Red Sea Egypt, The Best Snorkeling

by Michel Kuijpers
(The Netherlands)

Red Sea Shrimp Goby and Olive Goby Shrimp, a symbiotic relationship, see comment

To us, Red Sea, Egypt is the best place for snorkeling we've seen so far. We have visited the Red Sea some 10 times now, so we have some experience in the area.

We have also visited the Caribbean and Mexico, and we like Egypt far better. Apart from being close to the Netherlands where we live, the corals are great, the diversity of fishes also, and you can always find a comfortable bay, where you snorkel without any trouble from high waves or strong currents.

If anyone has questions about where to go or what to see, please ask.

Comments for Red Sea Egypt, The Best Snorkeling

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Jun 19, 2015
Finally!!!
by: Nicole & Galen

Michel, thank you so much for sharing your pictures and opinions about snorkeling in the Red Sea. We have heard from so many people that they believe it has the world's best snorkeling, but no one has ever shared anything specific with us about it, so thank you for finally doing so.

We along with our readers would love to hear more specifics about where to snorkel there. Is it beach snorkeling? Is it by boat tour? What is it like traveling in Egypt?

And if you would like us to add captions to your pictures, include them in your next comment.

Jun 19, 2015
More Info On Snorkeling In Egypt
by: Michel

One of the best things about snorkeling in Egypt to us, is that it is beach snorkeling. Or to be more precise, bay snorkeling.

At most places, there is fringing reef between the sea and the shore. This is usually very good, but for snorkeling not so attractive, because it's nearly always windy, so on the outside there are waves.

So we look for a hotel on a bay, and there are plenty. In the bay you can snorkel on nice, calm water. Depth in most bays goes from 1-40 meters (120 feet). You can join a dive boat, and do snorkeling from a boat, but again, you'll be in bumpy waters.

We always felt very safe in Egypt, but to be honest, we barely leave the hotel area since we do only snorkeling (that's, apart from sunbathing, the only thing you can do).

On an 11 day trip, we stay in two hotels/bays, to add some variety.

You start your snorkel from the beach, and corals start after a few meters and in very shallow water. Also the corals (mainly hard corals) grow to the surface, so you can snorkel alongside the coral instead of above.

It's difficult to tell everything in a few words, so if there are more specific questions, we love to talk about snorkeling like you guys do...

Jun 19, 2015
Region?
by: Helen

Which region do you recommend?

Jun 19, 2015
Places To Go In Egypt
by: Michel

I would recommend the Egypt mainland instead of the Sinai. So that would be somewhere near Hurghada or Marsa Alam (both have international airports).

Just to mention two: Mangrove Bay and Oriental Bay are great for snorkeling, but there are many other good spots.

Jun 20, 2015
More, Please
by: Pat

I would love to hear all particulars you care to give. Perhaps a rated list of places you have stayed with a bit of detail of the quality of snorkeling, year there, hotel amenities (like good food?), whether you needed a car, or used taxi, etc.

I love the idea of not having to leave, just snorkel, eat, sleep, snorkel again!

We're looking for a place to spend a special anniversary, not interested in "night life" but love to snorkel on our own schedule two/three times a day.

We've snorkeled extensively in the Pacific and a little bit in the Caribbean, but are looking for a safe (no currents) place to shore snorkel with fish that are new to us.

Thanks for the info so far, it's peaked our curiosity! We are considering the Maldives (but they are so far from California) or possibly Indonesia, or ...?

Jun 20, 2015
Wow!
by: Pam

This reminds me of Indonesia where we snorkeled this past April! Awesome corals!


Jun 20, 2015
Some More Info On Egypt
by: Michel

Hello Pat, that's a lot of questions, I'll do the best I can.

As for the places. Most places offer the same habitat. So the best you can do, is pick a nice bay with a hotel that suits your taste. Hotels range from very big, to tented camps that are used by a couple of divers. The bigger places are usually of the "all-inclusive concept".

