It also doesn’t matter if you never dived before a day in your life — Egypt is chock-full of PADI-certified, professional diving centers, instructors and liveaboards that will propel you from snorkeler to advanced diver in no time.
1. Diving in Marsa Alam
Best dive spots: Elphinstone Reef, Daedalus Reef, Abu Dabbab, Dolphin House Reef
Marsa Alam might not be as well known or frequently visited as Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada when it comes to diving, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive (it might be even more so!). This coastal town is more off the beaten track for both Egyptians and foreigners alike, so it’s an excellent place if you want to relax and focus on diving and other sea activities.
Marsa Alam’s dugongs
Beginner divers: the shallow bay of Abu Dabbab is perfect for newbies — there’s no current and the water is around 18 m deep. It’s also there where you can sometimes see Egypt’s very rare dugongs, cousins of the manatee.
Advanced divers: Famous dive sites like Elphinstone and Daedalus are must-sees for more advanced divers — you can see anything from hammerhead sharks to manta rays in these open sea sites. They’re accessible by either day trips from Marsa Alam or liveaboards.
- Around April and May, water visibility is reduced slightly because of plankton, but that’s what attracts whale sharks and manta rays
- Whale sharks can be spotted in May & June, and hammerheads from May to August
- It’s possible to dive year-round, with the coldest water being 24°C in January and warmest being 30°C in the summer (which some find to be too warm, especially when the air temperature regularly hits 40+°C).
How to get there: you can either fly into Marsa Alam airport or drive from Cairo (around an 8-10 hour drive)
2. Sharm El Sheikh/Ras Mohammed
Best dive spots: SS Thistlegorm, Dunraven, Kingston, Shark Reef, Yolanda Reef
According to Dive Magazine, “Sharm El Sheikh has been, for many years, the favourite Egyptian destination for scuba divers, and has probably contributed more to the European dive business than any other resort in the world.”
It’s also the starting point for most dive expeditions into Ras Mohammed, an Egyptian national park at the southernmost tip of Sinai, where the Gulf of Aqaba meets the Gulf of Suez and the mixing of water leads to brightly-colored, healthy coral reefs.
Bike on the SS Thistlegorm wreck. Photo credit: Terry Steeley
Beginner divers: Dive sites like Ras Um el Sid are ideal for beginners; easy reef diving in a shallow bay with no currents.
Advanced divers: Sharm has some amazing wreck diving, like the SS Thistlegorm, a British ship that was sunk by Germans in WWII. Other great wreck dives are Dunraven and Kingston.
- There’s no specific diving season in Sharm, but if you want to avoid the crowds both on shore and off, try to avoid the high tourist season (September-November and March-May), and go either during summer (if you can stand the soaring temperatures), or winter.
How to get there: fly to Sharm El Sheikh airport or drive from Cairo (6-7 hour drive).
3. Hurghada/El Gouna
Best dive spots: Giftun Islands, Abu Nuhas reef and wrecks, Rosalie Moller
The coastal towns of Hurghada and El Gouna might be around 25 km apart, but they share many of the same diving sites. Hurghada, which used to be a small fishing village only a few decades ago, is now the biggest Red Sea resort town on the Egyptian mainland.
Beginner divers: Hurghada and El Gouna are actually ideal for beginner divers because most of their reefs are shallow and easily accessible but still crammed full of marine life, like the Giftun Islands (home of the famous Mahmya beach restaurant/bar on the shore).
Advanced divers: the deep wreck of the Rosalie Moller is closer situated to Hurghada than to Sharm El Sheikh, where its sister ship, the SS Thistlegorm is. Rosalie Moller was a coal ship so it’s not as impressive as Thistlegorm with all its relics, but still an awesome wreck dive.
- Same as Sharm. There’s no specific diving season in Hurghada, but if you want to avoid the crowds both on shore and off, try to avoid the high tourist season (September-November and March-May), and go either summer or winter.
How to get there: fly into Hurghada airport and take a cab/car hire from there if you’re going to El Gouna. Or you can drive from Cairo (around a 5 hour drive).
Best dive site: Blue Hole, The Canyon, Eel Garden
The Blue Hole in Dahab is probably the most famous dive site in all of Egypt, known even by non-divers, but it’s definitely not the only diving spot Dahab has to offer.
Beginner divers: most of Dahab’s coral reefs are right off the shore and easy for beginner divers to reach and explore, including The Blue Hole’s reef (but not the arch!).
