By Michel Kuijpers – (The Netherlands)
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 Moved From Previous System
Nicole and Galen – Jun 19, 2015 – Finally!
Michel, thank you so much for sharing your pictures and opinions about snorkeling in the Red Sea Egypt. 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.
Michel – Jun 19, 2015 – More Info on Snorkeling in Egypt
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…
Helen – Jun 19, 2015 – Region?
Which region do you recommend?
Michel – Jun 19, 2015 – Places to Go Snorkeling in Egypt
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.
Pat – Jun 20, 2015 – More, Please
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 2-3 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 …?
Pam – Jun 20, 2015 – Wow!
This reminds me of Indonesia where we snorkeled this past April! Awesome corals!
Michel – Jun 20, 2015 – Some More Info on Egypt
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°F) while water is at a comfortable 80°F. In July – August it becomes really hot, up to 110°F 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 five 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 😉
Michel – Jun 20, 2015 – Fish in this Picture
The fish in the this 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.
Nicole and Galen – Jun 26, 2015 – Why not Sinai?
Michel, we are just curious why you suggest avoiding the Sinai area. Thanks.
Michel – Jul 5, 2015 – Why Not Sinai
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…).
Axel from Munich – Aug 2, 2015 – Sinai
Hi! I have been to Sinai several times, preferring the house reef near the Baron Hotel which is located just 10 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!
Ruth – Aug 13, 2015 – Wonderful Snorkeling in Sharm
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 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 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.
Swapna – Sep 10, 2015 – Red Sea Snorkel Liveaboard?
Michel, plus others, thank you for the tips!
I wonder if you know of a snorkel liveaboard for the Red Sea? I scuba and freedive (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.
Ruth – Sep 11, 2015 – Stay Onboard Boat
Hi Swapna – I have looked into 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.
Denise – Sep 16, 2015 – Liveaboard Red Sea
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 or different way of exploring the reefs and a dedicated charter would be fab.
Happy to be involved!
Michel – Sep 18, 2015 – Liveaboards
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 Zodiac 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.
Gene – Oct 3, 2015 – Stinging Jellyfish?
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?
Michel – Oct 4, 2015 – Jellyfish in the Red Sea
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.
Alex – Nov 12, 2016 – Sharm el Sheikh Snorkeling
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.
Michel – Nov 13, 2016 – Winter in Egypt
As for snorkeling in Sharm el Sheikh in December or 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 (77°F) and the water around 23°C (74°F).
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…
Crystal D. – Jan 14, 2017 – Solo, Non-Swimmer Needs Help 🙂
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?
Michel – Jan 15, 2017 – Options in Egypt
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 😉
Alexander – Jan 16, 2017 – Snorkeling Help
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.
Michel – Jan 17, 2017 – Suggestions for Your Winter Egypt Trip
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, four 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 (71-79°F), the water around 24°C (75°F). 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!
Alexander – Jan 17, 2017 – Thank You!
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?
Michel – Jan 18, 2017 – Red Sea
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 five 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.
Ness – Feb 20, 2017 – Solo Traveler, Non-Confident Swimmer, Sharm el Sheikh
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 six times and never had a problem snorkeling.
I hope this helps someone.
Ignacio Tredici – Mar 13, 2017 – Expensive Flights to Marsa Alam – Can We Go to Sharm El Sheik Instead?
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.
Michel – Mar 13, 2017 – Flying to Sharm Instead of Marsa Alam
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!
Alex – Mar 13, 2017 – Sharm el Sheikh Snorkeling
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 and good fun, only the water a little warmer would have been perfect. We definitely want to return, as the fishes are lovely.
Toby – Apr 3, 2017 – Mangrove Bay
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 Sharm that bad? I heard it’s full of horrible large resorts and obnoxious tourists?
Andrej – Apr 15, 2017 – El Malikia Resort Abu Dabbab or Brayka Bay Resort?
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 dugongs 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 two 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.
TomG – May 13, 2017 – Sharm in October
We are going to Egypt mainland in October and at the end of the trip we want to go to Sharm for snorkeling and access to Mt. Sinai. I have read that the mainland side of Red Sea is best but Sinai side is best for us. I don’t have to have the best snorkel location but a very good one with accommodations at a very nice resort (wife). Having said that does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.
Michel – May 14, 2017 – Makadi Bay and Others
Dear Andrej, thanks for the compliments 😉 I’m sorry, I don’t know the El Malikia Resort.
Last year September, there was still at least one dugong in Abu Dabab. I don’t have more recent information. There are usually some big green turtles as well in the bay.
As for the other things you would like to see: turtles, dugongs, dolphins, sharks, Napoleon Wrasses. Dolphins are a lucky shot in either bay. We saw them last September in the bay of Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge. They are sometimes seen in Brayka Bay as well, but not very often. You may consider a day trip to what’s called “Dolphin House,” an offshore reef that usually has dolphins hanging around. That would maximize your chances for dolphins.
Hawksbill turtles can be seen in any bay with some luck. We see them quite often (not on a daily basis, but every holiday a few). Green turtles are confined to big sea grass areas like in Abu Dabab.
Sharks are difficult while snorkeling. They normally don’t visit shallow bays and reefs. At least we never saw one in maybe 15 two week trips. But of course you can always get lucky…
Napoleon Wrasse are very rare now in Egypt as far as we experience. We saw them in Brayka, more to the south in Shams Alam, but you also need a lot of luck on that one.
In Brayka you will see a lot of groupers, up to maybe 40-50 cm, I don’t know what you consider a big fish. With luck the bigger ones, but they also became quite rare. There are lots of Bluespotted Stingrays as well. Normally some morays, the Giant can be a really big fish. The largest we saw was over two meters in length. Also some Bluespined Unicornfish, also a nice sized fish.
When you’re looking for all-inclusive and bigger fish, I would say Brayka will be your best bet. You can always book an excursion to Dolphin House or Abu Dabab to see some ‘specialties.’
Jessica – Jul 29, 2017 – Makadi Beach
Hi peeps :), me and my family are going to Makadi Beach Waterworld Hotel in the beginning of September.
We are traveling with our 3 year old and we wonder if there is somewhere close where the snorkeling is OK?
Danielle from Canada – Jul 31, 2017 – Best Snorkeling Close to Eilat?
