Diving in South Sinai
Home to the fabled Ras Muhammad National Park, the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula has fascinated the world's diving population for decades. With dozens of world-class dive sites, dedicated aficionados return year after year. Despite the huge volume of diving traffic, the area still hides some virtually undiscovered diving gems.
Sinai weather is characterized by hot, dry summers and cool, dry winters. Summer highs reach 40 degrees (104 F) or more, while winter lows in December and January can fall close to freezing in the desert, though the coastline tends toward more moderate daytime temperatures of 20 degrees (68 F) or more. Rainfall is minimal to non-existent, and sunny skies are the norm in summer or winter.
From the tiny, glittering jewels of basslets to the stately grandeur of a 1.5m (5ft) bumphead parrotfish, these reefs encompass the full range of coral reef fishes. Sharks abound in some seasons, with greys, hammerheads, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks cruising along the coastal reefs, while other marine species such as hawksbill turtles and even dolphins are frequently sighted. Invertebrates such as octopus, cuttlefish and squid are also common.
Best known for its pristine walls of exquisite hard corals, South Sinai offers an equal wealth of soft corals among its hugely varied repertoire of reefs. With reef profiles ranging from sheer, undercut cliffs to gently undulating coral fields, the area is a living encyclopedia of tropical corals.
The great depth and sheer walls of the southern Gulf of Aqaba give the Sinai coast admirably clear waters form ost of the year. Visibility is in the 20 to 30m (65-100ft) range, with only occasional reductions due to algal or planktonic blooms. Sea temperatures fall between a summer high of 28 to 29 degrees (82-84 F) and winter lows in the low twenties (70 F). Wetsuits might be considered optional in the summer months, but repetitive dives make even the warmest water feel cold, and in winter a 5-7mm (0.20-0.28in) suit with hood would not be unreasonable.
With very few exceptions, organized diving in South Sinai is done from dive boats which drop you off directly above your chosen site and make access a simple matter of jumping overboard. Trips are generally done on a two-dive per day basis, with a hot meal cooked on board between dives. Many of the sites can also be accessed form shore, and for the fully equipped, experienced diver with access to a vehicle, this can be an excellent way of avoiding the crowds.
Dive Operators and Facilities
Sharm El Sheikh boasts a large and growing number of dive centers of international quality. Equipment, facilities and level of training are all generally superb, and, with so much competition around, there is enough pressure to keep standards high and prices reasonable.
Local Dive Etiquette
As a new arrival, you may be asked to go on a checkout dive before moving on tothe prime dive sites. This precaution is for your safety and in the interest of preserving the delicate ecology of local reefs. As a responsible diver you should graciously accept it as a small price to pay for visiting these natural marvels.
You should also note that it is standard practice for local centers to ban any diver who is seen destroying coral on a dive.
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Last Updated: May 29th, 2011
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