Diving in Sharm El Sheikh

Diving in Ras Mohammed
Egypt’s first protected area is a world-famous area with several top diving locations. The area of Ras Mohammed is a cape formed by ancient corals; you can see those emerging on the surface of the sea. It is indisputably one of the most beautiful places in South Sinai.

Due to currents carrying out of the Gulf of Aqaba, the underwater inhabitants of the area are simply exceptional and a lot of fish come here from the open seas in search of food and shelter: you’ll observe an unperceived abundance of hard and soft corals, as well as big schools of tunas, barracudas, jackfish and even sharks.

Only to name a few, Shark and Yolanda reefs are “the” Red Sea dive. Strong currents bringing in a wide variety of fishes made the spot one of the most perfect sites for underwater photography.

Ras Ghozlani
Located in the Ras Mohammed National Park, the Ras Ghozlani diving site was off-limits for a long time, and even today, it is seldom visited by divers; the result of which is an amazing richness of marine life and greatly preserved and prolific corals.

The reef wall at Ras Ghozlani drops steeply to a 15 metres depth, after which it gently slopes deeper. Due to the strong currents, divers usually drift dive along the wall.

The site is home to almost all possible species of coral and reef fish, additionally to groupers, Napoleon fish, pufferfish, and eagle rays.

The Ras Ghozlani diving site, as are almost all Ras Mohammed diving sites, is also suitable for snorkelling.
Depth: 16-40 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Ras Nasrani
Also known as the “Christian Cape”, the shore diving site of Ras Nasrani is one of the richest in Sharm el-Sheikh from a marine life perspective. Due to the ever-changing underwater scenery, divers love this location where it is very probable to spot mantas and whale sharks. Southwards from the usual boat mooring, you’ll find a wall. To the north, a gradually descending plateau and strong currents, making this spot a perfect one for some drifting, and for meeting with big pelagic coming to feed on the currents.

The reef, plateau and wall are covered with spectacular and healthy species of corals, where reef fish, giant moray eels and turtles come to hide and feed on the coral heads.

Divers from all levels can dive this site; there are some tricky hazards for the more experienced ones such as caves and narrow passages, and amazing sights for the novices and the snorkelers.
Depth: 6-40 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

The Eel Garden in Sharm
Although located in the Ras Mohammed National Park, a few palm strokes away from the shore, most divers prefer to head to the Eel Garden by boat; the wind and the waves make the shore access a bit tricky. But once you find yourself down there, there are almost no currents, and you can swim freely around the sandy plateau and observe the eels popping their heads up from the sand in their quest for food: plankton that is. The fish can reach impressive lengths of up to 80 centimetres. The whole dive is to be conducted in a totally quiet atmosphere to avoid scaring them off: they’re pretty fast at hiding back.

Agia Varvara Wreck
The wreck of the Agia Varvara is located a little to the North of Sharm El Sheikh.

The word Agia is pronounced with a silent “g”, which has led to some confusion surrounding the ship’s name. Built in France, the ship had many names before being finally re-named Agia Varvara in 1974. The vessel has three cargo holds in spite of its compact size. She was owned by a Cypriot company when she went below. Her final voyage began on the 27th of June in 1976. As she travelled from the Jordanian port of Aqaba towards the Suez Canal in the early morning she collided with a reef not far from Nabq. Luckily the crew was rescued but the ship went down.

The reef that is the Agia’s final resting place slopes downward to a depth of approximately 20m, she has broken into several sections making her quite easy to investigate. A pleasurable and uncomplicated wreck dive, the Agia Varvara is easily reached from Sharm El Sheikh and is not far from Jakson Reef as well as three other wrecks (the Million Hope, one of the largest wrecks in the Red Sea, and the Lara and Loullia).
Depth: 6-22 meters
Visibility: 20-25 meters

Ras Za’Atir
The steep rocky promontory of Ras Za’atir drops almost vertically into the Red Sea. Divers usually get dropped off by a boat at the south-western side of the cape and drift dive moving northeast with the reef on their left. At a depth of 28-30 metres, they observe the amazing gorgonians and colonies of black coral then go up again to explore the reef wall, which is full of life and covered by lovely red and pink Alcyonarians. Further north, you’ll explore the spectacular wide crack that narrows towards the surface, becoming a true “chimney.” In these crevices you will encounter the typical inhabitants of underwater niches, such as Lionfish, Glassfish and even larger groupers. After drifting to the other side of the cape, you’ll find a coral garden inhabited by a great number of reef fish and even some sea turtles.
Depth: 0-40 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

The Dunraven is one of the best-known wreck dives in the Red Sea, second only to the famous Thistlegorm. Lying upside-down, broken in two, at a depth of 20 metres today, the wreck was once an English steam ship transporting spices, timber and gold from India. It hit the reef and sank in April 1876.