Hello, we will be in Tel Aviv on Nov 23 following a long trip, and we’d love to snorkel in the Red Sea for our last six days on that side of the world. We cannot afford to fly to Sharm, as it’s at least $500 US each to fly there from Tel Aviv. However, it’s $100 US to fly to Eilat. So, we can stay in: Eilat, Taba (Egypt), or Aqaba (Jordan). Perhaps we can take a taxi from Taba to Dahab, seems like $30 US for the taxi.
Which do you recommend?
I am an average swimmer, and eager to see things I can’t see in my part of the world (I’ve snorkeled the Philippines, Thailand, Caribbean, and South America).
Thank you for your help!
Michel – Aug 1, 2017 – Makadi Bay and Aqaba
Hi Jessica and Danielle, hope you don’t mind answering two questions in one message.
Snorkeling in Makadi is OK, especially for a short stay. Visibility is not always good, because the bay is busy and sandy. There are lots of rays on the sea grass. The corals are not really good for Red Sea standards. A lot of places nearby have better corals.
As for the places you mention Danielle, I don’t know any of them from personal experience. From what I know from literature and videos and photos I’ve seen, I would say Aqaba is your best bet when it comes to snorkeling. From there you can also visit Petra which is quite famous.
Anonymous – Sep 12, 2017 – Wadi Lahmy
Hi, I have been reading your great advice to try to help others.
We went to Coral Garden south of Safaga last year which we enjoyed.
We plan to go to Wadi Lahmy near Benerice in the south this October. Have you been there and what do you think of it if you have?
Michel – Sep 13, 2017 – Wadi Lahamy
Hi, sorry, we’ve never been there. The most southern part we’ve been was Shams Alam, just north of the Wadi el Gemal National Park. Reefs over there are very good, much better than the one you saw.
All the best deep south!
Crystal – Sep 26, 2017 – Reefs at Hotels
I am considering staying at the Hyatt Regency in Sharm El Sheikh, as it seems they have one of the best house reefs. How easy is it for guests from different hotels to spend a day at another hotel’s reef? Can I just take a taxi to different hotels and explore their reefs on my own? Thanks!
Nicole and Galen – Oct 30, 2017 – Updated Trip Report from Michel
Hi all. Michel has just submitted an updated 2017 Red Sea, Egypt snorkeling trip report to the site. Check it out for some new destinations and beautiful pictures!
Michel – Oct 31, 2017 – Visiting Other Hotels
Hi Crystal, I personally don’t know the hotels around Sharm el Sheikh. Normally hotels are not very willing to let guests from other hotels use their beach. Maybe if you pay a small fee they will let you. Never tried it myself, but if you ask politely and are willing to pay a small fee, you might be successful.
Anonymous – Nov 6, 2017 – Sharm and Makadi Bay
I agree that it may be difficult to snorkel at other hotels in Sharm, but the Hyatt Regency is a good choice for a snorkeling base. As most hotels have access to the reef via a jetty with a guard, you are pretty conspicuous if you show up with a different hotel’s wristband. However, bribery may well work. I have also snorkeled along the reef from one hotel to another!
As there are no longer direct flights from the UK (my base when I’m heading to Egypt) to Sharm, my last trip was to Makadi Bay (flying to Hurghada being cheaper than Marsa Alam) and I found snorkeling at Fort Arabesque’s beach to be the best spot. As the access is not via a jetty it is easier to sneak in even if you are not staying there, which I wasn’t.
It is particularly good for non-confident swimmers as the bay is more sheltered there and you can see quite a variety of sea life without going out of your depth.
I’m going back this January and this time actually staying at that hotel to enjoy more frequent snorkeling!
Will – Nov 6, 2017 – Hyatt
If you stay at the Hyatt you probably won’t want to visit other hotels. It is a fabulous reef which has shallow lagoons on the beach side and a great reef facing seawards. There is a big range of sea life and it is one of the few places we regularly saw Napoleon Wrasse. If you stay there I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
John Jameson – Nov 27, 2017 – Good Snorkeling on Israel Trip
We are traveling to Israel and Jordan next year and are passionate snorkelers. We would like to drive to Egypt. So here are my questions:
1. Is Sharm the best place to snorkel?
2. We read about all the great coral and fish, but don’t want to have to continuously dive to 6-10 meters to see them. I do freedive but are there areas where lots of coral and fish are accessible at 1-3 meters? We are willing to do a boat trip.
We were recently on Cozumel and six meters deep reefs get exhausting after a while.
Michel – Nov 28, 2017 – To John
The snorkeling in Sharm is very convenient as access is usually via jetties which go over the reef, so as soon as you enter the water you are next to the reef wall and plenty of sea life mere inches below the surface. The downside to this easy access is the damage done to the corals by careless tourists in many areas. I’m not a diver but naturally you don’t need to go far down to see the reef.
I would suggest going to Dahab if you’re coming down from Israel as it is a popular diving center with easily accessed reefs.
I should mention, however, in case you are not aware, that the Northern Sinai is not considered a very safe place to be driving in these days of potential terrorist attacks so check your travel insurance will cover you!
Zeki Laurent Sadic – Dec 29, 2017 – House Reefs
I’ve been to Egypt eight times, primarily for snorkeling.
Best places I can recommend are the house reefs in Marsa Shagra Village and Makadi Bay (north).
The house reef in Soma Bay in front of the Sheraton hotel is also nice.
I didn’t like Sharm.
Elizabeth – Jan 1, 2018 – Tondoba Bay? Or Stay in Abu Dabab?
Thanks so much for your articles! My partner can’t scuba (health reasons) and it’s so hard to find information about which places are very nice for snorkeling.
Did you ever try Tondoba Bay? We would prefer an eco-lodge style place, over a big resort hotel, but Marsa Shagra and Masra Nakari are so very expensive (50 euros per person per night, for a tent?!). There are some small eco-lodges, I think two different firms, in Tondoba Bay, which are a much lower price. I think perhaps these places are more locally owned and run?
Otherwise I expect we’ll choose one of the other bays you recommended on your post. A large luxury hotel isn’t our style at all, but they are so much cheaper than the tents.
Except – the other place I found small cheap lodges is Abu Dabab. I am very tempted to stay there, especially to have the chance to look for turtles in the morning and evening when the day-trippers aren’t there. But I read somewhere else that there is no coral. Is that true?
Michel – Jan 2, 2018 – Answers About Prices and Abu Dabab
Hi Elizabeth, I don’t know Tondoba Bay from experience. But from what I can see on Google Maps/Earth, there is not a very good defined bay. That means that you’re a lot more vulnerable in windy conditions, which are more or less standard in Egypt. When it’s windy and there is no bay for shelter, you’ll be in approximately one meter of waves at least. To us that too much for comfortable snorkeling and especially no good for taking pictures.