Something in between is the hotel on Mangrove Bay. It is fairly small, mainly visited by divers, and is run by German management. Mangrove Bay has some of the best corals we've seen in Egypt so far.

Another nice place, with some more big fishes than Mangrove, is Brayka Bay, but that's a very big hotel. Food is good, however it depends on your own taste of course. But you are in tropics, so keep to the 'tropic rules', "Cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it". So no salads, no ice, no washed fruits like strawberries and so on. Otherwise stomach problems will haunt you.

Fishes and corals are more or less the same in most bays. When you want to see big green turtles and a fair chance of Dugong (or Seacow), go to a bay named Abu Dabab. It's a large bay with a lot of seagrass. But it's often quite busy and visibility is not always good. Normally in other places visibility is very good, although it depends a bit on the tide.

Best time of year I think is around September. Air temperature is very nice, (77-86) while water is at a comformtable 80. In July - August it becomes really hot, up to 110 and more. You can snorkel all year round, but in the northern winter you will need a full wetsuit to be comfortable.

We normally switch to another place after 5 days or so, but that's just our idea. We always use a local tour operator for local transport called Sylvia Tours. They pick you up at the airport and take care of all transport and are very reliable. We usually manage to identify some 120-140 species of fish during an 11 day trip (but we skip the really small stuff). There's only one very good fish guide "Coral Reef Guide Red Sea" by Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers.

When you're looking for species that are confined to more central and southern parts of the Red Sea, you might consider Shams Alam Bay. It has very good corals, but a bit more difficult bay. Since you're looking for safety, I would suggest Brayka Bay, Mangrove Bay and/or Oriental Bay. All not far from the airport, very good and safe snorkeling, good corals, and lots of fish.

Any more questions? Don't hesitate to ask...

P.S. Sorry for any mistakes in my English, but my English is probably still better than your Dutch ;-)

Jun 20, 2015
Picture 3
by: Michel

By the way, the fish in the third picture is a Red Sea Shrimp Goby (Cryptocentrus caeruleopunctatus). It lives in a burrow that's dug by a shrimp, in this case the Olive Goby Shrimp (Alpheus rapax). The Shrimp can dig, but is blind. The goby has excellent eyes, but can't dig a burrow. The shrimp stays in contact with the goby. When the goby spots danger, he retreats in the burrow, and the shrimp also hides in the same burrow. It's a shy couple, but when you're patient, you can make nice pictures.

Jun 26, 2015
Why not Sinai?
by: Nicole & Galen

Michel, we are just curious why you suggest avoiding the Sinai area. Thanks.

Jul 05, 2015
Why Not Sinai
by: Michel

Hello, I'm sorry for the late response, I was in Egypt for the last 12 days ;-)

Not Sinai because from what I've heard and read it's not better than the mainland, and the security situation is not so good (as was sadly proven again last week...).

Aug 02, 2015
Sinai
by: Axel from Munich

Hi! I have been to Sinai several times, preferring the house reef near the Baron Hotel which is located just ten minutes from the Sharm el Sheik airport. The sometimes strong winds blowing out of the Gulf of Aquaba resulting in higher waves at the shores of the mainland are missed here.

The safety situation in the Sharm el Sheik area might be ok as the most terrorist attacks were in the north Sinai, some miles away from the tourist areas.

I just booked for two weeks in November!

Aug 13, 2015
Wonderful Snorkeling In Sharm
by: Ruth

I live in England & go to Sharm el Sheikh with my husband every winter. We go for the snorkeling and always stay in the north of Sharm at the Royal Albatros Moderna which has an approximately 500m long jetty to take you directly to the coral drop.

We meet up with a group of friends we originally met in Sharm some years ago and snorkel together. They have snorkeled all over the world and reckon it is is the best coral etc, especially as it is so accessible.

It can be flat water but it can get very windy. When it is windy, if you are a good swimmer, you can swim when others are not allowed to, as it can get very rough. But that for us is part of the fun. You have to be fit and nimble enough to walk out backwards, quickly, up the jetty steps before a big wave comes....