The freighter’s content was removed by a team of archaeologists in the 80s. The site can be reached by boat; a permanent buoy marks the location of the ship. Although you have to be an experienced diver to be allowed to go for the Dunraven dive, the whole gig is similar to an easy cave exploration. Inside, divers usually encounter yellow goat fish and giant morays while outside, the ship’s hull is encrusted with corals. A wide variety of marine life add to the whole experience: batfish, nudibranchs, pipe fish and the very rare ghost pipe fish abound in the wreck’s surroundings.
Depth: 15-28 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Easily accessible from Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheikh by a liveaboard or day boat, this site has aptly been named the “Aquarium”: relatively shallow and quite flat, it is home to a stunning variety of marine species: it is packed full of small reef fishes, stingrays, leopard sharks. Jacks, barracuda and small tuna can also be seen in big numbers, and you might even witness a whitetip reef shark passing by.

Big Gubal Island
The Big Gubal Island dive sites are usually visited by live-aboards departing from Hurghada or Sharm El Sheikh.

The northernmost site in Big Gubal is the Bluff Point, a name it owes to the unpredictable winds and currents that affect this region.

The main attraction of this site is the amazing wreck of the Ulysses, a British cargo that sank in the Red Sea back in 1887. The freighter was transporting cables, and the remainder of its shipment can still be seen on deck.

The Big Gubal sites are usually dived on a drift mode, from north to south, along Gubal’s eastern wall. You’re most likely to see scorpion fish, napoleon fish, glassfish, and turtles. Some divers have even had the chance to encounter bottle-nosed dolphins.

Traditionally, live-aboards stop for the night at the southwest side of the island. From there, divers are taken on a night dive to the wreck of a barge. The barge isn’t an attraction in itself, as it has broken into pieces over the past few years, but the corals underneath are amazing, and you will get the chance to see amazing marine life down there. Bring a dive torch along to see octopuses changing colours. Lionfish and giant morays are also regular visitors of the site.
Depth: 10-30 m
Visibility: 10-30

Jackfish Alley or Fisherman Bank
Also known as the Stingray Alley, the Jackfish Alley is a favourite among the Ras Mohammed National Park diving sites. After being dropped off by a boat, the traditional dive at the Jackfish Alley starts off by swimming through a cave (at a 5 m depth) for a few minutes. The sunlight filters through a crack in the upper part of the tunnel; a truly amazing vista, contrasting with the dark blue waters inside the cave. After reaching the end of the tunnel, divers usually drop deeper (18 m) to observe the marine life. Glassfish abound in that particular part of the plateau. A little further from the cave exit, you’ll find a sandy passage where, depending on the season, you might get the opportunity to see jacks, stingrays, barracudas and tunas. Some divers have even had the chance to spot a sleeping shark on the sandy alleyway towards the end of the year.

The Jackfish Alley is suitable for divers of all skill levels. Snorkelers can join in as well.
Depth: 6-20 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Jackson Reef
Jackson Reef is the northernmost reef in the Strait of Tiran, the narrow channel separating the Sinai Peninsula from Saudi Arabia. The dive typically starts from the southern tip of the reef where a mooring is located, and proceeds along the eastern side of the reef towards the north. Currents running from the north tend to make this dive pretty difficult; it is thus only advised for professional divers.

The Jackson reef houses a profusion of hard and soft corals, and the underwater fauna is extremely diverse; you’re most likely to see barracudas, jacks, and some larger predators such as hammerheads and tiger sharks which feed on smaller reef species.

Diving in Abu-Soma
Soma Bay’s House Reef extends to the southern limit of Ras Abu Soma, also called the “Bay Point”. Accessible by boat only, a usual dive at this site starts at the northern tip of the reef. The reef is amazing, teeming with a wide assortment of marine species, including: leopard sharks, hammerhead sharks, barracudas, snappers and manta rays. The two spring months of March and April are the best time to spot these big pelagic. If you’re planning to dive Abu-Soma at some other time of the year, you will still be able to see many reef fish species and great corals. Some divers have even had the chance to see turtles and dolphins at this particular spot.

The Abu-Soma dive is usually performed as a drift dive, from north heading southwards, along a steep and impressive wall that goes down to 80 metres of depth. For that reason, it is only advised for experienced divers.

Snorkelers are usually also allowed to explore Ras Abu-Soma.
Depth: 3-30 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Gordon Reef
Gordon Reef is the most southern of the four reefs located between the Sinai Peninsula and Tiran Island. It is only accessible by boat.

It is an incredibly rich site, housing amazing coral formations, unexpected marine life and a shipwreck.

If you decide to go southwest from the boat mooring point, you’ll discover the “shark amphitheatre”, a bowl-like structure reaching a depth of 24 metres, at the bottom of which lie sleeping sharks. Alternatively, you can drift to the north of the reef and see the wreck of the Lullia, a commercial freighter that ran into the reef in 1981. It is not safe currently to dive the wreck, since it is still standing out more than 10 metres above sea level.

