Egypt has been always been one of our favourite scuba diving destinations in the world! What's not to love about the Red Sea? But, there is one part of the Red Sea that steals our hearts a little more than others: Marsa Alam! We recently went back (for literally the 6th time) for an epic scuba diving holiday with Abu Dabbab Group, here's everything you need to know about diving in Marsa Alam!
Where is Marsa Alam?
Marsa Alam is a town in south-eastern Egypt, located on the western shore of the Red Sea. It is currently seeing fast increasing popularity as a tourist destination and development following the opening of Marsa Alam International Airport in 2003.
How to get there
We flew direct from London Gatwick (UK) to Marsa Alam with TUI (they fly once a week) you can also fly direct from Amsterdam, Austria, Belgium, Germany and Italy. Everyone else can look at flights into Hurghada where which is around a 3 hour drive from Marsa Alam, or look into flights to Cairo and then a domestic flight to Marsa Alam.
Scuba diving in Marsa Alam
Ok, so let's get down to the juicy stuff; scuba diving!
There are a few different dive areas in Marsa Alam, and as it is pretty small you can usually hit them all. But where you decide to stay will be where your house reef is for the week. We chose to stay on Abu Dahbbab beach - famous for its white sand beach but more importantly it's resident green turtles and DUGONGS! All on its house reef! In fact on our 'check dive' we saw 4 turtles and the elusive dugong! That check dive will definitely go down in history!
Who to dive with
Like many places in the world there are tons of dive shops to choose from, but we wanted to dive in Abu Dabbab beach area so there is only one dive centre to choose from there (and the best) Blue Ocean. There dive centre is right on the beach and a few meters away from Abu Dabbab Lodge where we stayed.
What can you expect to see while diving in Marsa Alam?
Dolphins, sharks; oceanic white tips and hammerheads, turtles, dugongs, rays, whale sharks, crocodile fish, macro, huge schools and so, so much more
What kind of diving?
There is tons of amazing shore diving in Marsa Alam, but again, depending on where you are based you will have to either get a safari boat or a speedboat out to some of the dive sites. The waters are usually calm with great visibility. You may encounter stringer currents in some dive sites away from land - but your dive centre will warn you about those before you dive.
Dive sites you have to dive in Marsa Alam
Elphinstone Reef is one of the most famous dive sites in the world and offers some of the best scuba diving in the Red Sea! Located 12km offshore and about 30km from Marsa Alam, Elphinstone is famous for its wonderful drift dives along deep steep walls, unspoilt corals and sights of sharks. In the right season you can see hammerheads, Oceanic white tips and reef sharks.
One of the best sandy beaches in the Marsa Alam region but is deservedly better known as being one of the few places in the world where you can sometimes dive and swim with the endangered dugong "sea cow." There are two semi-permanent residents who are known by the nicknames of Dennis and Dougal. Two of only seven currently known to exist along the entire Egyptian Red Sea Coast. And as if that wasn't enough the bay is also host to giant sea turtles who can be seen pretty much every day of the year just footsteps away from the sand. Of course no one can guarantee sightings of dugongs - however we were very lucky and got to swim with one for around half hour. Unfortunately this beautiful animal is classified as a "vulnerable to extinction" and it is has sadly earned a place on the World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Species - so please never touch or go to close to it and of course truly appreciate any time you get diving with one.
Dolphin House (Sha’ab Samadai)
Not to be mistaken for Sataya Reef. Here you can snorkel with dolphins WITH lifejackets on, but the dive sites nearby are actually the main attraction for serious scuba divers. Come here for some cavern diving with some EPIC light beams as well as some spectacular corals. And who knows, you may have a friendly dolphin or two come by! Beware though this site can get pretty busy in peak season - but mainly just with snorkelers looking for dolphins, however, the boat traffic can still be fairly heavy.
A system of reefs who's named stems from the fact that this part of Egypt can be quite windy, which can drive up the waves around the reef and make some dive sites inaccessible. However, with the number of sites available, it’s almost always possible to find a sheltered site, regardless of wind direction. It has a large coral formation with many hard corals, branching corals, soft coral, and also many young corals that are still growing. The depth of the reef varies from around 10 meters to about 40 meters so all levels of divers will be able to explore the reef. As the system is quite extensive, there are a few caves, pinnacles, drop-offs, drift areas, and even some wrecks amongst the whole system. The main dive areas within the system include Malahi, which means labyrinth in Arabic, Fury Shoal Gardens, a very well preserved stretch of coral garden, and Sha’ab Claudio with is myriad of swim through.
THIS is the place you want to come if you want to freedive with dolphins. Here you will have the opportunity to swim alongside schools of wild dolphins. This is not a dive excursion - just a snorkel one - and you'll need the whole day from Abu Dabbab Beach, but it is oh so worth it. A picture says a thousand words so we will let that one do that. It is one of the most magical experiences you can have in life - and is one of the best places in the world to do it!
Where to stay in Marsa Alam
There are many places to stay in Marsa Alam however in this article we are talking about the place we stayed: Abu Dabbab Lodge.
(We have also stayed in Marsa Shagra previously which we love.)
Based just a few meters away from the famous Abu Dabbab beach Abu Dabbab Lodge is the perfect place to stay to eat, sleep dive and play! With a handful of cute wooden cabins located around a large open swimming pool, it has a super relaxed and cosy atmosphere. The rooms were big and clean with modern appliances and decor. The restaurant served breakfast lunch and dinner, however we found the food to be very bland and not much variety so we would usually only eat breakfast at the lodge and go to the beach area for lunch and then onto Porto Galib for dinner. The staff were amazing, so friendly and couldn't do enough to help us! They were always smiling and laughing and offering us help and recommendations. All activities around Marsa Alam and Abu Dabbab beach can be booked at reception.
Prices start from £27 per person. Check booking.com for up to date prices.
Is Egypt safe?
Yes, people ask is this question, so we will let GTS founder and solo travel blogger explain more about how she feels travelling around Egypt (she lived there and has visited over 10 times) in her article here: "I'm a female travelling alone in Egypt, and no you shouldn't be worried".
You need a visa to travel to Egypt from the UK (and most other countries). They have recently introduced an e-visa system which we tried out for the first time this visit. It is the same price as a visa from the airport ($25) and we loved it because we didn't have to bring USD to Egypt (which we wouldn't use) and paid online instead and also got to skip the visa que in the airport and go straight to passport control.