Egypt has got it all. Walls, wrecks, drop-offs, colorful reefs and pelagics in warm water and with excellent visibility. It’s a top diving destination among divers in the know; great for all levels, and one of the premier places to take your first fin kicks. Tropical fish, sharks, morays, and rays cruise around the incredible soft and hard coral formations where fantastical critters can be found; it’s a true diver’s paradise!
Egypt in Pictures
A collection of photos of Egypt both over- and underwater.
Marine Life in Egypt
Egypt’s reefs are full of life in technicolor. With over 1,000 species of invertebrates, 800 species of fish, and over 200 species of soft and hard coral, many of them endemic – it’s no wonder that the Red Sea is one of the world’s top diving spots.
Possible shark action while diving in Egypt includes grey, white and blacktip reef sharks, oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, tigers, thresher sharks, and even whale sharks. Sea turtles, moray eels (sometimes giant), and rays are quite common and lionfish, nudibranchs, stonefish, clownfish, triggerfish, and a range of tropical bannerfish and angelfish are everywhere. If you are lucky you can dive with Napolean wrasses or dugongs, and dolphins often make an appearance if you are diving by boat. You won’t be disappointed!
The backdrop to all this action is equally impressive. Egypt’s coral reefs and gardens are psychedelic. With some of the clearest waters in the world, sunlight dances on the reefs bringing out the colors in an incredible display. These reefs are fragile and easy to damage, so excellent buoyancy is essential to their preservation.
Dive Conditions in Egypt
The east coast of Egypt and the Sinai peninsula are the major diving areas in the Egyptian Red Sea. Conditions are excellent, with clear warm water and a relatively calm sea. Some areas have current and are suitable for drift diving and that’s where you will see the big pelagics and their predators. The welcoming dive conditions have made Egypt something of a tech diving and training mecca and depth records are often attempted and broken here.
There is diving for every level and experience in Egypt and its a popular place to learn to dive. Liveaboards offer an attractive option if all you want to do is dive, but there are plenty of land-based operations and in some areas of the Sinai, the majority of diving is from the shore.
Best Time to Dive in Egypt
Diving is possible all year round in Egypt. The best time to go is May to October, though each season has its own benefits.
In summer, the water is really warm in the 26℃ to 28℃ (79℉ to 83℉) range. Plankton blooms reduce the visibility from excellent to very good, and the large pelagics and their hunters are all about. Also, summer is whale shark season.
Diving in winter in Egypt offers excellent visibility. Water temperatures are a little milder in the 22℃ to 25℃ (71℉ to 77℉-) range and special offers abound! Things can be a little stormy in February. Some rare species like thresher sharks can be spotted in this season.
Best Dive Sites in Egypt
To truly understand the scope of diving in Egypt, its best to divide it into regions.
With so much focus on the world-famous Red Sea, it’s easy to forget that Egypt has a Mediterranean coastline. Here the diving is spectacular in another way. Dive through the remains of ancient Egyptian sites for a look into Egyptian history. Visibility is often low.
The top dive here is Heracleion an ancient Egyptian city that’s now underwater. Many precious artifacts have been discovered here, including the remains of a temple, gold jewelry, coins and the missing piece of a ceremonial boat. Cleopatra, it’s said, was crowned in one of its temples.
The Sinai is a magical place with a full range of diving experiences and services. Wrecks, pristine reefs, and drop-offs, here are my top sites.
Shark Observatory – Sharm el Sheikh
Also known Ras Mohammed Wall, it’s an impressive, deep, wall dive. Numerous pelagics cruise the wall which drops down to over 90m (295ft.) Overhangs, gulleys, and caves complete the picture and you can spot several types of sharks, glassfish, hatchet fish, barracudas, sea wrasses, grouper, snappers, trevallies, jacks, and turtles. In season, if you are lucky you might see a whale shark too.
SS Thistlegorm – Sharm el Sheikh
Thistlegorm is a must-dive and often rated as one of the top wreck dives in the world. This British merchant navy ship was sunk by a German bomber in 1941 as it transported supplies to the British troops in North Africa. The Thistlegorm’s cargo includes trains, trucks, motorcycles, and rifles and boots – still intact. It has been colonized by colorful coral and attracts a bounty of sea life.
These two small islands offer some of the Red Sea’s best diving experiences. Located 60km (37mi) offshore in the middle of the Red Sea, they are volcanic pillars with vertical walls and are populated with multicolored soft and hard corals. There are a number of overhangs and small caves too. Pelagics abound and various sharks have frequent the sites such as schooling hammerheads, oceanic whitetip sharks, and thresher sharks. Big Brother Island is also the site of two shipwrecks; the Numidia and Aida Dive conditions here are challenging and recommended for experienced divers.
