For thousands of tourists, Egypt has long been a prime holiday destination – sunny, sandy and full of glorious beaches, the attraction is obvious. As a diver, I go to Egypt for what lies beneath the waves of the Red Sea. In short, an abundance of marine life largely unparalleled by few other places on Earth.
Perhaps the most enticing thing about Egypt is that it is largely accessible for everyone. A large budget and a second student loan are not required.
In recent times, the price of a package holiday to Egypt has plummeted – The country’s role in the Arab Spring combined with ongoing turbulence across the Middle East have largely been identified as the main culprits. After MetroJet flight 9268 crashed in the Sinai desert, questions were also raised as to whether it was safe for overseas holidaymakers to travel to Egypt.
Since late 2015 some tourists have not been able to fly directly into Sharm El Sheikh, such as those from the UK, which was both a huge shame but also a huge opportunity for divers to explore other parts of such a diverse country. At present, an all-inclusive week in Hurghada could cost as little as $400 USD. Of course, this is before we add on the diving costs, but even so, that’s not half bad at all.
Three hours south of through Hurghada however, lies Marsa Alam. The chances are, you’ve already heard of the place.
What was once a small fishing village 20 years ago is now emerging as one of the best places for diving in the world.
It’s a million miles away from the buzzing atmosphere of Sharm, but Marsa Alam offers a much calmer experience and the diving is incredible. It is becoming a not-so-hidden gem, perhaps because divers are looking for an alternative to the resorts in South Sinai and dive magazines are showcasing what Marsa Alam has to offer in glossy 10 page-spreads on a fairly regular basis.
The abundance of endangered Green Turtles in Marsa Alam is a year-round treat, along with a high concentration of Dugong or Sea Cows. These tend to feed on the Sea Grass at Marsa Mubarak and Marsa Abu Dabab dive sites, both of which can be accessed by shore. If you’re an advanced diver, Elphinstone Reef offers some of the best chances to see Oceanic Whitetip Sharks and Brothers Island could even leave you with a sighting of a Great Hammerhead – now that is an all-inclusive holiday. Bottlenose and Spinner Dolphins also make regular appearances en-route to dive sites, and Sh’aab Samadai (Dolphin House Reef) is always a popular option for younger divers and snorkelers. Its novice diver rating combined with excellent wildlife spotting opportunities (a resident pod of Dolphins never fails to amaze) makes it a family friendly dive trip with something for everyone.
Accommodation varies from 5 star all-inclusive resorts (Such as The Three Corners Fayrouz Plaza or the Hilton) to more “backpacker” style digs, like the ever popular Marsa Shagra and Marsa Nakari dive camps, which are situated on the beach less that 100 yards from the reef. Liveaboards are also a popular option for divers as they offer three dives a day, seven days a week, for the full Red Sea experience, which is most definitely offered in Marsa Alam.