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Sharm El-Sheikh, Red Sea, Egypt

Sharm El-Sheikh, Red Sea, Egypt

Sharm El-Sheikh is the ultimate Red Sea scuba diving destination as it boasts beautiful underwater attractions for divers to explore. This resort city offers numerous coral reefs, different kinds of marine life, and many interesting dive sites. Take a look at its hidden wonders and discover why it’s hailed as one of the world’s best scuba diving destinations.

Geography of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt

The Sinai Peninsula’s southern region is home to Sharm El-Sheikh. Located at the gateway to the Gulf of Aqaba, it has five sub-regions: Nabq, Ras Nusriani, Na’ama Bay, Umm Sid, and Sharm El-Maya. The city is also one of seven areas that make up the Red Sea’s metropolis. These areas include Na’ama Bay, Hadaba, and Shark’s Bay.

Na’ama Bay

Na’ama Bay is perfect for divers who want to experience the best dive sites Sharm El-Sheik has to offer. It’s a scuba diver’s haven as different kinds of coral reefs, fishes, and fauna lie within its pristine waters. It has three prominent dive sites: the Near, Middle, and Far Gardens.

Near Garden

The Near Garden offers depths down to 25 meters from its sandy ledge. A night dive here will give you the chance to see flashlight fish. But if you prefer diving during the day, the area has Napoleons, stingrays, and grey reef sharks.

Middle Garden

Divers will find the Middle Garden on Na’ama Bay’s eastern side. From a sloping drop-off, it has 20- to 25-meter depths. Vibrant corals and outcrops line the sandy surface beneath the area. You can even spot tiny fishes when you swim at the six-meter depth.

Far Garden

This dive site is a true underwater garden with unique coral formations across its entirety. You’ll also see many pinnacles around the area. Glassfishes often flock to these corals, which you can find in an area between the reef’s ledge and its drop-off point. Gorgonians, lionfish, mantas, and sea turtles are abundant as well.

Straits of Tiran

Situated at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, the Straits of Tiran house four reefs at its core. These reefs line up from the site’s northeastern to southwestern areas. With a vast amount of corals and marine life, you won’t run out of sights to see in this dive site.

Jackson Reef

Tiran’s northernmost reef has seen several shipwrecks, including that of the Cypriot ship Lara in 1985. You’ll see many beautiful redtooth triggerfish swimming across the reef, as well as lionfish, cornetfish, butterflyfish, and anemonefish. The area also teems with tuna, barracuda, and jackfish. And if you’re diving on the reef’s northern side, you might spot scalloped hammerhead sharks, too.

Woodhouse Reef

This reef, which lies between the Thomas and Jackson reefs, is rich in red anemones and sightings of sea turtles, jackfish, and eagle rays. Just watch out for harsh weather and powerful currents, especially in the reef’s northern part.

Thomas Reef

Both recreational and technical divers consider Thomas Reef to be an amazing place to dive in. Diving starts at its southern area and ends at a sandy plateau with a minimum depth of 25 meters. Rare corals such as the alcyonaria, gorgonian, and antipatharia reside in this reef. You can also spot black corals. Thomas Reef has a very shallow canyon, which you can explore at 35 meters.

Gordon Reef

From corals to eagle rays, Gordon Reef lets you spot a variety of flora and fauna as you dive. It also houses octopuses and different types of moray eels living in metal drums. You’ll even encounter the wreckage of Loullia, a Panamanian cargo ship that sank in 1981.

Ras Mohammed National Park

This dive site in Sharm El-Sheikh’s southern end is rich in large corals and numerous marine fauna. Hard and soft corals surround its sheer walls, and you may even have the chance to swim with barracuda, jackfish, tuna, and sharks here. Divers worldwide hail Ras Mohammed as one of their best dive sites in the Red Sea.

Ras Ghozlani & Ras Za’atar

Stunning table corals, pinnacles teeming with glassfishes, and a breathtaking landscape abound in Ras Ghozlani. These faunae offer an amazing experience for both new and experienced divers.