So, if looking for an alternative for Shagra that is not too big, you might consider Mangrove Bay. That’s a small hotel with only divers/snorkelers. I can’t tell if this is cheaper than Shagra though…
It’s not true that there are no corals in Abu Dabab. There are quite nice corals, but only on the north and south part, especially the north part of the bay is OK. Since it is a very big bay and all the day-trips come for the green turtles that frequent the sea grass area, they drop the day-trippers in the sea grass area, and there are no corals there… The corals are not the best in Egypt, but there are corals for sure.
Elizabeth – Jan 2, 2018 – Thanks!
Thanks so much for getting back to us so quickly! That makes lots of sense, I see what you mean. OK, maybe we should go for 2-3 nights at Abu Dabab and then move on to another of your recommendations. Very helpful. And very grateful to have a source of advice on this, almost everything is so focused on diving.
Luiz Rocker – Jan 14, 2018 – Any Help for El Gouna
Hi, does anyone know good spots for snorkeling near or on El Gouna?
Michel – Jan 15, 2018 – Snorkeling El Gouna Area
Dear Luiz, I’m not very familiar with that area. We did one trip in a resort called Coral Sun, that is close to El Gouna. Snorkeling over there was OK.
Further on, the Mövenpick Resort is 1km from El Gouna. Mövenpick has a very good reputation, but I can’t tell from my own experience. I’ve never been there. But I would certainly pay some attention to the place, since the reputation is very good. But take care to differentiate between divers and snorkelers stories…
Good luck and have a nice trip!
Alexandra – Feb 5, 2018 – Best Time of Year to Snorkel?
Hello! We’re planning on coming to Egypt for snorkeling. What is the best time of the year to do this (warm, clear waters, lots of fish)? Thank you!
Alexandra – Feb 5, 2018 – Best Time of Year Snorkeling in Egypt
Hi Alexandra, our favorite time of the year is September. Nice air temperatures, best water temperatures. Visibility depends more on the location, the tide, the wind (no ‘best time’ for that) than on the time of the year.
So, if it’s a free choice, pick September. In the period from say November to May, the weather can be more chilly and water temperatures are a few degrees lower. July and August are very very hot…
And lots of fish also depends on the location, not so much on the time of the year. Only a few things, like the sharks on some reefs, depend on the time of the year.
Have a nice trip!
Alexandra – Feb 5, 2018 – What about June?
Thank you so much, Michael for your great and detailed response. I was wondering, how about snorkeling in June? Good idea? And what place in Egypt would you recommend for that? Thank you!
Michel – Feb 6, 2018 – June for Snorkeling?
Dear Alexandra, I think June would be fine. According to the statistics, air and water temperature are the same as in September.
We visited the area once in June and that was also good. Maybe it’s a bit busier than September.
As for places to go, this is a very long post 😉 but in the comments above this one, there is a lot of information on places to go. There is some more information on my additional post linked to above too.
Have a nice trip!
Alexandra – Feb 6, 2018 – Thank you!
Thank you so much for your response!
sultan4swing – Feb 21, 2018 – 30 Years of Snorkeling Worldwide – Red Sea Is the Best
Hi. Just wanted to reinforce your comments about snorkeling the Red Sea. I’m not a diver but a keen snorkeler, now approaching 69. I have snorkeled initially in Greece and Turkey, but since, many happy times between 2005 and 2009 in Marsa Alam and predominantly Sharm el Sheikh, but also in the Caribbean, Malaysia, Great Barrier Reef Australia, and last week Belize…
My wife won’t go back to Sharm as our Foreign Office has stopped flights from the UK because of 2015 Russian plane bomb, but other countries still fly there.
In my experience, NOTHING so far beats the Sinai area for snorkeling: Ras Muhammed NP, Dahab ‘blue hole’ but especially Sharm where even hotel reefs fish and corals and visibility are amazing…. My favorite is Al Fanar Beach Resort near Ras um Sid in Sharm. I snorkeled there many times and had a very close encounter with a wild osprey (more details if anyone is interested). I also had an amazing week with a diving group in 2005 at Marsa Shagra Village with Red Sea Diving Safari in Marsa Alam where we swam with around 80 wild dolphins….
I want to return to the Red Sea, but as Sharm is out, can anyone recommend other than Marsa Alam, what areas still have pristine reefs, visibility and fish?
Coco – Feb 27, 2018 – Snorkeling in Hurghada?
Hi Michel, can you advise on snorkeling in Hurghada, please?
We went to Egypt last year at Easter and went snorkeling at Giftun Island and Dolphin Chasing. We were with our two kids. Giftun Island was awful. Very cold water temperatures and very breezy. Big heap of seaweed or something similar looking under the water straight off the beach. We couldn’t really distinguish the coral or any fish at all. It was an absolute waste of time and money. You will be disappointed if you decide to go there.
However, the open water snorkeling that followed was warmer and the food on the boat was nice and the boat ride home was warm and comfortable.
On a separate day, we went Dolphin Chasing. We didn’t know what to expect. They said we get to swim with the dolphins… we were excited until we saw a few boats rounding the wild dolphins up and then out of nowhere the staff started shouting jump, jump.
My kids and I can swim well, but it was scary for all of us. I got a glimpse of a dolphin meters beneath and then we were rushed back onto the boat. They wanted us to go again, but no way were my family doing that again. They had a following snorkeling stop but my children and I declined and stayed on the boat.
We’re going to Egypt Safaga Hurghada again in four weeks time and both my kids are saying they don’t want to go snorkeling. Please can you or someone else advise on a brilliant snorkeling experience just from the beach near Hurghada? I want to try get the kids back into the sea without being afraid and enjoy the wonders of snorkeling.
We are staying in Hurghada for 14 nights. We can travel to any beach by car. I’m not sure how it works in Egypt, if we can just drive to a beach or are we allowed to go to a hotel if it’s their private beach?
I would be so grateful for any suggestions. It would be a shame to go all that way and not experience the underwater beauty.
Thanks guys. Hope someone can help.
Linda – Feb 27, 2018 – To Coco
Hi Coco, have you already booked your accommodation in Hurghada? If not I can recommend the beach at Fort Arabesque in Makadi Bay as ideal for kids for snorkeling as there is a sandy beach and the patches of reef start in shallow water. The reef is known for its variety of fish and I’ve walked to it along the beach from a hotel round the bay (as well as when I stayed at the Fort). It is also regularly used by guests at Sunrise next door which has more kids’ facilities, water slides, etc.
