To be honest with you I was a bit reluctant to go to Egypt’s ‘Red Sea Riviera’. Hurghada was one of Egypt’s very first tourist destinations on the Red Sea and there are flight services from three UK airports. The development was rapid and that kind of shows. But just 40 minutes down the coast is Soma Bay, a relatively new enclave of resorts that leaves your less desirable holiday scene in the desert dust.
Soma Bay is built on a small peninsula with views over the glittering sea to the Red Sea Mountain Range. There are just five hotels here – the Kempinski Soma Bay, a Sheraton, Cascades, Robinsons and Breakers – set beside an 18-hole golf course, a dive centre and a kite surfing base.
My eco-travel hackles went up at the sight of that smooth green golf course but actually it is irrigated by recycled water from the hotels and Soma Bay has its own high-tech desalination plant. As a group, the Soma Bay hotels have a strong sustainability record and have won several awards for this. In many ways it is a self-sufficient resort and they support local producers, particularly for seafood.
The other great thing is that you can drink the water straight from the taps in your room. I stayed at the Kempinski and swam in five freshwater pools, ate the fruit and had ice in my drinks – it was all no problem and very comforting with a two-year-old Wandering Kiwi Jr.
I had a look around all the hotels and they are all equally beautifully laid out and landscaped. And peaceful. There were 70 children staying at the Kempinski when we were there but you would never know it. Even at mealtimes at the sumptuous buffet, there was calm. There are other a la carte restaurants as well and you can get on the free shuttle bus and go eat out at the other hotels. They have clearly invested a lot in training the international staff because the service was genuinely impeccable.
Egypt’s Red Sea is obviously a diving Mecca but I had read negative things about the damage to the coral reefs from the overabundance of dive boats. Soma Bay has its own 1.5-kilometre house reef and I went snorkelling right off the jetty over some of the most beautiful coral and tropical fish I have seen around the world. Remember the best diving and snorkelling visibility is often in winter.
The Orca Dive Centre is friendly and professional with a full range of qualifications and courses available up to dive master. It puts high importance on protecting this delicate marine environment. Mr Wandering Kiwi did a trial scuba dive – again stepping right off the jetty into the gorgeous waters to see stunning, colourful soft and hard corals. There are no jetskis or banana boats here. I’m sorry I don’t have any underwater photos but it is gorgeous!
At the end of a bumpy road along from Soma Bay is the very funky kite surfing club, where you can come either to take part or just to chill by the beach and have a drink. Watching the kite surfing acrobatics and the windsurfers and catamarans scudding across Soma Bay.
So there you have it, I couldn’t recommend Soma Bay more for a holiday beside Egypt’s Red Sea. We visited Soma Bay on the Red Sea at the coldest time of the year – in January – and the weather was beautiful with 20 degree C sunshine during the day. In fact Soma Bay gets around one day of rain per year.
It does get cold at night so once you have watched the sun plunge behind the Red Sea Mountains, casting coloured pink and mauve streamers across the sky, it is time to leave the beach beds and head indoors, perhaps to enjoy a drink at the Eagles’ Nest bar. Not sure about the choice of name but it is the highest point on the Soma Bay peninsula and perfect for a romantic drink on the shisha terrace or a game of billiards in the comfy-sofa-lined lounge.
By Natasha von Geldern
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