The hotel is really friendly. We are already booked for a week in February in 2016.

When the weather is good and sea calm, we snorkel continually at a good speed for an hour to the end of Sharm in the north around the fringe reef (which bends in to shore), have a break/snack on the beach (which we tow in a dry bag), and snorkel back again.

For me this place is heaven on earth. And we often don't leave the hotel, as we go there for the sea and snorkel.

Sep 10, 2015
Red Sea Snorkel Liveaboard?
by: Swapna

Michel, plus others, thank you for the tips!

I wonder if you know of a snorkel liveaboard for the Red Sea? I scuba and free dive (5-60 feet - it's all GOOD!!), while my partner only snorkels. He has gifted me this trip and I would love to find a boat vs. a land based holiday... We are going October 2015.

Thanks!

Sep 11, 2015
Stay Onboard Boat
by: Ruth

Hi Swapna - I have looked in to a holiday on a snorkeling boat in the Red Sea, rather than a dive boat and been unable to find one. Let me know if you do, as we would be interested. I think the only way to do this would be to charter one and then fill it up with other interested snorkelers!

As I type this I recall a boat owner that I heard about through the British Wild Swimming Fraternity speak of offering to take their boat to the Red Sea for some wild swimming and live onboard. I am not sure if they did do this or not.

Swim Trek organizes snorkel trips from a Red Sea resort but you stay in a hotel and then get boat support for the swimming each day.

Best wishes.

Sep 16, 2015
Liveaboard Red Sea
by: Denise

Just reading comments about Red Sea snorkeling and I would be very interested in a snorkeling charter.

I've been to Egypt snorkeling several times and would love to find a better/different way of exploring the reefs and a dedicated charter would be fab.

Happy to be involved!

Sep 18, 2015
Liveaboards
by: Michel

We just returned from Egypt this morning. Another very good trip with over 150 species of fish and beautiful corals. New hotel for us was the Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge. I would say: highly recommended. Snorkelers are taken seriously by the diving center, and all the facilities like Zodiak transport etc. are free of charge available for snorkelers as well.

As far as I know, there are no liveaboards for snorkelers in the Red Sea. Of course a liveaboard offers great flexibility in where to go. But on the other hand, being on the open sea is not very attractive in an area where there is usually a quite strong wind (4-5 Beaufort).

I like being in a bay, with the option to snorkel the fringing reefs when the winds are low.

Oct 03, 2015
Stinging Jellyfish?
by: Gene

Are stinging jellyfish a big problem for shore snorkeling in the Red Sea? September sounds like the best combination of water and air temperature. What are the best months to avoid jellyfish problems?

Thanks.

Oct 04, 2015
Jellyfish in the Red Sea
by: Anonymous

Hello Gene,

On around 10 trips to the Red Sea, we've encountered a number of jellyfish on only one occasion, after a few days of strong wind. And this was the species Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia sp. aurita). The sting is very mild. You can feel a prickly sensation, but only for a short time. So I wouldn't bother about jellyfish.

Warm regards,

Michel

Nov 12, 2016
Sharm el Sheikh Snorkeling
by: Alex

December and the beginning of January, are they alright to snorkel at Sharm el Sheikh? Or is it too cold and too windy? I want to go with my wife and 8 year old daughter for snorkeling.

Thanks for any tips.

Nov 13, 2016
Winter in Egypt
by: Anonymous

As for snorkeling in Sharm el Sheikh in December/January, the winds are more or less the same all year round, usually somewhere around 3-4 Beaufort. The air temperature in that period is usually around 25°C and the water around 23°C.

We use a full wetsuit that time of year. But it depends on how much you move around. Some snorkelers swim quite fast, and then it may be OK without a wetsuit or with a shorty. We go very slow since we look for small things and spend a lot of time taking pictures.