Fusing Ras Mohammed’s vertical wall and Mersa Bareika’s gentle slope into one fascinating dive site, Ras Za’atar is home to numerous coral heads in different hues. Sea fans, gorgonians, and black corals surround the wall’s northern side, while malabar groupers swim around its chimneys. Ras Za’atar also has its share of tuna, barracudas, jackfish, and grey reef sharks (which appear during the summer).

Jackfish Alley

Situated in Ras Za’atar’s southern end, Jackfish Alley features gorgonian corals and different fish species. Stingrays, trevally, glassfishes, and triggerfishes are some of the fishes you’ll see here. White-tip reef sharks also frequent this area—if you’re lucky enough to spot them.

Shark Observatory

The Shark Observatory (or the Ras Mohammed Wall) hides an impressive underwater ecosystem. Predatory sea creatures, including whale sharks, roam around this diving site. Swim further down the depths and you’ll find alcyonarian corals and other marine fauna in gullies, shelters, and caves near the wall. Also, keep your eyes peeled for jackfish, barracuda, and sharks.

Shark & Yolanda Reef

Beautiful diving environments await you here. Shark Reef hosts different coral types in a sheer wall with a 700-meter depth, while a coral garden and pinnacles line the plateau on Yolanda Reef. You can also make your way to the Yolanda ship’s wreckage in the area between the Yolanda and Ras Mohammed reefs.

Ras Umm Sid

Ras Umm Sid features a drop-off point teeming with plenty of gorgonians. Different flora and fauna thrive in a plateau within this area, too. The Paradise and Temple areas are great locations for diving and spotting marine life.

Paradise

Glassfishes gather around a gentle slope in this diving site just north of Ras Umm Sid. Soft corals in a variety of colors adorn this slope, making it vibrant and lively. Paradise houses ornamental ergs as well.

Temple

A high pillar filled with corals and a 15-meter drop from the reef wall are the main attractions in the Temple area. Notable faunae include pinnacles, octopuses, Spanish dancers, and morays. If you’re diving here, bring a compass as you might wander off from your dive buddy or group.

Gubal Strait

Plenty of shipwrecks have occurred in these waters, making the Gubal Strait a top destination for reef and wreck diving. Around 30 dive sites lie in this diving spot, including the SS Thistlegorm wreck.

Thistlegorm Wreck

The remains of the British cargo ship SS Thistlegorm have settled in this area. Divers began to explore the wreckage after a skipper from Israel located it in 1991. Since then, the Thistlegorm wreck has become the Red Sea’s most visited wreck site. It’s perfect for experienced divers since it’s very shallow with powerful currents.

Dunraven Wreck

This wreck site teems with big marine faunae and macro life. Marvel at the soft and black corals, goatfishes, glassfishes, and morays thriving around the Dunraven or whip out your underwater camera and snap nudibranchs, scorpionfish, and pipefishes at its hull. Once you’ve finished touring the wreckage, check out the corals, barracudas, turtles, and more at the nearest reef.

Dahab

If you’re after a more serene diving experience, this little city gives you just that and more. Dahab’s dive sites boast rich marine life and clear waters. These elements have helped boost their popularity among divers. Divers can reach the city’s dive sites on foot.

The Canyon

A well-known dive spot for cave lovers and cavern divers, the Canyon has a remarkable coral dome swarming with glassfishes. The area also features coral heads in a reef with a gentle slope. Neptune’s Chair is a notable attraction lying within the Canyon; this throne-like rock formation is a sight to behold for technical divers.

Bells & Blue Hole

With a chimney-shaped formation, the Bells let you dive down to 28 meters. It has corals on both sides and a blue glow surrounding the scenery. A deeper dive will give you a great view of the overhangs within the sea wall and schools of fish. After swimming past the area, you’ll see a coral saddle that serves as your entry point inside the Blue Hole. Further diving at 56 meters will lead you to an archway in the east.

