The Red Sea Area
The Red Sea is without doubt the most popular overseas destination for UK divers. It rather conveniently links the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean and yet, is world’s apart from both. With great hotels, year round sunshine, fabulous underwater clarity and an abundance of marine life, it’s very easy to see why. Add to that the relatively short flight times of about 5 hours and the low in resort costs involved, it means that despite the current economic climate, it is likely to remain hugely attractive for the foreseeable future. As Dive Odyssea is an agent for all the main dive tour operators such as Regaldive, Kuoni, and Longwood etc we organise regular diving holidays to the area for exactly the same price as the one you see in the brochure. No mark up’s and no add on’s. Guaranteed. See our World Wide Trips page for this years fabulous offerings.
The areas huge diversity of activities attract both divers and non divers alike which makes it a very popular option for families or groups that number non divers amongst their ranks. Whilst the divers go off for a spot of sub aquatic recreation, the rest of the family or group can enjoy all the other amenities that these international holiday resorts have to offer. Everybody then meets up later for drinks and the evenings entertainment so that way, everyone gets to do what they want to do on their holiday. Simples!
The resorts offer the full range of accommodation options from budget up to 5 star luxury but at all pricing levels, the hotels compare very favourably with their Mediterranean equivalents. This becomes particularly relevant if you are going as a family. As a general rule, it’s considerably cheaper to eat out in the Red Sea than it is in the other popular sunshine destinations. The major resorts are located within an easy 15 minute transfer from the airport by air conditioned bus with the smaller resorts no more than about 45 minutes away. Whether it’s the Sinai peninsular or the mainland coast, there is something to attract all ages.
Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
The Red Sea diving centres provide a huge range of options to suit all levels of experience from the complete novices right up to the Techies that do it deep, dark & dangerous.
Just about all of them offer diving package options of between one to six days duration so if you are heading out for a full on dive holiday, you can have a weeks package (6 days) for about £220 whilst a three day dive pack will cost you about £130. Individual days are about £50 per person. This is a rough guide so it’s worth shopping around but in order to get the best out of your trip without paying over the odds, these prices are a pretty good guide. This is the price range that we opt for when we organise trips here at Dive Odyssea and after having run four Red Sea trips a year since 1995, we like to think that we’ve got a pretty good idea of what works best for our divers. So what exactly does one get for ones dollar?
Whatever dive package you choose, each days diving should include two dives from a boat with tanks and weights provided. No other equipment is supplied but you can generally hire this at additional cost either in resort upon arrival or from us here at Dive Odyssea before you go. That’s the reason why regular divers take their own kit (minus tank & weights) or hire from us as a weeks kit hire in resort can become expensive when added to your basic dive package price. The local dive operator cannot of course guarantee to provide you with a wet suit that is a perfect fit and to be perfectly frank, how many other people have peed in that hire suit before you? Just a thought!
The boats themselves are big and well appointed with both a separate sun deck and dive deck for our convenience. They have an inside salon where meals are taken or where you can get out of the sun and have a doze if you wish to or just sit quietly with a book.
Most boats leave harbour about 08:30 in the morning and return around 4:30 in the afternoon so you will be out at sea all day with the boat mooring up on site between dives in order to have lunch. Lunch and soft drinks are usually provided at an additional modest cost and it is well worth the money because the food is plentiful and the soft drinks & water unlimited. Non diving partners & families are more than welcome to have a day out on the dive boat just to chill out, sun bathe or snorkel so there is no need to get left back on shore if you don’t want to. There is a fee for this but it’s pretty modest and because of the size of the day fleet boats, there is plenty of room. They too can have the lunch option.
The beauty of diving with a club is that because of the size of the group, you get to have a big say in what sites you get to dive. If you travel as an individual or as a couple, you tend to be subjected to the preference of the dive guide or the big dive group that’s on board. If the site is one that you’ve visited on a previous trip but don’t really want to visit again tough.