So, my advice would be to take a wetsuit, especially for the little girl, otherwise your snorkeling trips might be quite short...

Jan 14, 2017
Solo, Non-Swimmer Needs Help :)
by: Crystal D.

I'm a solo traveler, non-swimmer but I love the water and to snorkel. That being said, do you have recommendations for me in Egypt? I've seen suggestions of Mangrove Bay, Oriental Bay and Brayka Bay, but these seem like "on your own" options. Correct me if I am wrong?

Is there anything you can recommend like a day trip? If so, where to?

Thanks!

Jan 15, 2017
Options in Eypt
by: Michel

Hello Crystal, I don't know what you mean by 'non-swimmer'. I presume that's not literally what you mean?

The places I mentioned are indeed very well suited for snorkeling trips 'on your own'. That means that the places are accessible right from the beach. There are already nice things (corals, fishes) to see in knee-deep water.

All these places also have dive centers that offer snorkeling trips. Usually that's a combination of a dive boat, that also takes a few snorkelers.

But, when you're uncertain about your swimming, I'd rather advise going from the beach (Mangrove Bay has a jetty to enter the water), put on a life vest and stay in the shallows. All the bays I mentioned are downwind, no waves, no currents and easy going. The snorkeling trips sometimes visit bays, but might as well visit more exposed dive sites that offer nice, but tougher swimming and snorkeling.

I hope this if of any help. If not, just ask again ;-)

Jan 16, 2017
Snorkeling Help
by: Alexander

Hi Michel, it was nice to read your comments and hear how you are helping people trying to work out where they should stay, I hope you can help me as well.

I'm going on Friday and I'm not sure where to stay yet. We are only in Egypt for a week. We will land in Hurghada. My girlfriend and I would love a place where the house reef is great, we would also like a place that serves good food. Our idea is to find a big all inclusive resort with the "best reef" as possible.

Looking forward to hear from you.

Best regards.

Jan 17, 2017
Suggestions for Your Winter Egypt Trip
by: Michel

Hi Alexander,

Although I absolutely don’t want to pretend I know everything about snorkeling in Egypt, I’ll give it a try to answer your questions. To start with, on average the snorkeling gets better when you go further south. Reefs are less disturbed, on average they have better corals and more fish.

So, my first advice would be to go for the area around Marsa Alam instead of Hurghada. Marsa Alam does have an international airport, but it’s only some 200 kilometers south of Hurghada, so it’s cheaper and faster to go by car. There’s a good, not very busy road that follows the coastline south.

The closest to Hurghada airport is Mangrove Bay, that’s some 170 km south of Hurghada. The house reef is one of the best in Egypt I (and many others) think, but that’s definitely not a "big all-inclusive resort". It’s a rather small hotel that attracts only divers and snorkelers. It offers half board, since a lot of the guests spend the day on a diving boat. They do serve lunch, but not on an all-inclusive basis.

A bit further south (250 km south of Hurghada) you find Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge and Brayka Bay resort. Brayka Bay is "big all-inclusive" for sure, 4 swimming pools, lots of guests that visit the place mainly for beach and all-inclusive food and drinks.

The bay can be a bit crowded in the shallows, lot of people just wading and kicking up sand. ;-) That usually means a bit poorer visibility during the day, so you better go early. Visibility always gets better the further you go from the beach. The reef is still good, the fish very good and quite tame.

Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge attracts also divers and snorkelers only, but it’s bigger than Mangrove and offers all-inclusive. The quality of the food is in all these three places I mentioned so far more or less equal I would say. It’s very much OK, but don’t expect Michelin star food. Marsa Shagra is less busy, very well organized and with better service for snorkelers. They are happy to take you in the zodiac to drop you off just outside the bay if you ask. Other dive operations usually are not very fond of snorkelers because they don’t make a lot of money on snorkelers...

Somewhere in the middle of all this (literally as for the distance) is Oriental Bay. But in that place the food is a little bit lower in quality, and the resort is across the road seen from the beach, so that’s a 10-15 minute walk back to your room coming from the water. But the reef is also very good.

