relief: gullies, overhangs and caves. The fish fauna is generally diverse and abundant since fishing pressure is low. Both coral and fish diversity generally increase moving south, since the Red Sea reaches its peak of diversity in the centre (Sudan / Saudi Arabia). The very south of Egypt (Gebel Elba) is a military zone. The reefs are likely to be spectacular but they are completely unexplored - a tempting prospect…

For experienced divers, the Brother's Islands, 40 miles offshore from Quseir, offer spectacular wall dives in strong currents, with the opportunity to see large pelagics, including hammerhead sharks.
(Jo Gascoigne)



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