The Red Sea has some truly great coral reefs just waiting to be explored. A lot of these can be reached by literally dropping off the end of the jetty at your hotel. Others of course require the popular day boat option. The ones nearer the shore line tend not to be that spectacular as they are heavily dived and, sad to say, therefore somewhat abused. Having said that, the coral is still well worth a dive and there is still plenty of marine life to see but by far the better option is the boat trip. The area has some remarkable wildlife on offer such as puffer fish, sweet lips, moray eels, sergeant major fish, turtles, sharks, trevally, tuna, octopus, whale sharks, manatees and manta rays. That’s just a few of the thousands of different fish and mammals you may see throughout the Red Sea area. The coral itself is endless, incorporating all the colours of the rainbow and with no two sites the same, you’ll be spoilt for choice. For the photographers amongst you, you’ll not know where to point your camera next.
Shipwrecks are also another big feature of the Red Sea.
Man has been traversing this stretch of water since the dawn of time and it was those ancient sailors that gave the sea its name. It’s not named after the colour of the sea itself; the name describes the hue of the surrounding mountains in the early morning and late afternoon light.
Those same mariners have over the millennia left vast quantities of cargo and ships for us divers to explore. The Thistlegorm, the Rosalie Muller, Dunraven, Carnatic, Giannis D, Salem Express and the Yolanda are just some of the time capsules we have the opportunity to dive and explore.
Some wreck and reef sites are more heavily dived than others of course which can sometimes make it difficult to get in the water without treading on a diver (OK I exaggerate a bit but they are very popular). As a general rule, the further south you go, the more unspoiled both the resort and the dive sites become. This general rule also applies to the abundance and diversity of the marine life as well.
There are many locations that cater for the diving tourist and all of them offer pretty similar diving packages. The resorts range from the northern town of Eilat in Southern Israel, south through the Egyptian resorts of Taba, Neiweba, Dahab, Safaga, El Quasir and Zabargad. These are maybe less well known than some of the other locations but all of them offer great underwater visibility, stunning coral and endless sunshine. We’ll take a more in depth look at the resorts that Dive Odyssea tends to use on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean that we don’t visit those other locations, we do, but not on quite such a regular basis. After 15 years, we’ve gained a wealth of diving knowledge relating to the Red Sea and so we know all the best places to visit and when to go there.
Sharm El Sheikh
Located in the Straits of Tiran on the Sinai peninsular, this is by far the best known and hectic of all the resorts and has been accommodating divers for over 30 years. From its beginnings as a very small fishing port, it has burgeoned into an international holiday resort entertaining tourists from all over Europe and Russia.
It has everything a tourist hotspot could ask for and a few things you wouldn’t ask for! Its focal point is centred on Na’ama Bay and this is where the majority of the resorts evening activities take place. It has shops, bars, restaurants and then more shops, bars and restaurants so there is always plenty of places to go after a days diving. Every type of food imaginable is available in downtown Sharm ranging from Steaks, Burgers, Pizza, Thai, Italian, Indian and Chinese food through to Kentucky Fried Chicken and the ubiquitous McDonalds!
Most of the hotels have either their own private beach or else have access to one nearby so if you’re not a diver, daytimes tend to be centred here or around the hotel pool. The non divers amongst you will probably not want to be doing much else during the heat of the day except for lounging around the pool or beach with a book and a cold drink in your hand. For the more adventurous, or stupid depending on your viewpoint, there is quad biking, camel trekking, ten pin bowling or maybe a very early morning visit to St Catherines Monastery located at the top of the overlooking Mount Sinai. This is said to be the location that God handed to Moses the tablets containing the Ten Commandments although after a night in the local bars, I suspect you might be interested in a different type of tablet first thing in the morning!
Diving wise, the reefs in the Straits of Tiran are easily accessible from here and are justifiably popular. Jackson, Woodhouse, Thomas & Gordon reefs have some of the most stunning coral to be seen and there is also a chance of seeing Hammerhead sharks in the right conditions. Ras Mohammed National ParkFuture wreck with its popular reefs and the ‘Yolanda’ wreck are within easy reach and with the world renowned wreck of the ‘Thistlegorm’ nearby, it’s easy to see why this resort is so popular.
