When I was growing up, I was obsessed with learning about ancient Egypt and the pyramids. It turns out, contrary to my 10 year old self’s beliefs, Egypt isn’t only ancient ruins, artifacts and desert but has amazing resorts and beaches on the ocean! Scuba diving in the Red Sea is actually one of the world’s top diving locations and here you can discover some of the most beautiful coral reefs and shipwrecks.
As a trip ambassador for Scuba Getaway I often get asked where my favourite place I have travelled is, and I always struggle with choosing just one BUT Egypt is always a top contender on my list. I love the culture, the food, the history, and of course – the diving. I am so excited that Egypt will be an annual trip on our calendar each year so that everyone can have the chance to experience the magic of the Red Sea!
SHARM EL SHEIKH & THE SAVOY HOTEL
Our trip starts out in the well known Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, just a quick connecting flight from Cairo. Sharm El Sheikh sits between the desert and the Red Sea, and is known for it’s sandy beaches, clear waters and stunning coral reefs. You can expect the weather in Egypt during April and May to be heating up right before summer which is a great time to travel there and not have to deal with insufferable heat.
We stay at the Savoy Hotel Resort which is right in the middle of SOHO Square (a shopping and entertainment complex filled with restaurants and things to do). The Savoy gives luxury Caribbean resort vibes with its white architecture, multiple swimming pools, beach and palm trees. From here we have an opportunity to relax and adjust to the jet lag after travelling from Canada, but the few days we spend here also give us the opportunity explore the city of Sharm El Sheikh.
My previous trip here, we went to the Sharm El Sheikh market in the evening and it was bustling. The most popular feature of the market is the stunning Al Sahaba Mosque. It is open to tour during other times of the day when daily prayer rituals are not happening, however due to the religious nature we must be very respectful, and dress appropriately to enter (this means fully covered arms, chest, and legs).
A very special additional itinerary item to our trip is a Bedouin dinner in the desert. A bus drives us out into the mountains, where the hills are lined with candles and down at the bottom is a beautiful set up of blankets, pillows, tents, and a large fire. Here the local community cooks a dinner over BBQ, complemented by a belly dancing show & traditional shisha smoking. It is such a magical way to experience Egypt at night under the stars, and spend time together as a group.
SOUTH MOON LIVEABOARD
After our stay at the Savoy we move on to the main feature of our trip – the South Moon Liveaboard. Liveaboard diving is my favourite way to experience scuba diving. You get that big boat luxury feeling when you lay up on the sundecks and cruise around the open ocean. The liveaboard advantage for divers means an extended reach to allow you to travel to more secluded dive sites not easily accessed from land. There is a saying on liveaboards when it comes to the day to day schedule: Eat, Dive, Sleep, Repeat. On a liveaboard you can take full advantage to maximize your dive schedule, expect up to 4 dives per day leaving time in between for eating and resting.
The South Moon Liveaboard accommodates up to 18 guests in a fully air-conditioned cabins with en-suite bathrooms. There is a spacious sun deck on the flybridge with bean bags and comfy seating, plus a large open air social area on the upper deck. The dive deck is wide and neatly organized with fresh-water showers as well as a bathroom. Nitrox is available for EANx certified divers. There are 2 zodiacs to whisk divers out the best sites, and the dive platform has 2 ladders for easy access to and from the water. The divemasters and guides on the boat are always very knowledgable in planning a wonderful dive itinerary for us, and the crew is friendly and helpful. The South Moon was recently upgraded with new finishes since the last time I have been on it so I am very excited to see it’s new look.
THE RED SEA
Diving in the Red Sea you can expect water temperatures from 20C – 30C depending on the time of year. In April and May for our upcoming trips the water temperatures will average about 24C, so a 5mm wetsuit will keep most divers comfortable. The visibility is generally excellent and varies between 20 and 50 meters, and currents can range from totally absent to very strong depending on the dive site. Due to the high air temperature and aridity of the regions surrounding the Red Sea, the high evaporation rate of the water causes the Red Sea to have an extremely high salinity content. Rinsing off after every dive is very needed or you will be covered in crystallized salts!
In the Northern Red Sea where our diving itinerary will take us, you will find Ras Mohammed National Park and the Strait of Tiran – two of the Red Sea’s most famous dive destinations. Some of the dive sites contained in these two areas are rated among the top dives in the world. The Strait of Tiran has Jackson Reef, Woodhouse Reef, Thomas Reef and Gordon Reef. Ras Mohammed Marine Park is just south of the Sharm El- Sheikh coast, dive sites here include Yolanda reef, Shark reef, Anemone City and Eel Garden. These amazing reefs offer an abundance of colourful marine life, my personal favourite being the anemone fish. Many of these sites have a long list of shipwrecks to accompany them!
WORLD CLASS SHIPWRECKS
The Red Sea is filled with many exciting shipwrecks from different time periods throughout history, it truly is a wreck diver’s paradise.
By far the most famous wreck in the Red Sea is the SS Thistlegorm. This British Merchant Navy ship sank in 1941 during WWII after suffering extensive damage during a German bombing raid while trying to navigate the sea to deliver guns and equipment to Suez. Since then, it stayed at the bottom of the sea, filled with WWII artifacts such as motorcycles, trucks, rifles, ammunition, and military boots. To see this wreck in it’s entirety usually takes 3 separate dives. Its depth ranges from 15m to 30m at it’s deepest point, and it has a length of 125m. There are 3 large open holds that divers can penetrate and see the various military cargo.
Other notable wrecks include the SS Dunraven a British steamship sank in 1876, and the Yolanda from 1980 carrying a shipment of bathtubs and toilets. The reef of Abu Nuhas is located directly in the middle of the Strait of Gubal – a very close proximity to notable shipping lanes, and over history has claimed 4 wrecks. All wrecks on this reef lie on the northern side, the oldest being the Carnatic a British steamer from 1869, the youngest of the still visible wrecks is the Ghiannis D shipwrecked in 1983. Two others include the Marcus from 1981 carrying a shipment of tiles, and Kimon M. from 1978.These wrecks are just a few of the vast list of what you can kind in the Red Sea.
CAIRO & MENA HOUSE HOTEL
Of course no trip to Egypt would be complete without time spent in Cairo. The final stop on our adventure will bring us to Mena House Marriott Hotel – a 5-star hotel with an unobstructed view of the pyramids. Our first evening in Cairo will take us to the old bazaar of Khan El Khalili in “old Cairo”. This is an open market filled with local artisans and vendors, it is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs or just enjoy the atmosphere of Egyptian culture.
Our final trip day will be one of the most memorable. We head to the main tourist destination – the Great Pyramids and Sphinx statue. They are truly a wonder to see in person, and certain pyramids will even be open to tour inside for an additional fee. My favourite part has to be the camel rides, surrounding the pyramids are groups of guides that will get you up on to a camel and go for a walk with the pyramids along your side. The absolute perfect photo op for your Egypt trip!
I am so excited to be heading to Egypt on this amazing adventure again in just a few short weeks, if you have not considered the Red Sea as a must-dive destination I hope I might have just added it to your bucket list for you – Meghan, TSC Instructor