As a diving destination, the Red Sea combines magnificent marine life with astonishing and otherworldly underwater topography. It’s widely considered as offering some of the best diving in the world.
Not all dives are created equal, however, and far away from the ordinary, there are incredible imersive experiences you might not yet have realised were possible. All you need is a little help to find them.
Here are our suggestions for some of the most unbelievable sites in the Red Sea. The list includes legendary bucket-list dives as well as lesser-known gems to discover.
The Straits of Gubal and SS Thistlegorm
The Straits of Gubal is located between Egypt's mainland and The Sinai Peninsula. The northern end of The Red Sea splits into two gulfs - Suez to the west and Aqaba to the east. Just here, the water becomes narrower and shallower, creating a perfect, nutrient-rich current for fascinating species of marine life including glassfish, butterflyfish, crocodile fish, and flat-headed scorpionfish. Water visibility is excellent all year round here, so sharks and dolphins are commonly sighted around the straits too.
There are also more world-class diving wrecks in Gubal than anywhere else on earth. By far the most famous, and arguably the most beautiful is SS Thilstlegorm, located around 22 kilometers north-northeast of Gubal Island. The SS Thistlegorm is a British cargo ship that was sunk in 1941, during World War II, by a German Air Force bomber. It now lies, well-preserved, 30m deep on a sandy bottom. Your dive will take you past eerie artifacts including locomotives, tanks, army trucks, jeeps, and motorcycles, which were all on board the ship as it sank. Further exploration of the surrounding seabed reveals a wealth of other fascinating items, with military boots, rifles, and spare mechanical parts scattered as far as your eyes can see. Other prominent points of the wreck are the bow with the anchor winch and the relatively intact navigating bridge.
While you are here, in a similar direction and distance is SS Dunraven - another great Red Sea diving wreck, as well as Ulysses and Rosalie Möller, which are much nearer to Gubal Island, both within just 3km.
The Brothers Islands, or El Akhawein as they are known in Arabic, are two islands standing virtually dead centre in the Red Sea – Big Brother and Little Brother. Both islands are tiny when viewed above the water, with Little Brother consisting of nothing more than a few rocks on its flat surface. Big Brother is made more visible only by the lighthouse that was put there by the British in the late 19th Century as a warning as to what lay beneath. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was not enough to save two ships - the Numidia and Aida - which lie wrecked directly under the lighthouse. Despite these historical tragedies, the wrecks here now make for some absolutely incredible dives for advanced divers.
In contrast to what you can see above land, underwater, the Brothers are vastly larger. Little Brother has a few meters of shallows and then a spine-tingling drop-off into the blue, while Big Brother drops straight down from the side of the island, which is covered in both soft and hard coral. These coral reefs are home to schools of napoleon wrasse - enormous coral reef fish, which grow to over six feet long. Barracuda can also be sighted here as well as hordes of other fascinating reef fish. There is also a good chance of encountering a range of sharks including oceanic whitetips, grey reef sharks, and even hammerheads if you time things right.
Elphinstone Reef can be reached by boat, 6.5 nautical miles from the shore of Marsa Alam, Egypt. It's a 300m-long extravaganza of a reef featuring wonderful plateaus, breath-taking steep walls overgrown with gorgonians, wire corals, black corals, and soft corals.
The marine life here is lush and varied thanks to some bizarre water currents, and due to the exposed location of the reef, it’s not uncommon to dive close to bottlenose dolphins, grey sharks, tiger sharks, and barracudas. The currents are most often north to south but are variable and can change even during your dive. Elphinstone is also one of the few places in the world where you can see Oceanic Whitetip sharks in shallow water. These inquisitive reef sharks are rarely aggressive towards humans, however, are likely to swim close to divers to have a curious look. The reef is also home to a legendary hawksbill turtle - a critically endangered species named for its narrow, pointed beak. Other species to look out for include emperor angel fish, zebra angel fish, anthias, and giant morays.
The Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is a mysterious 120-metre-deep sinkhole, found five miles north of Dahab. It is undoubtedly one of the most challenging dives in the Red Sea, suitable only for the most advanced and tech divers. But, if you are up for a challenge, and are prepared for the required training, then absolute utopia awaits below.
The dive begins with a gentle descent down a 28-metre tunnel named The Bells, which then opens out into the blue. This is followed by a gentle drift dive along a thriving reef wall and then a gentle ascent over the Blue Hole’s saddle. You then arrive in what can only be described as a colossal bowl of deep blue.
Many flock to Dahab each year to dive The Blue Hole, unperturbed by its nickname of the ‘divers cemetery’. However, in reality, the majority of the risk only applies to one particular dive site in the Blue Hole called The Arch – a 30-meter tunnel with an entrance sitting at around 55 meters. In theory, from a technical dive standpoint, The Arch isn’t even a very challenging one, however, as it slopes downwards slightly and is much longer than it seems, it often causes issues for divers on a single tank of oxygen as well as the many freedivers who attempt the descent.
Thanks to its slightly awkward location, around 90 km east of Marsa Alam, Daedalus is one of the Red Sea’s least frequented dive sites. However, with fewer visitors, comes an exquisitely preserved offshore coral reef formation and some amazing marine life.
There are intense currents in the reef, which make it a dream for drift divers, with plenty of sightings of mantas, hammerhead sharks, white tips, and even thresher sharks. During whale shark season (May – July) it is also possible to swim up close to these gentle giants in the deep blue waters.
Daedalus has a lot to offer technical divers, with steep drop-offs and the wreck of Zealot - a steamer built by the Egyptian Navy which hit rocks and sank in 1876. The wreck was discovered by German student Markus Lohr in 2003 after he made a very deep dive and was surprised to find himself looking at a shipwreck on the slope of the drop-off at a depth of around 75m! There are also several dive spots where the reef is caked with corals and in some places, grey reef sharks, napoleon wrasse, and triggerfish can be found all over. One of the dive sites has an entire section of the wall covered in sea anemone and cheeky clownfish.
Our team at Untold Story can help you curate your own private diving experience in the Red Sea. Our partners are expert tech divers who will ensure you receive the best guidance and experience available in and out of the waters.
Get in touch to start planning your underwater adventure.