If you are not staying in the area I’m not sure where you would access the beach though, as hotels are very security conscious for obvious reasons and likely to refuse vehicle entry for non-guests. I expect it’s doable by going to a business on the bay- just not sure which.
The north side of Makadi Bay is overall better for snorkeling than Hurghada itself.
Elizabeth – Feb 27, 2018 – “Dolphin Chasing”
Hi Coco, sorry to hear about your bad experience “dolphin chasing”. Do you remember which site you went to? I heard that Samadai doesn’t allow that sort of behavior (rounding up the dolphin, tourists jumping out quickly, then the boat chasing the dolphins on if they move). I’d love to see dolphins, but not if they’re being harassed.
Coco – Feb 27, 2018 – Snorkeling in Makadi Bay
Hi Linda, thanks for replying. We’re staying on Safaga Road, Aqua Jungle Park. Will try Makadi Bay. Hoping the water isn’t too cold. Like I mentioned, we have access to a car if needed, as we made friends last time we were there so they can drive us to any recommended snorkeling spot. If there are any more, say maybe an hour or so away, we could make a day trip of it and probably stop for food on route. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂
Hi Elizabeth, about dolphin chasing. We just went with a local agent in Hurghada Centre on one of the days whilst we were out there. I don’t remember the name unfortunately, sorry…
Linda – Feb 27, 2018 – Further to Fort Arabesque
Coco, I expect if your friends are local they’d be able to figure out how to access the north side of Makadi Bay without going through a hotel entrance although there are security guards between hotels who generally let tourists pass. I’ve emphasized the north side of the bay as it’s sheltered and calm. Michel expressed concern about visibility at Makadi but at Fort Arabesque the visibility is usually good and you’ll see loads of fish.
Michel – Feb 28, 2018 – Snorkeling Hurghada Area
Hi Coco, good to see that there is already good answers to your question. Unfortunately this is not the best time of the year according to water temperatures… The summer months have nice water temps, but are very hot. When given the choice, go in September, you get the best of both worlds, nice water and air temps.
Apart from what Linda already mentioned, I can add Mangrove Bay. Super visibility (normally), completely sheltered from the wind, lots of fish and the best corals in the region. But, it is 160 km south of Hurghada. That’s a long drive with kids.
Enjoy your stay!
Maureen – Mar 14, 2018 – Update for 2018 Please
I have really enjoyed reading your posts, thank you. I am wondering if you have any updates that would help me choose a hotel for this year. I just want to snorkel, and mainly on the house reef, although a few excursions for variety would be good. I am not looking for nightlife, just a clean place to sleep and eat next to coral as unspoilt as possible. Thank you.
Michel – Mar 15, 2018 – Snorkeling
Hi Maureen, we are planning a trip for ourselves in September this year. We’ve got exactly the same ideas like you; only snorkeling, nice corals and fish, no nightlife.
We’ll fly to Marsa Alam, and will pick three hotels out of the following group: Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge, Marsa Nakari Eco Lodge, Mangrove Bay and/or Oriental Bay. We’ll stay for two weeks and change places every 4-5 nights. That way you’ve got enough time to really get familiar with a house reef and on the other hand have enough variety in your holiday. Is this helpful for you? Enjoy your trip!
Ron – Mar 19, 2018 – Just a Couple of Days
Hello, we are planning a trip to Egypt in early December for approximately two weeks to see many of the wonderful cultural sites.
At the end of our trip we thought about 2-3 days to unwind either Hurghada area or Sharm. We enjoy snorkeling and wonder if you thought Mangrove Bay would be the best choice for such a short stay. Also if available our hotel preference would be something a little more upscale.
Thank you for your comments.
Michel – Mar 19, 2018 – Few Days at Mangrove Bay
Hi Ron, I think Mangrove will be OK for a short stay. The hotel is on the north side of the bay. The south side is open to the public as far as I know and other resorts/dive schools also organize day trips either by boat or by bus. So if you choose to stay in a better hotel (Mangrove is OK, but rather basic) then you should be able to visit the bay on the south side.
Enjoy your stay in Egypt!
Patti – May 16, 2018 – Red Sea in March
Returned last month from round the world snorkeling tour. Was in Sharm from 3/15-3/23. Couple of comments… it was cold. Made the mistake of trying to snorkel in the same suit as the Maldives… ended up with pneumonia. Take a decent wetsuit and frogskin or something similar. It was windy which made the cold worse. My fault, live and learn.
Did Tiran, Ras, Blue Hole, house reef. Made the mistake of going out with tour operators. Too many people not knowing what they are doing, WAY too little time at the sites. They spend more time on “lunch” than at the sites. Next time, I’ll pay for private power boat who lets me set the time.
Most arrive so you can only snorkel along the wall, not over the coral where you can actually look for interesting macro items. Nice for divers, sucks for serious snorkelers.
Some house reefs were overrun with screaming kids, splashing and scaring away the fish. Too many clueless people, standing on coral, don’t know how to swim, without safety vest or fins. BTW, found this same situation in Philippines. Bite the bullet and pay for private boat hire.
As mentioned, not a lot of nice surface coral but found same in Maldives and in some “popular” places in the Philippines.
Tiran okay but you hit it on a windy day and aren’t a strong swimmer, the visibility is crap and fighting the current is tough. Same at some Ras sites.
Plan to try again, but with a better wetsuit this time.
Merijn – Jun 3, 2018 – Visibility
Hello, thanks for all the advice and tips! We are planning to go to Marsa Alam this December staying at Brayka Bay or Oriental next door. We love snorkeling but heard this time of the year the wind can be serious. Does this effect the visibility in the bays dramatically? Or is this not worse or better than any time of the year? Hope you can give us advice! Or are we better off in for example Makadi Bay? We love turtles by the way, any advice for that?
Thanks a lot!
Linda – Jun 3, 2018 – To Merijn
I went to Marsa Alam in late January and there were days I couldn’t snorkel due to the wind. Even on calmer days the visibility wasn’t as good as I had experienced at the north end of Makadi Bay.
I was at Fort Arabesque (on the north side of Makadi Bay) in early January this year and last, and only had one day between the two trips when the sea was rough enough to affect visibility. I saw turtles there too, and after many trips to Red Sea resorts have decided Fort Arabesque is my “go to” place because of the reliability of being able to snorkel nearly every day.