Hurghada is probably the second most popular resort in the Red Sea and lies on the mainland coast. (The left hand side of the sea on the map!) The nearby town of Sakhara has less of a central focus but still has everything that Sharm has to offer in the way of amenities and nightlife. It is slightly less commercialised, (though fast catching up) than its more famous sister resort but that in no way detracts from its appeal. Over recent years, this too has expanded so Hurghada and Sakhara are almost one and the same place with shops and restaurants now linking the two. This is the most popular resort for Dive Odyssea divers as it has something for everyone but has less bustle than Sharm. Because of its location, the ancient Egyptian temples at Karnak are a day trip from here and make for a different experience particularly if you are a non diver or just fancy a day off from diving.
This resort offers standards of accommodation to suit all budgets and the dive operators offer exactly the same service as Sharm el Sheikh and the other Red Sea towns. The wrecks of Abu Nuhas with the Giannis D & Carnatic wrecks are just a day boat ride away and generally speaking, the reefs here tend to offer more of a sloping vista rather than dramatic drop off as in Sharm. Catering for beginners and experienced divers alike, it too has huge appeal for the non diver as well as those just wanting to do nothing but dive beneath the waves.
Marsa Alam is becoming more and more popular with us here in the UK as it is considerably less commercialised than the more northerly resorts and is that much more laid back as a result. Incorporating Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam has a brand new marina complex in resort and it’s clear that in a year or two, this will become a very popular attraction for holidaymakers and divers alike.
At this moment in time, it’s still nice and quiet but well worth an evening or two in its restaurants and bars. The evening entertainment in resort tends to be hotel based and they themselves are spread quite widely which adds to the very laid back atmosphere of the trip. If you are looking to have exciting evenings out on the town then this resort, at the moment, is probably not for you. For those looking for a relaxing week by the pool or a week of excellent diving, then you can’t go wrong if you book Marsa Alam. We have run dive trips here for the past two or three years and it is a justifiably popular choice.
We are returning again this year. The dive sites are all very local and with less dive tour operators competing with each other, the sites are considerably less crowded than other areas. The coral itself is still in excellent condition and once again, the area is suitable for all levels of diving ability. Manatees and spinner dolphins are a popular attraction here but just as the other resorts offer a wide diversity of fauna, so does Marsa Alam. With the recently opened international airport just 15 minutes away, direct UK flights make this resort readily accessible.
Red Sea Liveaboards
This form of diving holiday is becoming more and more attractive and as a result, more and more affordable. We tend to organise one Red Sea Liveaboard trip a year and they are very popular holidays with our club members. Passengers board the ship as soon as they arrive in resort and this Red Sea Liveaboard comes your base for the next week of your holiday. It sails as soon as everyone is aboard and doesn’t touch land again for the duration of the trip.
By diving from a liveaboard, you get the opportunity to visit sites that are out of the reach of the day boat fleet or you can dive multiple sites close to multiple day resorts. This means that sites at Hurghada, Sharm and Marsa Alam can all be reached in a single weeks diving. The liveaboard fleet also sail a lot further south than a day boat could hope to reach which provides diving experiences that shore based divers never get to have. The boats themselves are very well appointed bordering on luxurious and just about all of them offer twin and double air conditioned cabins. With separate seating and dining areas along with wide flat screen TVs and DVD players, these boats are truly home from home. Three or four dives per day is the norm as opposed to just two if you are shore based and the trip is usually run on an all inclusive basis. The only item not included in the price is your alcohol intake. If you weigh up the total cost of a weeks shore trip on a bed and breakfast basis with two dives per day against the liveaboard option with unlimited diving and all your meals, snacks and soft drinks included, they compare very favourably indeed.
The possible downside to this option is if you are not the worlds best sailor and suffer from sea sickness. Once you are at sea, you are at sea and short of a life threatening illness, you will not be getting off for a week. Its not an ideal trip for non diving partners for obvious reasons and on some itineries, you will be required to show proof of at least 50 dives before you can book as some of the dive sites may be a bit too challenging for the less experienced diver.
This, I hope, gives you a reasonable idea of what to expect on a Red Sea trip. We cannot of course give you a fully comprehensive run down of all it has to offer but this page should at least leave you better informed on what to expect when you visit. We truly do have a wealth of Red Sea diving experience gained over many years of organising and running trips to just about all the resorts mentioned. We can even organise individual holidays at the same price you see in the brochures. So if you’re not even travelling with us, we can still book your trip at a great price.