Egypt’s Red Sea is well known for its diving and snorkelling. I have heard increasingly over the past few years about the decaying state of the coral in the Red Sea thanks to pollution and excess sediment from development and erosion.
The problem is also serious in south-east Asia where rising sea temperatures and damaging fishing practices are leaving coral grey and dying. Soft corals are particularly vulnerable to rising sea temperatures. I know, I have seen the dead coral gardens while snorkelling in Malaysia and Indonesia.
However, just up the coast from Hurghada I went snorkelling over some of the most beautiful coral and tropical fish I have seen around the world. Hurghada was one of Egypt’s very first tourist destinations on the Red Sea and there are flight services from three UK airports so it is very easy to get there.
Although the political situation in Egypt continues to be unsettled the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice on Egypt currently does not advise against travel to the Red Sea resorts, in fact it makes specific exception for travel to resorts such as Hurghada. It’s a perfect winter break (we went in January).
There are many dive centres and water sports facilities around Hurghada. Just up the coast in Soma Bay I had a great experience when staying at the Kempinski Soma Bay. The Orca Dive Club is right next door, where the 80-metre-deep, 1.5-metre-long house reef has especially pristine corals.
Here it is still easy to see live soft coral such as exquisite sea fans or gorgonians, as well as tree coral and anthias. Darting in amongst these is a wonderful aray of marine life, from the vibrant yellow Masked Butterflyfish to the quirky Picasso Triggerfish, among many, many others.
The 420-metre-long private jetty long jetty makes it an easy stroll out to the drop off. There are a number of snorkelling access points along the way and there are electric cars to carry heavy dive equipment and divers to the drop off.
A large turquoise-blue lagoon lies at the front of the reef and provides sheltered waters ideal for training. There is a full range of courses and qualifications available – from the basic PADI open water up to dive master.
You can also do a half-day ‘discover scuba dive’ experience. Mr Wandering Kiwi did one of these – climbing down the ladder right off the jetty into the gorgeous waters to see stunning, colourful soft and hard corals.
It was reassuring to find an important focus on protecting the delicate marine environment of the Red Sea. They do offer boat trips but it is more common to run house reef dives off the jetty, which makes for civilised start times… There is snorkel gear for hire in the shop and you can join a guided group if you are a newbie snorkeller. You can even snorkel straight off the beach here.
Remember the best diving and snorkelling visibility is often in winter and also, in the cooler weather the bigger fish come closer to the reef. Barracuda, turtles and eagle rays are frequent visitors and sometimes you can see dolphins from the shore.
It is a relaxed and friendly dive centre. There is a bar and café attached to the dive centre where you can get a tasty spaghetti bolognaise. And a lounging area for the evening with big cushions and they have an open-air cinema and a DJ some nights.
There are no jetskis or banana boats here. I don’t have any underwater photos (the above marine life pics are taken directly from the jetty) but I promise you it is gorgeous!
By Natasha von Geldern
Where is your favourite place to dive in the Red Sea?