Advanced divers: the deep arch of the Blue Hole is a 70m archway and passageway in the reef, and is popular with advanced divers and freedivers, but is also extremely dangerous — dozens of people have passed away there (the onshore tribute to the fallen divers is both moving and somber). The Canyon is also another favorite spot for advanced divers.
- It’s rare to see sharks in Dahab
- It’s not a destination for wreck diving
- It’s awesome for snorkeling if you have non-diver friends with you
- Diving is year-long, and most people go between July-December, so try to avoid those months if you don’t want to the reefs to be crowded with divers
How to get there: fly into Sharm el Sheikh then make the drive to Dahab (around an hour away), or drive from Cairo (7-8 hours).
5. El Qoseir
Ikhwa Islands/Brothers Islands. Photo credit: Robert Wilpernig
Best dive sites: El Ikhwa Islands (Brothers’ Islands)
Most would be surprised to see El Qoseir on the list, but it’s true — if you’re looking for great diving away from it all and untouched coral, then look no further. This 5,000 year old town is home to several ecolodges and diving camps on the cliffs overlooking a pristine stretch of sea between Hurghada and Marsa Alam, and there are lots of diving centers to choose from.
Salem Express wreck
Beginner divers: most of the diving is close to the shore, easily accessible to the diving camps and shallow.
Advanced divers: El Ikhwa Islands is one of the undisputed best diving spots in the whole of the Red Sea, and a good place to see sharks and other big fish, since it’s 70 km off shore from El Qoseir. There’s also the Salem Express wreck, which is closer to Safaga but reachable from Qoseir by liveaboard.
- Qoseir as a town has almost nothing going on when it comes to restaurants or nightlife, so you’ll be spending most of your time in a hotel or Nuweiba-style beach camp, which is ideal for those who want peace and quiet
How to get there: you have three options: 1) fly into Hurghada and drive south, 2) fly into Marsa Alam and drive north, 3) drive from Cairo (6-7 hours).
6. Safaga/Soma Bay/Makadi Bay
Best dive sites: Ras Abo Soma, Abu Kafan, Tobia Reefs (aka Seven Pillars/Seven Pinnacles) and Panorama Reef
South of Hurghada are the neighboring resort towns of Makadi Bay and Safaga (technically Soma Bay is in Safaga), on the same coastline between Hurghada and Marsa Alam. Whereas El Qoseir is the destination to go if you want primitive camps and a more back-to-basics feel, Safaga, Soma Bay and Makadi Bay offer 5-star resorts and all-inclusive luxury hotels.
Ras Abo Soma
Beginner divers: the reef of Ras Abo Soma and its adjacent areas are great for beginner divers, and you even have the chance of happening upon reef sharks. North of Makadi Bay is Abu Ramada South, another good dive spot for beginners.
Advanced divers: there’s awesome wall and drift diving, and the Tobias Reefs are well-loved. You can also visit the Salem Express wreck, a controversial dive spot because of the sad story attached. The Salem Express was a passenger ferry between Egypt and Saudi Arabia that sank in 1991, killing over 400 passengers. Some divers choose not to visit the wreck, but other divers do and pay their respects to the remains of the ship and the lives lost.
- This stretch of the Red Sea is ideal if you want to have a luxury vacation aside from just diving
- The area is close to Hurghada, but is not as crowded with diving boats
How to get there: either fly into Hurghada airport and drive south, or drive from Cairo (5-6 hours).
7. Hamata, Wadi Lahami and the Deep South
Best dive spots: St. John’s, Fury Shoals and Rocky Island
Ever wondered about the stretch of the Red Sea between Marsa Alam and Sudan? It’s known as the Deep South, where the tiny coastal towns/villages of Hamata and Wadi Lahami are, right before you reach the Shalateen and Halayeb protected areas. This pristine stretch of Red Sea is completely untouched and unspoiled.
Beginner divers: because of the strong wind conditions, it’s not always the best place for beginner divers, but St. John’s has a few easier dives.
Advanced divers: the strong current leads to amazing drift diving, with an increased chance of seeing hammerhead sharks, pods of dolphins and manta rays.
- There’s not many places to stay in Hamata and Wadi Lahami, just a few sparse diving villages. If that’s not your thing, then you can take a liveaboard from Port Ghalib near Marsa Alam (about 3 hours away by car).