Sharm El Sheikh to Hurghada
The clear blue waters between Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada hide some of the Read Sea's biggest surprises, such as stunning reefs and mysterious shipwrecks, the legacy of the maritime trade that has flowed through the region for millennia. Strewn across the Straits of Gubal, gateway to the Suez Canal, the reefs of this region are as rich in history as they are in natural beauty.
This area includes dive sites in Shaab Mahmud and Shaab Ali, the Straits of Gubal and Hurghada, spread across 74km (40 nautical miles) of open sea between the tip of Ras Muhammad and the Egyptian mainland at Hurghada. The sites can be reached form either Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada.
Tempered by sea breezes from the gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, temperatures are mild in winter and blazing hot in summer, often reaching 40 degrees (104 F) or more. Rainfall is minimal and limited to the winter months. Beware of the danger of fierce sunlight and cover up, using a good sunscreen.
A combination of local features including isolated reefs, big tidal movement and lack of nearby intensive fishing, adds up to perfect conditions for reef and schooling fish. Along with the large range of colorful reef species the area boasts some big pelagics and some massive schools of gregarious species. Sharks, even hammerheads, are regularly spotted here and sea turtles are common. These reefs also offer some of the best chances in the northern Red Sea to swim with dolphins in the wild.
The range of coral species is astounding, and while the occasionally rough sea conditions in these open waters can cause some damage to the reefs, most of the coral growth is in excellent condition. The area boasts some extensive reef systems, incorporating branching Acropora, vast fields of cabbage coral, bommies and outcrops of massive species such as Favites and Porites and gently waving dendronephthiid soft corals.
One of the real highlights of diving in this region are the well-preserved, accessible shipwrecks that litter the seabed across the entrance to the Gulf of Suez. At least six major wrecks lie in easy reach of Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada. There are 19th century mail steamers, modern cargo ships and historic spice traders lying on the bottom of this stretch of sea, all waiting to be explored.
Seasonal temperature variation is quite similar to that found in southern Sinai. Water temperatures range from the upper twenties (80s F) in the summer to winter lows as cold as 19 to 20 degrees (66-68 F). You may be comfortable enough in just a swimskin in summer, particularly if you normally dive in cold water. Conversely, in the wintertime, some locals use drysuits! A 3mm (0.12in) or even a 5mm (0.20) wetsuit would not be out of order for most of the year.
As autumn progresses to winter, the prevailing northerly winds in the area change. Long swells pushed by the south wind have the entire length of the Red Sea to build up, and by the time they reach the Straits of Gubal, they can be pretty powerful. Conditions are rarely so bad that diving is impossible, but the boat ride can get rough, particularly since so many of the sites in the area are on open-sea reefs. If you suffer from seasickness take a good supply of motion-sickness tablets.
The vast majority of the sites in the region lie some distance offshore and, while most can be done as day trips from either Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada, a much more relaxing and enjoyable way to dive them is as part of a short live-aboard trip. Dive centers in both Sharm and Hurghada organize 'mini live-aboards' from one night to seven nights.
Dive Operators and Facilities
Both Sharm and Hurghada are packed with dive centers. The vast majority of centers in both resorts are highly professional, with excellent equipment, facilities and organisations, and multilingual dive staff and instructors trained to the highest international standards.
Local Dive Etiquette
It is important that every diver does his or her bit to preserve the reef environment. If you're diving from Hurghada, you might want to dive with a center belonging to HEPCA, the Hurghada Environmental Protection Association. This voluntary organisation is working to preserve the area's reefs form further destruction, and has already raised funds to sink permanent moorings at many of the most popular sites.
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Last Updated: May 29th, 2011
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