However, I am not an expert on Brakya Bay which is more sheltered than the main coastline of Marsa Alam so hopefully someone can comment. Winter in general gets a fair amount of wind but that’s when I always go to escape the weather at home! I’ve been told October is a good month, after the summer heat cools off a bit but while the sea is still warm.
Merijn – Jun 4, 2018 – Makadi Bay and Marsa Alam
Thanks for your reply!
How does it work at Makadi Bay? Is it possible from every hotel at the bay to snorkel everywhere in the bay and to enter the bay or does every hotel there own an area and visitors cannot walk all the way around the bay?
Hope somebody has still some tips for the bay around Marsa Alam in December.
Linda – Jun 5, 2018 – Walking Around Makadi Bay
Last year I stayed at the south end of Makadi Bay and on days when it was too rough to snorkel where I was staying I walked all the way round to the north side to snorkel off the beach at Fort Arabesque as it’s much more sheltered. There are guards at each hotel but if they see you are wearing a wristband from a local hotel they let you through unchallenged, and it’s common for people to have a stroll along the beach past nearby hotels. You’d have an issue without a wristband though.
Some hotels may not want you to snorkel from their beach but the Fort Arabesque beach access is used by guests from other hotels. I also walked up to Grand Makadi to snorkel off the main reef which can be accessed there. One thing that makes it easier overall is that this area has access to snorkeling directly from the beach at many of the hotels, without using a jetty. Some have jetties and those are staffed by guards who would probably turn you back if you didn’t have a wristband from that hotel. Hope this helps.
Elena – Jun 25, 2018 – Hotel Info Please
Thank you, first of all, for great advice!
I just would like to understand if when you suggest Brayka Bay, Mangrove Bay and/or Oriental Bay, if these are the names of hotels or locations. Because when I search google I get quite few things… For example when I search for Oriental Bay I get Aurora Oriental Bay Resort and it is shown on the map as very far from the seaside.
So, is Mangrove Bay the Mangrove Bay Resort? And the same for Brayka Resort?
Thanks for your help! Just trying to find a hotel with good direct access to coral reef for snorkeling.
Michel – Jun 25, 2018 – Hotels
Hi Elena, you’re right, there is a resort with the name Brayka Bay (in fact there are two) but they share the same bay. One of them is oriented more to young people, the other one is more general. The same is true for Mangrove Bay, there’s only one resort (a small one) in Mangrove Bay. Oriental Bay Resort is renamed (and under new management) to Aurora. This one is opposite the road. But the walk from your room in Oriental/Aurora to the beach is 5-10 minutes, so that’s not a big deal for most people.
If you have more questions, please let me know.
Elizabeth – Jun 25, 2018 – Abu Dabab Lodge: Perfect Low-Budget Resort
Just realized I never wrote back with my experience.
We stayed five nights in Abu Dabab Diving Lodge. Unlike almost all other places on the coast (outside of the towns), this is small, locally-owned and cheap. Like, 40 GBP per night total for two people all-inclusive cheap. But it is NOT a lower quality experience for this. The rooms are in lovely bungalows around a beautiful garden and pool, and the food is the best we had on the coast – the vegetarian food was easily the best vegetarian food we had in Egypt.
We also spent a week in Luxor, going to guide book recommended restaurants, etc. But Abu Dabab Lodge gave a lovely tagine dish every night, AND usually a separate vegetarian “main”, AND a diverse salad bar.
Abu Dabab Bay is wonderful. Having the time staying there meant that we could go out, find the turtles, and just stay with them, watching them do their thing. So much more magical than a quick tour group see-them-and-leave effect. We did not see the dugong unfortunately.
Also, I think the corals are really very good, especially on the north side of the bay, if you go far enough. (Closer to where you enter the water, the south side is better and the north is rather damaged looking). There are even better corals on an offshore reef very close by, which we took a boat trip to.
Another advantage of Abu Dabab Lodge is of course that there is no “animation team” or any of that sort of thing. One night we had noise from a neighboring resort but nothing ear-plugs couldn’t fix and it is always worth traveling with them anyway.
We had some other wonderful trips while we stayed there, especially the Wadi El Gemal desert safari. And camel riding with Amore Safari, who also do a fun dinner.
We then transferred to Marsa Shagra for a more expensive treat (booked because we had not expected Abu Dabab to be quite so wonderful). This was also very nice. This is meant to be some of the best coral on the coast. I cannot honestly say that the corals or variety of fish were all that much better than the far out north part of Abu Dabab, so maybe that bay should get more credit for coral too.
However the Marsa Shagra Bay is narrower so it will be better in very strong wind. But to be quite honest, the food made us ill. Not what you expect, when the price was more than twice Abu Dabab. Still it is a very good and professional place and the zodiacs taking people out around the reef are a good extra touch.
We went in March. An advantage of going early in the year is that the water is not too warm, so you wear a wetsuit (easy to buy a cheap thin one before you go) so you don’t need to worry nearly so much about sunscreen. And the weather outside the water is 28-32°C (82-90°F) which is nice-hot not too-too-hot.
Finally I strongly recommend the Red Sea Snorkeling Guide if you are not yet experienced at identifying fish and corals. It is really very nicely put together and helps you quickly start to properly recognize things and get a good deal more out of what you are seeing. We also had a look at a more serious book at one of the resorts and it just gave too many species so we ended up unable to find things or get interested. Dennis Lisbjerg gives just the right level of detail.
Swapna – Sep 18, 2018 – Safe to Fly to Sharm El Sheikh?
Hi there, I wonder if anyone has recently flown into Sharm El Sheikh? Is it safe? My partner and I live in Austria and aren’t finding any suitable flights for our first preference, Marsa Alam (nor even into Hurghada) for our rather inflexible dates (7-8 days, Oct 2018). I am therefore pondering if we just forget it for this year or if we should consider the Sharm area?
Background: in October 2015 we flew into Marsa Alam and stayed at The Palace Port Ghalib for a week. We were usually two of 5-8 people at our hotel/house reef, which meant sometimes seeing no-one for our entire snorkel! AMAZING fish, corals and once we even saw dolphins and turtles! Heaven!
This time, if we fly into Sharm, we would like to basically find a deal at a lovely hotel – be it five-star or a clean eco-hotel, want to have a LONG snorkel twice a day at the hotel reef (no need to drive anywhere), plus take 1-2 boat snorkel excursions during our stay. Good food would be a plus but not looking for night life.