Marine Life

Many of the best diving spots in Sharm El-Sheikh teem with countless corals and fish species. Here are some of the faunae that you might encounter during your diving trip.
  • Glassfishes - These fish species with transparent bodies are part of the Chandidae family. They swim in freshwater, coastal areas, and river mouths. Glassfishes can be spotted in many of Sharm El-Sheikh’s dive sites, including the Dunraven Wreck and the Canyon in Dahab.
  • Triggerfishes- Triggerfishes swarm in tropical seas, coral reefs, and sea plants. These predatory creatures have deep bodies with vivid hues. Sightings usually take place in Jackson Reef and Jackfish Alley.
  • Malabar groupers - The Malabar grouper resides beneath sandy and muddy areas in reefs, lagoons, and estuaries. You’ll also find it in tide pools. The chimneys in Shark Observatory house this fish species.
  • Tuna - With bodies similar to torpedos, tuna move faster than other fish species around oceans. They also cross ocean waters efficiently using special muscles. Check these fishes out on Jackson Reef and Ras Za’atar.
  • Corals - Divers will find vast expanses of corals throughout Sharm El-Sheikh. From vibrant ones to rare species, you’ll see them in every dive site. These corals include gorgonian and black corals.

Other Attractions

Aside from having colorful diving spots, Sharm El-Sheikh is filled with historic and natural tourist attractions that you can explore after your dive. Put your travel gear on and check out the following places:
  • Nabq Protected Area - Various plants and animals call this picturesque landscape in Sharm El-Sheikh’s northern side home. The Bedouin also dwell here, and they’ll gladly tour you around the area. You can get souvenirs and handmade clothes from them, too.
  • Mount Sinai - Traditionally believed to be the site where Moses was given the Ten Commandments, it will take you 4,000 steps to reach the mountaintop. Fortunately, the beautiful scenery that awaits you will make the journey worthwhile.
  • Saint Catherine’s Monastery - Located below Mount Sinai, Saint Catherine’s Monastery was built in AD 530 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It’s recognized as one of the oldest existing monasteries in the world. Get a glimpse of the Rubus Sanctus bush when you visit the Chapel of the Burning Bush or drop by the Sacred Sacristy and immerse yourself in the monastery’s rich history.

How to Get There

By Air
If you’re flying to the city from Europe, it’s best to book a direct flight with any European airline. But expect a five-hour journey before landing in Sharm El-Sheikh. EgyptAir also offers direct flights to Sharm El-Sheikh from Cairo, which will only take you an hour.

By Sea
A fast boat ride from Hurghada is your best option for reaching Sharm El-Sheikh by sea. The travel time is approximately one and a half hours.

Getting Around
Many taxis and buses will take you around the city. But before riding a taxi, make sure to haggle with your driver for lower fares or ask them if they can put their meter on. That’s because most taxis don’t have meters. Otherwise, you’ll have to reach your destination by bus so you can get reasonable fares.

Best Time to Visit

The city experiences dry weather for most of the year, with potentially wet conditions in the summer. Divers usually flock to Sharm El-Sheikh in April or from mid-October to mid-November. It gets less crowded between May to August, so you can book your trip during these months if you want to avoid the crowds.

Required Trainings & Certifications

Novice, intermediate, and expert divers are welcome to dive in Sharm El-Sheikh’s fascinating underwater locations. Dive centers within the city offer different diving certification courses from PADI and other leading scuba organizations. But if you’re already certified, there are several dive sites that require specific certifications. These locations include the Blue Hole (Advanced certification) and the Straits of Tiran (Intermediate certification).

Miscellaneous Information

Currency
Egyptian pounds are accepted in all hotels, restaurants, and other areas within Sharm El-Sheikh. And if you’re taking traveler’s checks with you, you can exchange them for the currency in American Express or Thomas Cook offices in the city.

Language
Egyptian Arabic is Sharm El-Sheikh’s official language. Many residents speak foreign languages as well.

Time Zone
Sharm El-Sheikh’s local time falls under UTC/GMT +2 or Eastern European Time (EET).

Driving Side
Driving in Sharm El-Sheikh, like in the rest of Egypt, is done on the right-hand side of the road. If you’re driving a rented car, always remember to use a seatbelt during your ride. You should also take an international driving license and other important papers with you if you plan to drive.

Calling Code
To contact anyone in Egypt from another country, you’ll need to dial +20 before their phone number.

ISO 3166 code
EG-JS is the ISO 3166 code for the South Sinai region (covering Sharm El-Sheikh).

Internet TLD
.eg is the top-level Internet domain for Egypt.