The marine species you’re most likely to encounter are, among others, octopus, wrasses and reef sharks, not mentioning the various colourful reef fish.

The site is also suitable for snorkelling.
Depth: 15-30 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Shag Rock
Shag Rock refers to two reefs located on the south-western side of the Sinai Peninsula tip. It can be accessed by boat from Sharm el-Sheikh but it is usually listed on most of the live-aboard and diving safari tours in the Red Sea. The site holds its name after the numerous shags, or cormorants which were frequent visitors of the reefs. Divers usually prefer to dive the southern reef along its east side; additionally to housing amazing hard and soft coral formations, the site is also full of pelagic. There are also sea cucumbers, sweetlips and butterfly fish. In the northern part of Shag Rock lies the 18th century steamship boat Carina in only 10 metres of water. You can still see the masts, engine and propellers of the boat scattered around the place. Due to strong currents, divers usually perform a drift dive across the wreck. The Carina dive is an easy one, that’s why most of the live-aboards leave this dive for the end of the day, since it is shallow and not that challenging. In the eastern part of Shag Rock, lies the Kingston Wreck, also called the Sarah H wreck. Sarah Hillel was a dive guide who found the wreck in the 90s. The wreck is easy to dive, because it is positioned in a way that shelters divers from currents. The 80 metre wreck which sank in 1881 is still in a good condition, covered with interesting corals and housing some pretty varied marine species.

Depth: 5-15 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Kingston or Sarah H
Depth: 8-25 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

The Far Garden
The Far Garden is definitely the most exciting of the three gardens, a cluster of diving sites located to the north of Naama Bay in Sharm el-Sheikh. After reaching a depth of 18 metres going down a gentle slope, the reef turns into a wall. At 42 metres, you’ll discover a small cave, and beautiful fan corals and gorgonian fans. Currents tend to be strong in this area, bringing many large pelagic species along, including manta rays. When ascending up the wall again, turn to the opposite direction to explore smaller caves filled with glassfish. Before finishing your dive, gaze at the colourful reef life on the top of the gentle slope.

The Far Garden is also good for snorkeling.
Depth: 0-40 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Shark Observatory
Also called the Ras Mohammed Wall, the Sharks Observatory hold its name after the sharks that used to be seen from this promontory before the arrival of mass tourism to Sharm el-Sheikh. Although it is usually accessed by boat, the site can also be reached from shore, but there are no shore exits once you find yourself after the cliff. The currents tend to be pretty strong in the area. That is why the steep wall falling to a depth of more than 90 meters is usually explored through a drift dive. Although the sharks have moved from this busy spot to a quieter area, you might still get the chance to spot a few types of sharks, including whale sharks. Big pelagic such as jacks, trevallies and barracudas are also regular visitors of the site.

Depth: 0-40 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Shark, Yolanda Reef and Anemone City
Diving the Shark and Yolanda Reefs and exploring the Anemone City are undoubtedly one of the most exciting and hardest experiences for a diver. Usually, after being dropped off by the boat, the Anemone City is visited first, an amazing site teeming with anemones and clownfish. Next you will move to Shark and Yolanda. These are in fact 2 pinnacles originating from a single pinnacle which rises almost vertically from a depth of 800 meters. The second erg has been named after the Cyprian freighter which hit the reef in 1980; its cargo still lies on the western side of the reef. Divers usually perform a drift dive from Shark’s reef to the Yolanda wreck; the sea floor is littered with toilet bowls and sinks, remnants of the Yolanda cargo. The site is teeming with varied fish species including hammerheads, reef sharks, barracudas and huge tunas, in addition to smaller species such as jackfish, batfish and many kinds of stingrays. You’ll also find amazing corals.

The Barge at Bluff Point
Known simply as the Barge at Bluff point, this is what remains of a ship with an identity that is lost. There are several theories about its origin, but none are confirmed. The wreck has sustained quite a bit of damage but it makes an awesome night dive. It is located on the East of the Big Gubal Island, which is a wonderful dive sight in its own right, just 10 minutes away. The Barge is covered in hard and soft corals and is home to breathtaking marine life. This includes several giant morays, nudibranches, and large numbers of lionfish. Bluff Point itself is interesting as a wall dive. You will see hoards of glassfish as well as octopi, squid, crocodile fish, scorpion fish, and butterfly fish. Turtles have also been known to make an appearance. In addition the wreck of the Ulysses is in the vicinity, but you will have to traverse strong currents to reach it. The Bluff Point location is good for several dives, where you can enjoy wrecks, amazing corals, and a variety of Red Sea life. It is easily reached from both Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada.

