By Mark Kolsen
I spent one month snorkeling Egypt in Spring 2021. I snorkeled in Hurghada’s Makadi Bay while staying at Fort Arabesque Resort, Marsa Alam while staying at Solymar Reef Resort, and Sharm-el Sheik on the Sinai Peninsula while staying at Jaz Fanara Resort.
The coral in Egypt is spectacular, with a multitude of colors I have never seen elsewhere, except at the Great Barrier Reef years ago. Coral bleaching is minimal, primarily because these corals evolved in warm water.
Egypt Snorkeling – Safe, Affordable, Easy to Get Around
You should go if you can. Don’t let preconceptions stop you: along the Red Sea coast, it is VERY safe. Hotels, all gated, are required to monitor your presence. I’ll never forget the evening I returned late from a trip; when I identified myself at the hotel gate, the guard smiled and said “I know who you are.” He meant it. On the other hand, I cannot speak for Cairo or Luxor, as I stayed on the Red Sea coast.
It is also INCREDIBLY inexpensive. All of the hotels listed above were first class and cost me an average of $80/night, ALL INCLUSIVE, with excellent, really first-rate, buffets. Yes, alcohol was included, though you had to pay extra for non-Egyptian brands (house beer, however, was Stella!)
Getting around by cab, which I recommend, was also inexpensive. The coast has little traffic; renting a car presents no worries about “wild Egyptian drivers.” Rather, the problem is that there are few signs, so knowing when “you’ve arrived” at a particular site is a real guessing game.
Snorkeling Egypt – House Reefs and More
Snorkeling on the resorts’ house reefs was always excellent; the Jaz Fanara in Sharm-el Sheik has an especially long, beautiful reef that I snorkeled three times, always seeing something different. If you get there, make sure you snorkel to the left (as you face the water) and up the coast: even after the Jaz resort’s property ends, you can go another half mile and still see beautiful coral.
But the one “don’t miss” place is the Hamata Islands, which are three hours south of Hurghada and an hour plus south of Marsa Alam. The coral there is the best on the coast, simply dazzling. Two hours off the coast, three large pods of dolphins hang out, and swimming with them (in the wild) was unforgettable.
Hamata thus really requires two separate trips: one group excursion to see the near shore reefs; another to visit the dolphin pods. From your hotel, both trips are long rides to the south, but they are well worth it. By the way, tours pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.
Two tips on going to Hamata:
- If you do the dolphin excursion, book with a boat that has TWIN ENGINES. All of the excursion boats are long and very heavy; some have only single engines that barely move the behemoths at 10 knots, and thus take (seemingly) forever to reach the dolphins. The trip out there is much faster if your boat has twin screws.
- Especially if you are experienced, tell your tour guide that you would like to snorkel by yourself, and will keep your eyes on where the group is. Trying to show tourists “everything” on the reefs, these tour guides move way too fast for my taste; I much prefer to snorkel slowly so that I can really appreciate the diversity and beauty of the corals on these amazing reefs. Your guide will have no problem with your request.
One more note, I lucked into a pod of belugas while snorkeling with a guide off Jackson Reef, which is located between Sharm el-Sheik and Tiran Island. That reef is well worth seeing, though it is only accessible by boat.