And in January, more or less the coldest month in Egypt, that might be chilly. Temperature will be around 22-26° C, the water around 24° C. That may sound comfortable, but keep in mind that there’s usually a quite strong wind every day, that will cool you down as snorkelers. So I would suggest you take a shorty wetsuit to be more comfortable, unless you’re much more hardened than we are...

So, to round it off; if you really want "big all-inclusive", Brayka Bay will be the place to go I think.

As for transportation; there are lots of taxis at the airport. It might be smart to organize it from home. I can recommend Sylvia Tours to pick you up at the airport and drive you to the hotel and back. That will be cheaper and more reliable than an airport cab.

All of the hotels and organizations I mentioned can be found on the internet and speak very good English (and some other languages like German, Italian and sometimes Russian as well). In Arabic "Shukran" means thank you.

Have a very nice stay in Egypt!

Jan 17, 2017
Thank You!
by: Alexander

Hi again Michel, First of all thanks for the fast and thorough reply.

I have just done some research and found a hotel near Mangrove Bay called SENTIDO Oriental Dream Resort. Do you know if the reef would be good around there, because the other hotels I read about at the place did not have any good reviews.

In the summer I visited Indonesia and went to a terrific island with a lot of different fish and turtles everywhere. That trip got me hooked, so now I really want to see more. Just for notice I don't have a PADI certificate so I can only snorkel so if this rules anything out, please let me know.

I would also like to know if you know how much better the snorkeling would be compared to Makadi Bay, which was where I was looking at originally. And also which hotel could you recommend at Brayka Bay?

Jan 18, 2017
Red Sea
by: Michel

Hi Alexander, you’re welcome. Thanks to Galen and Nicole for quick responding on this topic.

We visited Sentido Oriental Dream once and I’m sorry but from a snorkeling point of view, I can’t recommend it. The reef in front of the hotel is somewhat complicated. In fact it consists of three shallow ‘lagoons’ between the fringing reef and the beach. You can’t get across the reef to reach the open sea. When we were there, the visibility in the lagoons varied from quite murky most of the time, to gin-clear on only one occasion (we were there for 5 days). Because it’s quite shallow, the number of fish is limited, but when it is clear, photo opportunities are good. But, one clear snorkel trip out of 10 (we do usually two trips a day) is quite a risk I think. The hotel is good, most of the guests are Italian.

We do only snorkeling also, so no worries on that point. Snorkeling in Egypt is super. ;-)

When I compare Makadi Bay (we also visited that place once) to Brayka, Mangrove or Marsa Shagra, I would say a 6 for Makadi Bay compared to a 8-9 (on a scale of 1-10) for the other three. Makadi Bay is very busy, lots of boats, few corals, few fish, visibility moderate. A number of Pink Whipray when we were there (which are rare in the Red Sea) to mention something positive. ;-)

As for Brayka there are three connected hotels. I can recommend Brayka Bay Reef Resort as the most quiet one. If you’re looking for entertainment, pick Brayka Lagoon Resort. But all three are on the same bay and at walking distance. The third is named Royal Brayka Resort.

Warm regards.

Feb 20, 2017
Solo Traveler, Non-Confident Swimmer, Sharm el Sheikh
by: Ness

I am not a confident swimmer and travel alone. I stay at Hilton Sharks Bay where the reef is just off the beach, you walk down the pontoon and get in.

Speak to the staff of the Sinai Dive Club who are based there and explain. They will advise you and you can hire the life jacket and mask etc. from them. You will not be the only person with a life jacket on. I personally don't use fins. There is a lifeguard on duty there.

They have a dive boat that goes out most days with divers and snorkelers on it, max of about 16 people, and snorkelers can wear a life jacket when it stops. And if you check when you book it, they can use a life ring which you can hold onto and they will pull you along in the sea while you look down at the fish and reef.

