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A Red Sea diving holiday in Egypt is simply unforgettable. Well-established diving centres will gladly provide you with scuba diving information and arrange courses, daily excursions, and live-aboard trips to almost anywhere, from the gigantic coral outcrops of Taba to the vertical walls of Ras Mohammed, from the wrecks of Sha'ab Abu Nuhas to the lonely offshore islands of The Brothers and Zabargad. The Red Sea is dubbed Egypt’s “Garden of Allah”, due to the wealth of underwater pristine life.
The Egyptian Red Sea offers the world's best scuba diving: at only a few hours by plane from Europe, you find superb visibility (up to 50 metres), abundant and diverse fish life (over 1,000 species), countless varieties of hard and soft coral (over 400 species), year-round diving in comfortable water temperatures (18° to 26° Celsius), incredibly diverse underwater topography, spectacular wall and shipwreck destinations, sunny weather and pleasant air temperatures (18° to 40° Celsius), and easy access to diving locations. Browse through our Red Sea dive sites maps and you will be impressed by the range of diving possibilities.
It is no surprise therefore that Red Sea diving is one of the most sought-after holidays. Whether a hopeful wannabe or expert diver, eight year-old kid or sporting grandmother, diving can be experienced and enjoyed by nearly everyone.
The Red Sea is an enormous basin, 2350km (≈1400 miles) long by about 350km (≈220 miles) broad at its widest point, enclosed to the north by the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, and at its southernmost point the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which is hundreds of metres deep. The sea is has a truly unique ecosystem, surrounded as it is, by red-hued bauxite mountains that some believe to be the origin of the name Mare Rostrum – the Red Sea. It was formed 25 million years ago by the separation of the African Continent from the Arabian Peninsula. It is distinguished by the volcanic activity in its shallows, its regular currents, the small tidal range, a salt content of 4.1% (the world’s seas average 3.2%), and a water temperature that drops only slightly in its depths.
The Red Sea has been a commercial highway between the East and the West since classical antiquity. Boats departed loaded with copper, pottery, and cloths to return laden with silks, spices, wood, and even elephants. The cutting of the Suez Canal in 1869 boosted and encouraged a tradition of many centuries of sailing, interspersed with shipwrecks and piratry. Today the Sea is an essential destination for divers the world over.
AN ARMY OF BUILDERS: THE CORALS
Over 250 species of coral exist in the Red Sea, 8% of which are endemic. The organism is made up of “heads” of polyps.
Half animal and half vegetable, the corals have invaded the reefs like an army of builders. When a colony dies, another starts building on its calcareous skeleton… But this activity can be misleading as, depending on the species, it only grows at a rate of a few millimetres or centimetres per year – so it takes thousands of years for the coral to carpet the seafloor and model out the relief.
A GIANT AQUARIUM
With 1248 species, of which 17% are endemic, the Red Sea is like a magnificent aquarium, and its reefs are a haven for many species of fish. Some use them to hide from predators, others lay their eggs there, and for most the reefs are their feeding grounds.
There is a seemingly infinite aquatic palette of shapes, colours, spots, and stripes. But great care must be taken – it is forbidden to touch these creatures, and some of them can be dangerous. So, keep your hands out of harm’s way and concentrate on controlling your buoyancy instead!
Although they are rarely aggressive in the Red Sea, it must always be remembered that sharks are predators. Resist the temptation to provoke a reaction from reef and whitetip sharks, which are known for their curiosity and timidity, and the nurse sharks that skim the seafloor. The vast majority of sharks are found away from the reefs, like the curiously shaped hammerhead shark, or the leopard shark, with the same spots as his terrestrial counterpart, and less frequently you can encounter the oceanic whitetip shark (Longimanus) and the whale shark, the real colossi of the seas.
UNDERSEA LIFE AROUND THE WRECKS
The wrecks provide the ideal environment for a whole range of different organisms: alcyonarians, fan corals, and stony corals can transform the rustiest of hulls into a wonderful garden that is home to shellfish, molluscs, parrotfish, and also morays, lionfish, and crocodilefish. But, the star of the wrecks is undoubtedly the grouper, the ever-present guardian of sunken ships.
A MULTICOLOURED WORLD
Are you a diver who is thirsting to find a solemate in the blue? Well, to help you out a little, here is a list of the main inhabitants in the Red Sea.
Sea Anemone and clownfish
The two animals have a symbiotic relationship: protected from the anemone's stinging tentacles by a substance that they continuously secrete, the clownfish feed the anemones and they, in turn, defend them against attack from other fishes.
Fifteen centimetres long, it is distinguished by its orange marking (the female's eyes are rimmed with a distinct purple marking); it swims in shoals and lights up the reefs with its bright colours.
A large, brownish, lightly streaked fish with fins that are rimmed with black. During the reproductive season, between April and June, the triggerfish will attack divers that enter its territory by going for their flippers.
Silver with black stripes, this slender predator has sharp teeth that can inflict a dangerous bite. They swim in groups when young, and swim alone when older. Like magpies, they are attracted to shiny objects.
Pufferfish have large heads and round protruding eyes – the pufferfish is the ugly duckling of the seas. Bad swimmers, these mainly nocturnal bluffers defend themselves by inflating their bodies like balloons, which makes their quills bristle.
You will see these Pacific fish in shoals and in shallow water. The distinctive black lines present at the beginning of their lives fade with time.