Egypt is a country that continually surprised me. I had high expectations of the country and it exceeded them. Another surprise was what the Red Sea actually looks like. If you have the chance to go snorkeling or diving in the Red Sea, by all means, take it.
I don’t know what I expected, maybe something more like the Nile River, darker water…maybe murky. But the Red Sea is insane. Let me tell you, I was shocked. Shocked at just how beautiful the water is. Quite the contrary from murky–it was sparkling turquoise around the surrounding islands. It is some of the most beautiful water I think I’ve ever seen.
Where to go Diving in the Red Sea:
The Red Sea is located along Egypt’s east coast. It’s fairly large and borders several other countries including Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Eritrea.
I’m sure you could go diving anywhere along the coast and would have a more local, authentic experience off smaller towns. But two of the main destinations for tourism and diving in Egypt are Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada.
If you end up taking an Egyptian tour, one of these places is likely in your itinerary already. Mine happened to be Hurghada.
Hurghada is located a little ways northeast of Luxor and is of course along the coast. Sharm El Sheikh is located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, somewhat across from where Hurghada is.
Hurghada is a resort town with very dry, arid landscape in the interior and tropical palm trees near the shore, likely put in for the resorts. There are some great Hurghada beaches, especially the ones you can reach by boat.
READ MORE: 11 best things to do in Egypt
What to Wear in Hurghada
Hurghada is much different than the other cities we visited in Egypt. While you may want to be more mindful and conservative in other areas of Egypt, Hurghada is more relaxed when it comes to apparel. There are a lot of European tourists and most people wear whatever they normally would when going to a resort, whether it be bikinis, sun dresses, etc.
Diving as an optional excursion:
Diving in the Red Sea is offered as an optional excursion on a lot of Egyptian tours. You can sign up for it before your trip, or you can sign up during your trip. They are pretty flexible about booking as you go for optional excursions.
If you don’t go on the excursion, you’ll have a free day at the resort to spend how you want. While the resort was nice and would have been fun to spend time at also, it would not have compared to the boat day.
Not a diver? Snorkel!
If you don’t know how to dive, you can choose to go on the boat tour as a snorkeler (for a lesser price). Same awesome location, same boat, you’ll just be snorkeling instead of diving.
I have my Open Water PADI certification and was prepared to show it for diving, however, no one ever asked for it. They asked me if I was experienced but they weren’t concerned with seeing documentation for it. Even further, people who weren’t certified were allowed to go diving. The instructors did all the checks on equipment themselves and we weren’t diving very deep, but still, I wouldn’t recommend going unless you’re PADI certified.
Cost and Inclusions:
The costs for add-ons on my particular tour were as follows:
- Diving excursion: $65
- Snorkeling excursion: $35
Included in the price was transportation to the boat, all equipment provided and lunch on board. We did two different dives in two different locations plus a swimming stop on a gorgeous island.
This is by far, the cheapest I have EVER seen for a two-tank dive. Even in Southeast Asia, where diving is known for being inexpensive, I think it was a little over $100 for diving. $65 is so, so cheap for diving, so if you are certified, I highly recommend it.
What it’s like to go diving in the Red Sea:
Our day started off pretty early in the morning. We were picked up and driven to the dive shop where we picked up fins and goggles. Our boat was full of divers and snorkelers from other tours as well.
We sailed through the sea for awhile until we reached our first stop: the Giftun Islands. The water started to get really blue and turquoise upon our arrival. We sailed past a sign that said ‘paradise’ and it could not be more accurate. Who knew Egypt could look like this?!?
We were dropped off at the beach via smaller boats and got to hang out for awhile to swim. It was one of the prettiest spots. Going to this spot was worth the excursion alone just to see how scenic the Red Sea is. I could have easily stayed there for the day.
We returned to the boat and sailed around that area to where the reefs were. We went to two different dive spots and I was actually paired up with two people (is there a word for a 3-person pair?). I went with a guy that was on my tour who was not certified and I think that’s why we also had another person, one of the instructors, go with us.
The three of us explored underwater with no issues whatsoever and actually, going with the instructor proved beneficial since he knew the reef really well. He took us to spots where lots of marine life was typically found and we were able to see an eel up close and personal as well as a Napoleon Fish!
How does the diving compare?
I’ve been diving many times, but I wouldn’t say my experience is vast. Quite the opposite. But I will say that this was one of my favorite dives I’ve done. I saw a lot of marine life and the water was so pretty. The instructors were very relaxed and we just had fun. The instructor even tried to get me better GoPro footage of the eel because I didn’t want to get close to it haha.
If you go on an optional excursion like this, you won’t be diving very deep. But, it was highly worth it for the overall experience and scenery.
The Resort in Hurghada
After a day of diving, we arrived back at our resort and went to check out the beach there. It had lots of lounge chairs and cute thatched umbrellas but not as scenic as the island we reached by boat. It was a great place to relax while the sun went down.
We even had a surprise visitor on the beach: a camel! His owner was walking him along for what I assume are paid photo ops. However, the man didn’t bother us and instead let his camel walk right up to us. He wanted the snacks we were eating and the man said it was ok for him to eat them, so we ended up feeding a camel right on the beach.
Our diving day was one of my favorites. As I said before, diving in Egypt is one of the cheapest places you can do it. And I would have paid the same amount just to have a boat day and swim on the island because the Red Sea is that beautiful. There are lots of tours in Egypt but Hurghada is an incredibly different experience than the other cities. I’d recommend adding it to your Egypt itinerary.