There really is nothing like Red Sea diving. It feels like being transported to another planet which our human limbs are not suited for. But really it is dissecting on a granular or molecular level one element of this incredible planet. Digging deeper into the underwater world which makes up 71% of planet earth.
Why I love Red Sea Diving
I love diving; there I said it again (so it must be true). It is one of the few places I can completely clear my head of all thoughts, removing three of my five senses and heightening sight and hearing. But I also love Dahab so put them both together and it spells a recipe for success.
I learnt to dive in a pool in New Zealand which wasn’t ideal, but wanted my PADI for when I arrived in Egypt ahead of my big OE (that’s overseas experience if you aren’t from New Zealand). My actual test was done in the Poor Knights outside of Auckland. If you haven’t dived the Poor Knights, it really is magnificent. A sheer drop off which cascades down into the abyss with an endless display of marine life to inspire and amaze.
My advanced course was done in Dahab, Egypt on the Red Sea. I had dived there as a rookie traveller but having returned many years later as an adventure tour leader, I figured I would be spending a fair amount of time in the water if possible. This would prove to be right.
Dahab in case you haven’t been is immense. It’s an old hippy town which doesn’t attract the herds seen in Sharm el Sheikh and still retains its laid back, cheap and earthy vibe even to this day. Cafés with low level cushions and soft music line the shoreline, Nubian children drape friendship bracelets around your ankles for money and cats loiter for a taste of whatever it is you’re eating.
There are of course flies which seem to love me, they always have. Mosquitos won’t even break breath to me but the flies have a homing device and they will travel for miles to buzz around my head and annoy. What was that saying ‘Flies around….’ no, I’ve forgotten now.
I’ve had many memorable days and nights in Dahab. Time off from tours always meant enduring the overnight bus from Cairo to spend a week in the water. The bus is painful make no mistake, it stops everywhere and am sure it was only meant to transport livestock but it’s cheap and the reward is arriving to within minutes from the sunny shores of Dahab. Seriously though, I have left my seat and slept in the isle to avoid those seats – just picture a public bus isle in Egypt!
There is a t-shirt out there and the slogan is ‘Dive now, work later’. I like that. No really I do and if diving paid more that would be my 9-5. There are so many dive site options in Dahab itself, right off the shore, wreck dives closer to Sharm, dives which you can only get to by camel and a whole host surrounding the town itself. I always dived with Red Sea Divers from the many options available, not because their safety is any better; they are just a nice bunch of lads who I could dive and drink with in the evening.
The thing about diving in Dahab is the water is warm. I’ve gone down to 15m in just shorts or a shorty wetsuit and been fine. The best months are from July to September but I’ve dived in December in a full length wetsuit and survived. Visibility is incredible, no really, incredible. As the majority of my diving has been in Egypt I’ve been spoiled; it’s your typical riches to rags story. Obviously advanced divers can go to 30m but as most divers realise, the best diving is at a max of 15m and Dahab is no exception.
Most of the Red Sea diving is right off the shore and the sites aren’t loaded with tourists. I’ve probably ventured below the sunlit surface over 70 times in Dahab alone and never get bored. As I said there are loads of sites but here are my top recommendations for anyone looking to dive there, or just an excuse to return:
• Dahab Blue Hole
This is a super-cool dive. You enter a hole in the rocks and dive down (head first is best) to 30m and arrive to the big blue. You are met by an endless abyss of brilliant blue which filters out to the ocean. Whenever I dived here I always felt like a weightless dolphin gliding magically on sea currents. Turn around, and you are faced with a wall of coral which you follow slowly up towards the surface, rewarded continuously as you surface. A great spot of seeing Lion Fish.
• The Bell
Another sensational dive down to 30m. This dive is incredible at night with a full moon lighting your way. You make your way to 15m and descend into a chasm in the rock (The Bell) to 31m to rest on the sandy seabed. There is a small channel to continue down but that is for dare devils and I have no time for that. Looking up under the moonlight, you are rewarded with views of fish circling under a dim glow – this image will always stick with me. You then navigate through a tight hole and slowly inch your way past semi-dead corals to the surface.
• Eel Garden
This dive is awesome. There isn’t much in the way of coral but it does have a distinct Indiana Jones hint to it. Eels literally come out of the sand and dance around on the seas current. It makes for great photos at sand level with a hundred eels doing the Dahab boogie.
• Lighthouse reef
A great beginners dive or for someone feeling out of their depth. I went with my groups on my occasions. It offers loads in the way of technicolor corals, marine life and you don’t need to go deep. Even typing this brings back great memories. If night diving, I have seen Spanish Dancers here many times, they look like pieces of silk in the water with a hue so brilliant you would have said it was a synthetic fibre.
• The Islands
This site is the Star Wars of the Red Sea diving world. You dive up and down, through holes in rocks, through colourful coral beds, past gloriously marked fish and rays. It feels like a labyrinth to navigate which gets better and better. The landscape changes and morphs and you literally feel like you are on another planet. It was never busy when I was there, even in peak season.