Are Sharm hotel reefs full with tourists stepping on the reef as they don’t know better? Is it like being at the equivalent of Waikiki Beach in Oahu that is FULL with swimmers? Are the corals unspoiled or ruined by ignorant tourists?
Another option: Does anyone have experience if landing in Sharm and then going up to Dahab is a better idea? Is that safe? Or better to head to a hotel near Ras Muhammed National Park for our 7-8 days (if that is even possible)? We like not having to drive or take a trip to snorkel on most days – basically I am wondering if after our last superb Marsa Alam stay, we would be disappointed with Sharm and its busy water and on-land environment.
Thank you for any prompt help and tips as flights are filling very fast so we have to book ASAP!
Elizabeth – Sep 18, 2018 – Not Safe According to UK Government
According to the UK government, Sharm is not safe. I don’t think this is the version of “safe” you mean. But note that the UK government says that it is safe *in* Sharm, but advises against air travel to get there. It also advises against “all but essential” travel to the area Dahab is in.
You should check your own government’s advice. Even if it’s overkill, it may stop you getting travel insurance to go somewhere that they advise against.
Here is the UK government travel advice site:
Linda – Sep 19, 2018 – Probably Safe
Many countries have resumed flights to Sharm and a great deal of money has been spent to upgrade security. I understand even Russia has resumed flights so am not sure why the UK is holding out.
I have been to Sharm several times but as I’ve not gone very recently I’m reluctant to recommend a specific hotel in case they’ve changed too much since the slump, but I can make some general comments I hope might be helpful. Just as an example, Sharks Bay has a range of good hotels with direct reef access.
Most hotels with beachfront have their own jetty over the reef so access is easy without having to travel anywhere. This ease of access, though, has made the reefs vulnerable to damage from careless tourists, so although you would see a wide variety of wonderful sea life, the reefs are not pristine.
You are unlikely to have to deal with too many crowds. Sharm isn’t the ghost town it was a couple of years ago but it’s only just recovering.
Dahab makes an interesting alternative although for snorkeling the reefs are not quite as convenient as in Sharm and you have to swim out quite a ways to most of them. As they are less accessible to casual tourists they are in better condition. Dahab also has a pleasant pedestrianized area which makes it more walker friendly than Sharm. However, I’m not sure how well it is thriving as it is in the region that Britain’s FCO advises not to go, unlike Sharm, which they do not advise against- they only still seem to have an issue with the airport! I will certainly go back once England resumes flights.
Will – Sep 19, 2018 – Sharm
As already stated the UK travel advice is that Sharm is safe but they have a problem with the airport. Because of bombings in 2005, including an attack on a hotel, the whole of Sharm was ringed with military defenses to keep tourists safe. The surrounding areas including Dahab are potentially open to attack from Isis coming from the North Sinai therefore the British government advice is to remain in Sharm.
I thought that the airport had undertaken all the security recommendations suggested so I don’t know why flights from the UK haven’t resumed yet. I have always felt safe there and will go back again.
Carina – Sep 21, 2018 – Small-Scale Hotel or Lodge at Makadi Bay?
Hi! In November and December I will be traveling in Egypt, and I’m planning to spend a few days at the Red Sea for snorkeling. I’ve already booked my flight from Luxor to Hurghada Airport, but I prefer not to stay in Hurghada itself.
From what I’ve read, Makadi Bay seems really nice, especially the northern part. However, as for hotels, all I can find are these large all-inclusive resorts. I’ve been to Dahab before and enjoyed very much the small lodges there. Are there any small-scale, low budget lodges at Makadi Bay or any other place not too far from Hurghada? Thanks so much for the advice!
Michel – Sep 21, 2018 – Makadi Bay
Hi Carina, I don’t know any small, budget friendly hotels close to Hurghada. I visited Makadi Bay once on a day trip and found it moderate from a snorkeling perspective. Very busy, a lot of people and visibility not very good.
I would recommend to drive a little further and visit Mangrove Bay, a little south of El Quesir. Maybe there are very good hotels around Hurghada, but not that I know of.
Whatever you choose, make sure the hotel has a bay to snorkel, and not a jetty crossing the reef, so you must snorkel on the outside of the fringing reefs. Usually there’s a quite strong wind, so on the fringing reefs you’ll be bouncing around in waves of a meter or more…
Linda – Sep 22, 2018 – Makadi Bay Again!
Carina, I have reported earlier in this thread on Makadi Bay and unlike Michel’s experience I found the visibility and overall experience good in the more sheltered northern part of the bay. However, it is ringed with typical all-inclusive hotels and I agree with him that you are unlikely to find anything small. Even if you found one that wasn’t all-inclusive, the area is not well supported with independent shops and restaurants for doing your own thing in terms of food.
If you’d consider a cheap all-inclusive, I did stay at Harmony Makadi for a week at a bargain price, which is adequate as a base, but is at the south end so you’d need to walk round the bay (it’s allowed) to the north beaches for the better snorkeling on windy days. On calm days snorkeling off Harmony’s long jetty was also enjoyable.
If you are not already familiar with doing so, I suggest you try a comparison site like trivago for hotel prices.
Carina – Sep 24, 2018 – Makadi Bay
Hi Michel and Linda, thank you so much for your comments and suggestions! I took Linda’s advice and booked a room at one of the hotels in the northern part of Makadi Bay. As I’m only going for three days this time, I think Makadi Bay will be fine. But based on what I’ve read here, I’m already planning a second trip to Egypt in spring next year. On that occasion I will travel further south to experience the snorkeling at Marsa Alam and El Quesir!
Thanks again for the advice, and my compliments on this fantastic website!
Clare – Oct 18, 2018 – Best Boat Trips for Snorkeling in Hurghada
Hi, we are going to Hurghada tomorrow and staying in Makadi Bay. We would like to know which are the best boat trips for good snorkeling. I have seen many including Giftun Island, Utopia Island, and Sharm el Naga. Could you please tell me in your opinion which are the best trips including any other trips I have not mentioned? Thank you.
Michel – Oct 19, 2018 – Boat Trips
Hi Clare, of the trips you mentioned, only Sharm el Naga is known to me. As compared to other house reefs I would rate that as ‘fair’ but not exceptional for corals as well as fish.
We’re not very fond of boat trips in general. This is because in our opinion the snorkeling guides swim too fast. But that’s only our opinion. Maybe you would be very happy with the trips. For underwater photography a guide that is too fast does not work.
