One Month Snorkeling Egypt in Spring 2021

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.

Colorful coral reef in Egypt

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.

Anemone in Egypt

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.

Pair of Bluecheek Butterflyfish and purple coral in Egypt
Sohol Surgeonfish and corals on Egypt reef

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.

Dolphins we snorkeled with at Hamata

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

6 Comments

  1. Looks amazing Mark – thanks for sharing. I’d love to snorkel here. We’ve snorkeled in Eilat and it was stunning. This looks even better – such a contrast from the land that you see when you poke your head out of the water and look at the shore!

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  2. Thank you for your feedback and tips for snorkeling Egypt Mark, it is much appreciated. I have been to Marsa Alam twice and have just booked to go back again next November. Both resorts I stayed at were ones recommended by Tropical Snorkeling readers and both were very good for snorkeling.

    I have also spent a week in Cairo seeing the pyramids and the museum, they are well worth visiting and we, two senior ladies, felt totally safe. The Egyptian people are generally very friendly, helpful and welcoming, a lot speak English should you need advice or assistance.

    Lucky you seeing the Belugas!

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  3. So exciting to read your report. I have been to Egypt and never once thought of snorkeling there. I will definitely look forward next year for these sites. Thank you.

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  4. Looks fabulous Mark. As a scuba diver it was a dream to dive in the Red Sea but it didn’t happen for us. We only snorkel now and we are very interested in snorkeling at all three destinations you mentioned. There are not a lot of easily accessible places left in the world with such healthy, vibrant coral in the shallows to 10m for snorkelers to enjoy so I loved your post.

    Can you please advise:
    1. Do you need a hire car/taxi in order to access snorkel spots from your resort and if so how far would you need to drive? Many years ago we had our honeymoon in Africa which included Egypt but have not ever thought about driving for a number of reasons (especially safety as two lone travelers).

    2. Did you post a more detailed report or other info on TripAdvisor – if so can you advise any dates and which sites etc so I could locate them? Also wondering how long you would recommend at each of the three destinations to see them properly without overstaying?

    Linda, are you snorkeling anywhere else except Marsa Alam? Do you taxi or drive to snorkel locations or just from the resort? Do you find there is enough to entertain you there for a week or what would be your time recommendation? We are about to return to the Maldives for our third visit for our wedding anniversary and find a week at each resort (including transfer days, etc.) has been great.

    Linda and Mark – What are the best snorkeling months for good visibility, marine life? Would we be likely to see moray eels, eagle or other interesting rays, turtles, octopus etc.? Are there good sized angelfish, triggerfish, etc?

    Thank you.

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