Depth: 14 meters
Visibility: 30 meters

The Middle Garden
Located in front of the Hyatt Regency resort, to the north of Naama Bay, the middle garden is similar to the nearby near garden from a “landscape” perspective: a slope descends gently to a depth of 20-25 metres. The underwater scenery is a combination of sand, colourful coral formations and reef fish. Many divers claim they’ve encountered pretty special visitors in the middle garden such as whale sharks and mantas; maybe you’ll also get the chance to be there in the right season and the right time to meet with the big ones.

The Middle Garden is also suitable for snorkeling.
Depth: 0-40 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

The Near Garden
Located north of Naama Bay, the near garden is the closest of the three gardens (Near, Middle and Far) to shore. The site is known for its prolific marine life, including stingrays, napoleon fish and some larger pelagic as well, and very beautiful hard and soft corals. It is the easiest “garden” to dive since the currents aren’t as strong as they might be in other “gardens”. It is also a great spot for night dives. The Near Garden is also suitable for snorkeling.

Depth: 0-40 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

The SS Thistlegorm
The SS Thistlegorm shipwreck was discovered in the early fifties by the French diver Jacques Cousteau, about 10 years after the British ship was sunk, in 1941, by a German air force bombing. Following the instructions of the local fishermen, Cousteau succeeded in locating the wreck and raised several items from it, including a motorcycle, the Captain’s safe, and the ship’s bell. Diving around the SS Thistlegorm today is like traveling through time. It is for many an emotional experience: the site is after all a bombing site and a war grave.

Diving boats heading to the Thsitlegorm wreck usually leave Sharm el Sheikh in the very early morning and return in the late afternoon. This day trip is usually combined with a dive in Ras Mohammed, if the weather’s adequate.

The Tower
Located close to Ras Um Sid (Om Seid Hill) halfway between Sharm and Naama Bay, the Tower is a great night and day shore dive site, holding its name after a protuberant rock formation on the shore in that area. The usual scenario is that you enter the water and descend to around 5 metres. There, you’ll find a cave, the entrance of a tunnel going through the reef in fact. After crossing that tunnel, you’ll discover a canyon packed full of amazing marine life. The site also houses a few smaller caves where sweepers and glassfish abound.

The tower is also considered as a good site for snorkelling in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Turtle Bay
As its name indicates, the Turtle Bay is the site to dive in Sharm el-Sheikh, if you feel like observing turtles in their natural habitat. Since they can even be seen in the shallow areas, and since it is a shore dive, the site is equally good for snorkelling. A little north from Ras Um Sid, the Turtle Bay is located between the neighbouring dive sites of Paradise and Amphoras, it is specifically where a slope departs from the reef at a 9 metres depth going down to 25 metres. Apart from the turtles, there are amazing coral formations to gaze at, including soft coral gardens and salad corals, and a very wide range of marine species. The site is suitable for divers of all skill levels.
Depth: 9-25 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

The Woodhouse Reef
Located in the Straits of Tiran, the Woodhouse Reef is the narrowest and longest of the Tiran reefs. Divers usually use the strong current in the area to drift along the eastern side of the reef. While doing that, you’ll encounter various species of fish including reef sharks and eagle rays. It is advised for divers to stay close to eachother and help eachother out at this site: the current can sweep them off into the very dangerous shipping lane. The sandy passages you’ll cross along the way are often home to sleeping sharks as well. Big pelagic such as tuna and jacks are also frequently spotted on site, in addition to great numbers of reef fish. The site can only be accessed by boat, and snorkelers are also allowed to enjoy the shallowest parts of the reef.
Depth: 0-40 m
Visibility: 10-30 m

Thomas Reef
The smallest reef in the middle of the straits of Tiran is also one of the most popular among divers and snorkelers alike. It can only be accessed by boat. The reef is small, but it is hard to swim around the whole of it due to the strong currents in the area, that is why most divers usually drift dive at the western and eastern walls of the reef. To the south of the reef, the more adventurous will discover amazing vertical walls, a sandy plateau, and a canyon at the depth of 35 metres. Technical divers are the only ones allowed to dive that canyon: it reaches a depth of 61 meters.

Sleeping sharks were often seen at the sandy southern plateau. The upper parts of the Thomas reef are covered with beautiful soft and hard corals, and the marine life is stunning: gigantic cods and groupers, tunas, barracudas and hammerheads are Thomas’ regular visitors.

Depth: 4-40 m
Currents: Strong

Tiran Island
Located at the entrance of the straits of Tiran, the Tiran Island is a must-see destination during any Sharm el-Sheikh holiday. While the clear blue waters surrounding the island are a diver’s paradise, the island alone is worth the 1-hour boat excursion from Sharm’s shore because its stunning beaches are just as gorgeous as the underwater wonders below. The water is 1800 m deep in this part of the Aqaba Gulf and it is very probable to spot sharks, manta rays and barracudas in the deeper water.