I think it’s wise to check whether the trip is snorkeling only, or a combination of diving and snorkeling. Often diving trips also take snorkelers. But in that case, be aware of the risk that the destination may be exposed to waves and sometimes current. Less a problem for divers, but it is for snorkelers.
Have a great trip in Egypt!
AJ – Nov 5, 2018 – Dahab
Hi, amazing to have insights from folks who have been on the ground (or in the water). Headed to Dahab soon and wondering about best local sites for a group of fairly inexperienced snorkelers. Ras Abu Galum seems highly rated, if a little difficult to access. Is this worth the effort? Any other tips for snorkeling in the area? Thank you.
Michel – Nov 6, 2018 – Dahab
I’m so sorry, I’ve never been to the Sinaï. Maybe someone else can answer your question.
Paul Wilkin – Dec 31, 2018 – Snorkeling Makadi Bay
We stayed in Makadi Bay at Fort Arabesque the week before Christmas, 2018 having read that it has the best snorkeling from the beach in the area and wanting somewhere we could stay on the resort in view of the history of risk to tourists.
This was our first snorkeling trip outside of the Mediterranean and our first all-inclusive resort holiday.
The snorkeling was amazing! The reef was vibrant and colorful, and densely populated with large numbers of fish of many varieties. The reef is not continuous here but a series of islands of coral of varying heights as one swims into deeper water and each island seems to have its own variety of population.
We saw about 60% of the fauna illustrated on the Fishes of the Red Sea card we bought before entering the water from the hotel beach, including: lionfish, puffers, parrotfish, Giant Moray Eels, anemonefish, damselfish, butterflyfish; the list is long.
We did go on two boat trips to islands to snorkel in deeper water but they were a waste of money and time we could have spent snorkeling “our own” reef. Other guests from other resorts thought the trips provided excellent snorkeling, which suggests “our own” reef really was something special.
My only misgiving is that Hurghada and Makadi Bay are being developed at a frantic rate so that, despite laudable attempts to preserve the reef, damage will occur so we plan to return very soon to enjoy this reef while it’s still vibrant.
Despite our misgivings about the all-inclusive package, as opposed to our usual highly independent approach to traveling, we came to love the recipe of snorkel, drink, snorkel, eat, then snorkel some more. Maybe I’m getting old.
Will and Julie – Apr 7, 2019 – Egypt Snorkeling
Some people have wondered why people go to Sharm snorkeling, we went there for years until unfortunately due to the terrorist attack on a Russian plane the UK stopped flights to Sharm. The advantage at Sharm is the drop off into deep water at the end of the hotel piers, due to that you will often see deeper water varieties like Napoleon Wrasse up close as well as a vast amount of the more common Red Sea fish. The Hyatt Regency has a fantastic reef but also shallow lagoons to see the best of both worlds, the amount of dive boats is testament to how good it is there.
After the flight ban we started going to the mainland side and started at Makadi Bay near Marsa Alam, fabulous in the morning but rubbish visibility in the afternoon. Loads of rays and turtles in the shallows but such poor visibility in the afternoon that you can hardly see them!
We tried the Baron Palace near Hurghada which is a shallow walk in with clumps of coral all over. We saw turtles close up amongst loads of impressive Red Sea fish close to shore and it seemed to be a nursery in as much as in the shallows you could see loads of baby fish including tiny lionfish and surgeonfish.
Last year we went to the Makadi Spa in Makadi Bay and were blown away, we went to the right hand beach which has a narrow opening to the deep and if you go left in the afternoon will invariably find quite tame turtles. If you’re lucky you can follow them along the coast for half an hour just hypnotized by their grace and beauty, as long as no children turn up to annoy them!
If you head right you head toward the hotels which aren’t adult only, it’s shallower and sandy so there are loads of Blue Spotted Rays and all the fish you expect in shallower water including some enormous rays which I couldn’t identify but were beautiful to watch. We’ve already booked for August.
There is different wildlife on both sides of the Red Sea and I would go back to Sharm when it reopens but my wife and I have come to love the mainland side as well where there is probably a better chance of seeing rarer stuff like dugongs, sea horses and dolphins (without going on a boat trip) but there is something quite gratifying about walking to the end of a blue floating pier and jumping into deep water. You really need to do both, I’d heard that jumping into the Red Sea was like jumping into a tropical fish tank, and it is!
By the way, we always go all-inclusive in Egypt. The service and food are always excellent and it’s not like Greece where you can go wandering around at night looking for a nice little taverna.
Hotels can be in the middle of nowhere while if you go to somewhere like the Makadi Spa you can eat at all the other Red Sea holiday hotels on the peninsula inclusive (pay for drinks only) which gives you a choice of over 20 restaurants.
If you snorkel you must do the Red Sea. It’s as simple as that really, you’ll never regret it. Maybe we’ll meet you there! Cheers.
Carlos – Apr 14, 2019 – Oriental Bay
Thanks for the very interesting information. It has convinced us to spend our next vacation at the Aurora Bay Resort on Oriental Bay from April 19th to the 26th. We trust in being a protected bay we are safe from the wind and we can do snorkeling every day.
We have some doubts. We have heard about some snorkeling tours. Abu Dabab, Sharm el Lili and Qalan beaches, Dolphin House. Do you recommend them? Do you know anyone who organizes it well? Any more excursion that you find interesting?
Can you go snorkeling the nearby bays, Brayka for example, without staying in the hotels that are on its shore?
Many questions, so thanks in advance.
Nicole and Galen – Apr 15, 2019 – Carlos
Hello Carlos, we think you will find if you read this page more thoroughly all your questions have already been answered regarding boat tours and access to neighboring bays without staying at the resorts. Thank you.
CP – Dec 3, 2019 – Mangrove Open to Public? Compare to Movenpick Resort?
We hope to visit the Red Sea for snorkeling during the last week of March. From reading this post I understand that the Mangrove Bay Resort has an excellent house reef. Can you snorkel at the Mangrove Bay Resort if you are not staying there, i.e. can you purchase a day pass?
Can anyone tell me how the house reef at the Movenpick Resort in El Quseir compares to the Mangrove Bay Resort’s house reef? Thank you.
Michel – Dec 4, 2019 – Snorkeling Mangrove or Mövenpick
Dear CP, I’m not sure whether Mangrove Bay will allow you on the side of the bay the hotel is on. However on the south side of the bay (the hotel is north) is a public area. And the bay is not very wide, so if you want you can swim across.
