by Michel – (Netherlands)
I have written two other stories about snorkeling in the Red Sea, Egypt on this site. I wanted to share my updated suggestions from my trip in September 2019.
Please note that I have no personal stake in any of the below mentioned resorts. It’s just that I know them from my own experience. Maybe other places are equally good or better, but I don’t mention places I’ve never visited myself.
General Information for First Time Visitors
First you have to choose what airport to fly into. We normally go to Marsa Alam, an international airport that can be reached with direct flights from several places in Europe, I don’t know about connections from other continents. Alternatives are Sharm-el-Sheikh, which I’ve never visited, and Hurghadha. In general, we like the Marsa Alam area better, and the next mentioned places can all be reached with fairly short drives from Marsa Alam airport.
When it comes to time of year, our favorite is September. That month has very nice air temperatures (about 30°C, 86°F) and the highest water temperatures (ca. 27°C, 80°F).
When you’re planning a trip, take into consideration the Egypt short national holiday which happens that time of year. But the exact date varies, so you have to check year by year. In that period (one week) hotels are very busy.
Hotels are usually good, but maybe not to everyone’s standard. Food is mostly buffet, quite “Western” in style and OK, also for vegetarians. But keep in mind the “tropic rules”, “cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it.” So my advice is no salads, no raw meat or fish, no ice, etc. It’s always on offer, looks great, and most people eat it. But at the same time a lot of people get sick… We have visited Egypt some 15 times the last 10 years, and have never been sick. So make your own choices on that point.
Areas to Stay in General
First and most important for snorkelers, you want to be in a bay. A lot of hotels have no bay, but a jetty across the reef to the open sea. These so called fringing reefs are usually very good when it comes to corals, fish, visibility, etc. But… you find yourself exposed to the waves. Wind is usually from the northeast, and 4-5 Beaufort (13-24 mph). So, outside of the bays wave-action of 0.5 – 1 meter (1.5-3 feet) is normal. To me that’s not comfortable snorkeling. You have to keep your distance from the reef to be safe. And from that distance you miss the small stuff. Outside bays there can also be a serious current, but that varies from time to time.
There’s a good diversity of fish, but of course that depends on your definition of good. I’m not a beginner (10 years of experience for a few weeks a year) and we identify between 150 and 175 species of fish every trip. But bigger, long living fish like sharks are absent in most places due to overfishing. The same goes for big groupers like Goliath Grouper or fish like the Napoleon Wrasse. They are there, but quite rare. Turtles (Hawksbill mostly) however are easy to see in most places.
We always stay in three different hotels/bays in a two-week trip. That gives us some variety in our stay, and is easy to organize. You can book the transport in advance, and include airport pick-up and drop-off from the same company. We always use a company called Sylvia Tours for the transport, and are very satisfied with them.
Resorts Where We Stay for Snorkeling
A very nice place is Mangrove Bay, just a short drive from Marsa Alam airport. The house reef is one of the best in Egypt I (and many others) think, but this is 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 farther south you find Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge and Brayka Bay Resort. Brayka Bay is “big all-inclusive” for sure, four swimming pools, and 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, with a 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 farther you go from the beach. The reef is still good, the fish very good and quite tame.
Marsa Shagra Eco Lodge also attracts divers and snorkelers only, but it’s bigger than Mangrove and offers all-inclusive. This resort 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… One of the nice things in Marsa Shagra is that dolphins very regularly visit the bay.
The quality of the food in all three places I have mentioned so far is more or less equal, I would say. It’s very much OK, but don’t expect Michelin star food.
Somewhere in the middle of all this (literally as for the distance) is Oriental Bay or Hotel Aurora Bay as it’s called now. But in that place the food is a little bit lower in quality (latest update on that from 2018), and the resort is across the road 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 the bay very sheltered.
Comments Moved From Previous System
Nicole & Galen – Dec 7, 2019 – Thank You!
Michel, thanks so much for sharing your useful information about and gorgeous pictures of snorkeling in the Red Sea in Egypt!
Conni Musser – Dec 8, 2019 – Red Sea
Thanks Michel, your information is very helpful for those of us wanting to snorkel in the Red Sea.
Jan Van Kets – Dec 14, 2019 – Thanks for Taking the Time
Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I know everyone has different expectations but your descriptions in this article (and the previous ones) are clear enough so I can build my own opinion.
Tammy – Jan 2, 2020 – Port Ghalib Area
Hi, thank you for sharing such great information! I’m wondering about snorkeling in the Port Ghalib area? We are considering staying at Sunrise Marina Resort. Can you snorkel from shore there?
Michel – Jan 2, 2020 – Port Ghalib
Hi Tammy, I don’t think shore snorkeling from Sunrise Marina Resort will be very good. It is situated in the harbor area. That harbor area is man-made, and the water in the canals was murky from what I saw when visiting there. From a snorkeling point of view, I would suggest taking a second look at it…
Barb – Jan 6, 2020 – Bliss Abo Narwas Resort
Michael we are staying a Bliss Abo Narwas Resort as we had trouble booking Brayka Bay. Is it possible to walk to Brayka Bay from this hotel? Is it safe? It says it is only 15 minute walk. Thanks.
Michel – Jan 6, 2020 – Walking to Brayka
Hi Barb, the 15 minute walk to Brayka is in my opinion safe, at least during the daytime. After sunset I would be careful for groups of stray dogs you see sometimes in the area. I can’t say if Brayka accepts guests from other hotels in the bay, never tried that. Maybe you can email Brayka and ask the question. Another option is to take a taxi, but maybe that’s a bit over the top for a 15 minute walk.
Good luck with the trip and enjoy!
Barb – Jan 7, 2020 – Brayka Bay
I will email them, thank you Michel for all the wonderful information.
John Robertson – Jan 7, 2020 – Red Sea Egypt Snorkeling
For ten years we went to Dreams Beach Hotel at Sharm el Sheik. The snorkeling was excellent and we always took a boat trip to Ras Mohammed or Tiran Island where the snorkeling was even better and coral more beautiful. We haven’t been there since the Russian plane was bombed in 2015 but we hope to go back someday.
More recently we went twice to Makadi Bay near Hurghada. We stayed at Fort Arabesque Hotel which was very good. I mention the hotel because the reef varies around the bay. At Fort Arabesque it is like a beautiful coral garden with very gentle waters and lots of fish. The first time we went in October and it was perfect. We saw 180 species of fish including a Spotfin Shark, Big Mouthed Mackerel, circling trevallies, symbiotic gobies and shrimps, loads of lionfish, boxfish, young Plotosus Catfish and a few turtles. I even found a Sargassum Frogfish.
I consider it the best snorkeling holiday I ever had. We returned the following April and the water was much cooler and there is always a breeze here which made snorkeling very cold even with a wetsuit on.
Nicole & Galen – Feb 7, 2021 – Red Sea Egypt Snorkeling Trip
Our trips partner has just released a wonderful combination snorkeling trip to the Red Sea in Egypt. There is a resort stay at Marsa Shagra (mentioned above) and snorkeling from a liveaboard for a week. Check it out at the link above.