Blue Hole – Dahab
More laidback than Sharm el Sheikh is the dive mecca, Dahab, with excellent diving straight from the shore. If you don’t like boats, this is the place to go. Most famous of all is a deep hole in the reef known as the Blue Hole. You can drift over to it from an entrance called “The Bells” further up the reef or access it straight from the shore. The Bells is a long crack in the reef coming out into the blue at about 30m (100ft), although it drops off much, much deeper. Excellent buoyancy is essential and this dive is recommended for advanced divers.
Canyon – Dahab
The Canyon is Dahab’s other premier dive. Great for advanced divers, and tech divers alike. The canyon has an open cavern with a sandy bottom at 30m (100ft.) and an exit further down the reef at 52m (170ft). The dive site is full of hard and soft coral. butterflyfish, unicornfish, parrotfish, nudibranchs, glassfish, sea moths, octopus, pufferfish, Red Sea anthias, and turtles.
Straits of Tiran
The Straits of Tiran are well known among experienced divers. The conditions here are a little more challenging than the rest of the Red Sea with strong currents and deeper sites. Although there is also something here for beginners, you’ll enjoy it more if you have a number of more challenging dives under your weight belt. There are a number of excellent dive sites here including Jackson Reef, Woodhouse Reef, Thomas Reef, and Gordon Reef. These sites teem with life, have amazing drop-offs and coral plateaus and shark encounters are highly likely. It’s one of the best places in the Red Sea to spot hammerhead and tiger sharks. There are also some great wrecks here.
Hurghada is a big, busy port town and is a great base to explore this region of the Red Sea from, or to pick up a liveaboard. Brothers’ Islands are also accessible from here and here are the other top spots.
South Abu Ramada
South Abu Ramada is a dive site brimming with big reefs of hard and soft corals and sea fans. Also a great place for snorkeling, there are the ruins of a shipwreck on the sandy bottom here. Favorable conditions and depths make it a great dive for all levels. There is plenty of sea life like moray eels, turtles, lionfish, bannerfish, clownfish parrotfish and more.
Shabrur Umm Gammar
Shabrur Umm Gamar, close to the Umm Gamar Island, is an underwater coral mountain that attracts big fish and is known for its pristine coral. The site also has several wrecks of Egyptian boats, for recreational and tech divers alike. You will most likely see Napoleonfish, moray eels, large grouper, sharks and the usual variety of Red Sea reef life.
Salem Express Wreck
The Salem Express is one of Egypt’s top wreck dives. A 100m(328ft)-long passenger and vehicle ferry, it sank in 1991. Propellers, corridors, upper decks, the restaurant, and the bridge are visible. Passenger luggage such as rolls of carpet, stereos, bicycles, and chairs are strewn about the seabed near the wreck. Since the top side of the wreck is only at 10m (32ft.) it’s a dive for all levels. Marine life is also abundant here.
Marsa Alam and the Deep South
Marsa Alam is where you dive with dugongs! It’s also the place to take liveaboards to the deep south where you’ll find pristine reefs and big fish.
Elphinstone Reef, also known as Sha’ab Abu Hamra, is one of the most famous dive sites in the Red Sea. Spectacular walls drop off on both sides of the reef and strong currents allow for great drift diving. You’ll drift by many species of fish, corals, sponges, gorgonians and other colorful reef life. Out in the blue, you’ll more than likely see whitetip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, and oceanic whitetip sharks.
Dive with wild dolphins at Sha’ab Sataya. This large egg-shaped reef is also known as Dolphin Reef. There is a large coral-encrusted lagoon in the reef which houses a pod of dolphins. The walls are covered in coral formations and populated with vibrant reef life. At depth, you may encounter whitetip sharks too. Big pelagic species, like barracudas, sharks, trevallies, dolphins, and large sea turtles are also often seen here. There is plenty of macro life too.
This dive site is for all levels and features a spectacular coral display and a bounty of Red Sea marine life. Blue-spotted stingrays, giant morays, octopuses, turtles, parrotfish, bannerfish, and whitetip reef sharks all make an appearance here. Here on the sandy bottom is where the dugong might make an appearance.
How to Get to Egypt
Flights from Europe fly directly to Cairo, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, and Sharm el Sheikh. There are also some international flights that fly directly into Cairo.
Good to Know
Egypt’s treasures are not just underwater. There are incredible archeological sites to explore on land and taking a few days to do this before or after the sign is well worth it.