As for Mövenpick; the hotel is much more classy than Mangrove (or most hotels in Egypt). The bay is fair for snorkeling, but due to its orientation vulnerable to waves. The bay is ‘open’ to the northeast side, so prevailing winds blow into the bay, which may make for less comfortable snorkeling. The fish are good, the corals are fair, but not as good as in Mangrove, which has the best corals in the whole area in my opinion.
Nicole and Galen – Dec 7, 2019 – More Updated Info From Michel!
Hi all, please check out Michel’s updated 2019 suggestions for snorkeling the Red Sea Egypt. There are lots of his wonderful photos too!
Kath – Jan 4, 2020 – Coraya Bay
Just looking at TUI Blue Alaya for April snorkeling. This is in Coraya Bay. I love snorkeling but am NOT a confident or strong swimmer. Would this bay be suitable? I don’t want to get there and find I don’t feel safe!!
Thank you Michel.
Michel – Jan 4, 2020 – Blue Alaya
Dear Kath, I don’t know that bay personally. But it is a bay, although not very big. And in a bay there is normally no current at all. Besides that, it is a hotel area; if the situation shouldn’t be safe for some reason (current/waves) they will place a red flag. So I think you shouldn’t be afraid, even when you’re not a strong swimmer. Have a great time.
Will and Julie – Jan 4, 2020 – Coraya Bay Egypt Snorkeling
Hi Kath, Coraya Bay is a fairly sheltered bay with little in the way of currents. There is a very large area of shallows where you frequently see rays and turtles.
We are going to the Alaya this summer having been to the Coraya hotel next door twice before. The Alaya is not in the bay, it’s actually just around the corner with a pier to take you over the reef into deeper water (not in the bay) with great wildlife.
You can of course walk through the Coraya hotel grounds and enter from the beach into shallow water but be warned that both times we were here the visibility was non-existent in the afternoons. This may be different in April, we have only ever been there in August.
One final thing, have you snorkeled in the Red Sea before? The water is so salty that you have far more buoyancy than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I’m not the worlds best swimmer but I feel totally at ease in the Red Sea!
Hope this helps.
Kath – Jan 5, 2020 – Coraya Bay
Thank you for the helpful comments from Michel, Will and Julie. Although I know you always have to respect the sea I now am really looking forward to some good snorkeling with renewed confidence! All booked so I can’t wait to get there now!
A. – Jan 19, 2020 – My Egypt Experiences
I’m happy to have found this web page (even though it misses the snorkeling spots I will share ;)). I’ve only been to Egypt for snorkeling vacations so far, so I hope I can learn about other interesting spots here.
In Egypt, I’ve been to Soma Bay Peninsula – about a 45 minute drive south of Hurghada – several times and loved it. There are five hotels on the peninsula for different target groups.
We snorkeled up to 2km along the reef (wearing a 5-7mm wetsuit since we went in the colder season and like to spend several hours in the water); the diving spots Ras Abu Soma and Abu Soma Garden can be reached when snorkeling from the jetty which is located in front of The Breakers Hotel. The reef at the end of the Sheraton hotel’s bay was a nice alternative for a windier day when visibility at the end of the jetty wasn’t as good.
We combined our vacation with a boat trip for snorkeling with dolphins in the wild which was amazing and also gave us opportunity to snorkel at other reefs. There seem to be big differences in quality when choosing a dolphin safari tour operator though. We don’t like mass tourism, and we were happy with our choice. Let me know if you’re interested in a name or link.
There are also options for overnight-safaris for snorkeling with dolphins or, when there are enough people who are interested, longer snorkeling safaris with a liveaboard safari boat, starting from Hurghada, with the same company.
Our highlights at the house reef so far:
Hawksbill turtles, hunting octopuses, a barracuda, different rays (Bluespotted Stingray, eagle ray, Leopard Stingray, Cowtail Stingray, Rhinubatus halavi), many swimming giant morays, pipefish, Spanish Dancer, milkfish, different snappers, boxfish, groupers, surgeonfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, etc.
During a two day dolphin safari, we snorkeled with playful dolphins who came very close, we saw eagle rays and Cowtail Stingrays and two Napoleon Wrasse (one of them with a huge horn).
In the last years, smaller Whale Sharks have also been spotted around Hurghada part of the season. I wasn’t lucky enough to meet one so far though.
By the way, another travel tip that might be interesting: I heard that an airport near Berenice is expected to open this year. This would make travels to the south of Marsa Alam easier in the future.
David – Dec 18, 2020 – Equipment Available for Use or Rent?
Michel, very much enjoyed all your info; it really is making my research into a snorkeling trip to Egypt a lot easier than usual. Thank you, and one question. My wife and I have snorkeled all over the world, off and on over the past 40 plus years. As we are now “getting up there,” this may well be our last great snorkeling adventure. We may also combine it with a safari.
We have always traveled to our snorkeling destinations bringing our own gear; but, if we extend our trip to see above water wildlife too, it would be a bit of a pain to tote flippers, etc. So, finally, my question is do these bay hotel outfits, say the Mangrove Bay Hotel, the Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge, the Marsa Nakari Eco Lodge, all supply or rent good equipment, or do you recommend bringing our own regardless? Again, thank you.
Michel – Dec 19, 2020 – Renting Snorkeling Gear in Egypt
David, all the mentioned places have a dive school and rent snorkel gear. So, it depends on how much you care about your own stuff. I always think that a mask and snorkel are not very big of heavy. But things like fins, weight belts, etc. you can easily rent on the spot. A mask that doesn’t fit very well, can easily disturb your pleasure I think…
We once ended up with just one suitcase (the other one stayed in the Netherlands thanks to the airport crew…) and was delivered couple of days later. Anita rented (or maybe bought) a mask, but wasn’t happy with it… Have a great time in Egypt!
P.S. For seeing wildlife I would think you should go to another part of Africa though. I can recommend Kenya. I go there as a tour guide for birding and wildlife tours. Nothing beats Kenya in my opinion.
David – Jan 8, 2021 – Thanks
Thanks, Michel, for your prompt answer. I’ve worked out an itinerary which would include two of the places you recommended. As for the safari(s), we are looking at Kruger National Park (and reserves just outside) in South Africa, and also northern Botswana. August through early September should be good weather for both. However, I don’t dare book anything yet for Africa because of covid. Our plans may have to be put off a year.
Stay healthy and thanks again.
Nicole and Galen – January 3, 2023 – More Updates From Michel
Be sure to read Michel’s post from a September 2022 trip to Egypt.
Comments are closed on this post. Please continue your discussion on Michel’s most recent Red Sea post linked to above.