A First Time Diver’s Guide to Egypt

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The undersea world is a myriad of colours and wonderfully alien-looking fish – and Egypt’s Red Sea has some of the clearest waters, formidable coral structures and diverse marine life you’ll find anywhere on the planet.

Combine that with some year-round sunshine, easy-peasy access from the beach and great value for money and you’ve found a top place to learn how to dive.

Want to know more? Here’s our expert’s top tips:

What You’ll See in the Sea

clownfish red sea     Red Sea Clownfish

Nemo’s here! The two-banded clownfish is the most common variety in the Red Sea. They live in the sea anemones, protected from the stinging tentacles by a film coating their body.

coral grouper red sea     Coral Grouper

Fairly common in the Red Sea, you’ll spot them from around two metres or so down. The youngsters have the blue spots, and they can grow up to be over 40cm long!

hawkfish red sea     Hawkfish

Interesting thing about the hawkfish: it can change sex. All are born female and they live in groups with one male to lots of females. If the male fish dies, one of the females becomes a male to take his place.

masked butterfly fish red sea     Masked Butterfly Fish

You’ll spot these little beauties throughout the Red Sea, usually flitting in pairs or groups in depths of 3 metres or more.

emperor angelfish red sea     Emperor Angelfish

You wouldn’t miss this majestic fish if you tried. For one there’s those hypnotising colourful markings, and two; they’re massive – about 40cm in length.

octopus red sea     Octopus

Studies have shown that octopi are incredibly intelligent creatures, capable of recognising patterns and finding their way through mazes. Want more fascinating octopus facts? Only part of their brain is in their brain; two thirds of their neurons are in their arms. Oh, and they have three hearts. Weird huh?

seacow red sea     Sea Cow

You’ll see Sea Cows grazing on seagrass on the seabed – they can eat their way through as much as 40kg of it per day!

longfin bannerfish red sea     Longfin Bannerfish

You might swim across a whole shoal of colourful fish such as the longfin bannerfish, sociable and passive species living among the corals.

stingray red sea     Blue Spotted Stingray

Look carefully at the sea bed and you might spot a stingray – they like to cover up under a layer of sand so you can’t spot their distinctive markings. Don’t worry about the name – they’re not aggressive and won’t use the stinger in the tail unless you step on them by accident.

And a few to avoid:

triggerfish red sea     Yellowmargin Triggerfish

Do not disturb if tending to eggs – They become aggressive if they think they’re going to need to defend their nest.

moray eel red sea     Moray Eel

This little guy looks fairly viscous, and he can do some damage, but so long as you give him a wide berth you’ll be fine – most injuries are where divers (foolishly) decide to stick their arms into the holes where they live.

stonefish red sea     Stonefish

Not only are stonefish rather ugly, their gravelly camouflage means they’re very hard to spot. You want to watch out for them though – the spines on their backs are extremely venomous.

crown of thorns red sea     Crown of Thorns Starfish

Striking looking and dangerous – the ‘thorns’ on this starfish have a venomous sheath. Don’t try to touch unless you like highly painful wounds and possible paralysis.

lionfish red sea     Lionfish

Steer clear of their stinging spines. We hear the venom is excruciatingly painful, and we wouldn’t want you to find out for yourself.

Recommended areas to dive

Sharm el Sheikh – the biggest resort on the Red Sea, there’s no end of luxurious resorts to pick from, accommodation wise. And should the coral reefs tempt you away from the all inclusive bar we’ve heard good things about these dive schools:

  • Ocean College Have a confined water area so you can try out how it feels to breath underwater there if you’re not confident about open water diving. They offer a one-day Discover Scuba Diving class from £55 per person or get your PADI Open Water Diver qualification from £195 per person.
  • Red Sea College just one day to explore the Red Sea? This school have a Discover the Red Sea course that will teach you the basics of diving in the morning, followed by a dive in their house reef in the afternoon with your instructor. Cost from €95 per person.

Hurghada – Further south than Sharm, Hurghada offers plenty of resorts with direct access into the Red Sea corals – sometimes as simple as a pier into the water.

  • Diving World Red Sea offer a two-day introductory diving course which includes one day in a dive boat, being taken to one of the more remote dive sites. Prices from €150.

Marsa Alam – This smaller resort is one of the best to come to if you want to try the diving on the Red Sea’s south-eastern coast. It’s also home to the Dolphin House Reef, where you may spot Spinner dolphins.

Egypt Safety

Protests in Egypt have been hitting the headlines and whilst the diving areas along the South Sinai and Red Sea coast remains peaceful, you should still remember to check the FCO advice before you travel.

Words of wisdom for first time divers

5. You can’t fly for 24 hours after diving – so fit it in early in your holiday
4. Its important to pick an instructor you trust – especially when you’re learning
3. Don’t drink and dive. Being hungover underwater is not a nice feeling.
2. Breathing through apparatus will feel odd at first. Relax and breathe slowly – you’ll feel calmer and use up less oxygen!
1. You’ll be taught how to communicate underwater before your first dive, but grasp the difference between these two quickly, or else you’ll end up with some very short dives after giving your mates the thumbs up.

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