View of Dahab Street
Among the most amazing places we’ve visited in our diving expeditions around the world are, without a doubt, the Red Sea and Egypt. The Sinai Peninsula is a triangular peninsula that is about 60,000 square kilometers in size and is located between the Mediterranean Sea in the north and Red Sea in the south. In fact, the peninsula is really located in Asia (and not Africa) and serves as the land bridge that connects the two continents.
Map of location of Sinai Peninsula, from notenoughgood.com
Tanks are waiting for some amazing dives in the Red Sea!
For divers, the Sinai Peninsula is known for its coral reefs and the amazing aquatic life found in the Red Sea. The beach resorts of Dahab, Sharm el-Sheikh, Nuweiba and Taba are some of the most popular spots, with more than a handful of dive operators existing in these places. If you are traveling here as a visitor and require a visa, the Sinai Peninsula can grant you a different visa than the regular visa required to enter other areas in Egypt. We entered Sinai via bus by traveling from the beach town of Eilat, in Israel, through the Taba Border Crossing. Obtaining a temporary visa was quick and easy at this border site, although this may not be the case for all nationalities.
Welcome to Dahab! (we were so excited to be there!)
Our first stop was Dahab, which was only about a 2 hour drive from the border at Taba. Dahab, which in Egyptian Arabic means “gold”, is a small resort town that used to be a Bedouin fishing village. The Bedouin are an Arabian ethnic desert-dwelling people who were, previously predominantly nomadic herders, farmers, and fishermen. Today, Dahab has become one of the most popular of diving destinations in the region due to the fact that there are so many reefs that are easily accessible from the beach.
Blue Hole, Dahab, Egypt
One site, the Blue Hole, has world-wide notoriety as the world’s most dangerous dive site due to the number of diver deaths that have occurred here. This submarine sinkhole is around 130 meters deep. At just over 50 meters, there is an arch with a 26 meter long tunnel that opens to the sea. Due to the depth at which the opening lies (which is over 10 meters below the maximum PADI advanced recreational depth limit of 40 meters), many divers experience nitrogen narcosis here and miss the tunnel opening, often descending unknowingly to their death. As such, there are many memorials set up at the surface of the Blue Hole to remember many of the divers who have perished here.
Blue Hole – Memorials remembering those who have perished
Because most of the fantastic dive sites can be reached from the shore in the surrounding area of Dahab, diving tends to be really affordable here! The resort area of Dahab that caters to divers has many dive operators to choose from. There are many, many accommodation and restaurant options as well, perfect for travelers of any budget. The town is also very charming and a perfect place to relax and enjoy the laid-back beach culture!
Local beach culture in the Sinai Peninsula
We were fortunate to dive for a few days in Dahab and we experienced some amazing diving here! We heard that the Red Sea was notorious for “big” things, and we were not disappointed! Beyond many reef sharks and a ton of fish and other aquatic life, one of the most amazing “big” things we had the luxury of seeing were two 10-foot giant guitar sharks as we were rapidly pushed with the current.
Welcome to another diving haven: Sham el-Sheikh!
After an amazing few days of diving in Dahab, we traveled to Sharm el-Sheikh for more diving. Sharm is located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, about a 1.5 hour drive from Dahab. In 1983, the area known as Naama Bay was been protected by the government and designated a national park, called Ras Mohammed, in order to protect the shorelife and coral reef found here. Such things like fishing (which was traditionally done using dynamite) have been prohibited, and divers who wish to explore the area must pay a fee which goes towards its conservation. Some phenomenal dive sites can be found here, such as reef walls that span hundreds of meters deep and intricate coral gardens that are teeming with aquatic life.
Beyond the amazing marine life that we saw, one of the most fascinating things about diving in the Red Sea was the salinity (not to mention that the water was so incredibly warm!!!!). In fact, the Red Sea has one of the highest salinities in the world, around 40 percent (versus only around 35 percent for the Atlantic Ocean). Divers beware — you will need more weight on your weight belt for buoyancy control!
We highly recommend the Red Sea, via the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, as one of the most amazing places we have dived in the world! Until next time, Happy Travels!