The Egyptian Red Sea is probably the best destination for diving for Europeans. Less than six hours from the European capitals, it offers hot water between 22 ° C and 30 ° C and a pleasant climate, coral reefs that shelter about 70% of endemic species, all at very affordable prices and this , all year.
For the divers, different formulas are proposed: dives with the day and cruises of one or two weeks. On seven spots geographically located along the coast, from Dahab to Hamata via Hurghada, Safaga or Marsa Alam, more than 500 diving sites are listed.
Some sites are accessible by day dive, others, further offshore, are dive only cruise. The difficulty of the dives is matched only by the diversity of the sites: from the beginner to the most experienced diver, from the leisure diving to the air to the tek diving ... everything is possible!
The topography of the sites is variable. Indeed, it is possible to immerse yourself on falling rocks, coral gardens, sandy bottoms, coral potatoes, canyons, lagoons, caves and wrecks. To each his specialty! Depending on your interests, some sites will allow you to realize your dream diver. Between the "little" almost constant on the reef slope or sand bottom, and the coral fauna, dolphins, sharks and large pelagic, there is something for everyone!
We hope that this new series of articles will allow you to discover or revisit the ten most beautiful diving sites in the Egyptian Red Sea and will make you want to dip your fins and resaler your combi.
I could have started by introducing you to a dive site accessible from the coast for a beginner diver, but when you ask me what is for me THE dive site par excellence in Egypt, I immediately think of the famous reef Daedalus, a must for all shark lovers.
The Daedalus Reef (in Greek mythology, Daedalus is linked to an artistic work or Abu el Kizan in Egyptian "the big cone") is an underwater mountain that has grown in the middle of the Red Sea thanks to a volcanic resurgence that results from the subduction of continental Arabic and African plates on the Rift Fault. It is the outermost reef at 90 km, parallel to the Egyptian coast (25.01344 N / 35.847931 E) opposite the Shaab Sharm reef, between Marsa Alam and Wadi Gimal Island. This reef is therefore only accessible by cruising, from Marsa Galep - the shortest - or Hurghada or Safaga - longer night navigation. It is during cruises "BDE" (Brother's Island, Daedalus reef, Elphinstone) or more rarely on circuits Great South (Marine Park or Rocky Island-Zabargad) that you can get there.
Daedalus reef is a site that, contrary to its reputation, is only regularly dipped in recent years! In the early 2000, local dive structures offered only cruises on the wrecks of the north, the Brothers Islands and St Johns Reef. Only since 2005-2006, this site becomes famous. It is clearly marked on international shipping routes, but it is thanks to the new Triangle d'Or (BDE) circuits, with new boats, that it really becomes accessible to divers.
Photo: Claude Lespagne
In the middle of the flat, a lighthouse has grown like a mushroom, planted on a small artificial island that keeps the building in the same flat! This lighthouse was built by the English in 1863 and renovated by the French in 1931. It is accessed by a pontoon of 100 m long, approx.
Photo: Claude Lespagne
As seen previously, the great Daedalus reef rises from the bottom of the Red Sea. Its slopes fall more than 500 m deep on both sides. It measures about 450 m long on a north-south axis and almost 100 m wide east-west.
The platier outcrops the surface of the water including the north, unlike the Brothers Islands for example. On the south face, a large coral plateau stretches from east to west between 25 and 40 m deep. On the west side, along the wall, extends a point three-quarters of the reef: this is where Anemones City lies. On the east side and the north face, the platier is overhung by a drop-off, with here and there slight steps or an inclined plane, between 25 and 40 m of depth also.
The northern tip:
Diving is done by zodiac drop usually at the end of the day. Between five and twenty-seven meters deep, you will find, on your left reef, a gigantic "Anemone City". The dive route will take you from Anemone City to the boat, above the southern plateau if you have enough air, if not parachute exit along the wall, west side, after the coral elephant.
The elephant coral:
Generally, this immersion is also offered at the end of the day, when, above the southern plateau, the current under the boat is too strong for a dive with departure and return to the boat. If the current comes from the west, you will be dropped on this large madrepore coral in the shape of an elephant's head to return quietly, reef to your left, to the southern plateau. If conversely the current comes from the east, you will leave the boat, follow the reef slope, reef on the right hand and evolve on the southern plateau until you reach this "elephant" coral, before going out by parachute and returning by zodiac. .
The South plateau:
This dive, once extremely known for its oceanic (Carcharhinus longimanus) and silky (Carcharhinus falciformis) sharks, is much less popular, because in recent years these sharks have ... just disappeared! Exploration of the southern plateau is therefore reduced to one hour of diving between 25 and 30 m depth, followed by a half turn to 100 b, then return to the boat. Between April and July, it is possible to cross a pelagic fox shark (Alopias pelagicus) on one of the cleaning stations, west of the plateau.
In cruise only. From Hurghada, Safaga or Marsa Galep on the Golden Triangle (BDE) or Grand Sud cruise circuits (Daedalus reef, Rocky island, Zabargad).
* A level 2 confirmed with about fifty dives (or PA40) or Advanced Open Water Diver with the Deep Dive specialty.
* Know the proper use of your dive computer, especially for bearings.
* Know your equipment perfectly.
Difficulty of the dives:
Diving north requires total autonomy even if you are supervised by guides who know the site. Take into account three very important factors: air autonomy, orientation and decompression, which are essential for the safety of diving. Beware of pulling currents or descendants, as well as excursions in the blue. The other dives are along the reef wall and are therefore simpler even if you encounter current.
All the Egyptian islands belong to the Army. You will therefore have to pay a marine tax of around one hundred euros allowing you to dive on these offshore sites - either included in the price of your stay, or to be paid on site.
In addition to your underwater memories, you can bring back one or more T-shirts for the modest sum of 10 €. You will only find them in Daedalus!
Daedalus reef is open all year from March to December. What you can cross under the water will be different depending on the season. At a time when there were still many oceanic sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus), the best time was Oct / Nov. But in recent years where they are becoming increasingly rare, the largest concentrations of hammerhead sharks recorded from July to November.
Steven Surina is a diving instructor in the Red Sea. In this capacity, for a decade, he has accompanied cruises along the Egyptian, Sudanese and Eritrean coasts. He worked in partnership with the Italian publishing house “Magenes Editoriale” on the project of a collection of dive sites all over the Egyptian Red Sea as an author and illustrator. He wrote a dissertation on the behavior of oceanic sharks in 2008 and distributed interactive booklets on the protection and preservation of sharks to Egyptian schools.
He participates with Dr Erich Ritter in a series of seminars. At the end of these months of work and joint experience with the Shark School Eric Ritter, he launched his own conferences in 2009. This is how he created, in 2010, Shark Education which offers shark diving trips whose objective is to help them get to know and understand them better.