I have found them to be excellent with non-confident swimmers and the fish and reef, both off the hotel beach and from the dive boat, are an experience you should not miss.

I have been there about 6 times and never had a problem snorkeling.

I hope this helps someone.

Mar 13, 2017
Expensive Flights to Marsa Alam - Can We Go To Sharm El Sheik Instead?
by: Ignacio Tredici

Dear Michel, first of all, VEEL DANK for all the precious information that you are sharing. This is a great resource!

Secondly, based on your advice I contacted Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge to visit them for Easter. They replied and everything looked fine until I found out the flight fares for the week of Easter. I did not buy early enough and now the flights to Marsa Alam are very expensive so we had to cancel. My wife is very disappointed as she REALLY needs a break with peace, sun, sea and fish.

Alternatively, there are charter flights from Bari (I live in Southern Italy) that are very convenient BUT, they only go to Sharm El Sheik.

Question: Is Sharm El Sheik a place to avoid at all cost for a family with two young girls (4 and 9) looking for peace, nature, good food and fish?

I thank you very much in advance for your advice.

Mar 13, 2017
Flying to Sharm Instead of Marsa Alam
by: Michel

Dear Ignacio, thanks for the compliments, even in Dutch!

I'm sorry to hear that it is so expensive to fly to Marsa Alam. To be honest, I can't help you with Sharm, I've never been there.

For some time, here in the Netherlands, we had negative advice on Sharm. The risk for terrorist action was rated higher there, especially after the attack on the Russian plane. At this moment the advice for Sharm is like the advice for the rest of the Egyptian coast. So, that shouldn’t be a problem I think.

As I mentioned, I can’t help you with snorkeling over there. I’ve heard and read good things about the snorkeling in Dahab, a small town north of Sharm. You can fly to Sharm in that case.

You didn’t mention Hurghada, is that the same high prices like Marsa Alam? That’s not too far by car so that can be a good alternative for Marsa Alam.

Warm regards and all the best in Egypt!

Mar 13, 2017
Sharm el Sheikh Snorkeling
by: Alex

Hi Ignacio, I read about your query for Sharm el Sheikh. We were there in December/January with our 9 year old daughter and found the place quite good, in fact not at all crowded. Though you see the army at important junctures, it's comforting that they are watching out for you as well.

Regarding snorkeling - it was good - there are a lot of fishes and a lot of beautiful corals (the water was a little cold but still good).

Ras Mohamed you can do by boat or bus - both are good. But I wouldn't do the island Tiran - definitely a Big NO NO.

Most hotels have good corals right at their beaches - sun, beach, corals, fish are normally good.

It was really relaxing & good fun (only the water a little warmer would have been perfect. We definitely want to return, as the fishes are lovely.

Apr 03, 2017
Mangrove Bay
by: Toby

Hello, I am going to Egypt in May for my birthday with my girlfriend. From reading this page Mangrove Bay seems like the best destination.

Is the correct resort?

Is Sharma that bad? I heard it's full of horrible large resorts and obnoxious tourists?

Apr 15, 2017
El Malikia Resorts, Abu Dabbab or Brayka Bay Resort?
by: Andrej

Dear Michel,

Thank you for all your posts and precious information :).

Could you comment also on El Malikia Resort Abu Dabbab? Is it worth these days to stay in Aba Dabbab Bay (I read that Dugons don’t dwell there any more) or is it better to be in Brayka Bay?

Me and my girlfriend have the idea to go to one of those resorts in July for 14 days. We care most about snorkeling and peaceful atmosphere.

We were in Makadi Bay 2 years ago and liked it, but this year we would like to see also bigger fishes and sea creatures such as turtles, dugongs, dolphins, sharks, Napoleon Wrasses etc.

Since we are not so experienced in traveling, we thought that for now we would like a more cozy all-inclusive option and thought about those two resorts.

Which resort would you suggest in our case? And which snorkeling trips would you suggest from there?

Thank you in advance.

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