Egypt has been blessed with two coastlines, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and offers a truly unforgettable experience above and below water. The Egyptian Riviera, in particular, is an epic choice of places to snorkel. A few meters from shore, there are so many different creatures to see just beneath the water’s surface: clownfish in their sea anemones, schools of bannerfish, brightly-colored angelfish, but also sea turtles, stingrays, dolphins, and the elusive dugong.
The most popular destinations for snorkeling in the Red Sea are along the Egyptian Riviera, a series of resorts stretching along the west coast of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez. From north to south, the most renowned resorts are Taba, Dahab, Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, Port Safaga, Al-Quseir, Port Ghalib and Marsa Alam.
Snorkeling in Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab and South Sinai
Located in South Sinai, Sharm el-Sheikh is probably the most famous snorkeling destination in Egypt. Fringing reefs, home to healthy corals and vibrant fish, run all along the city’s shore, making it easily accessible for all skill levels to explore underwater life.
You can snorkel almost everywhere in Sharm el-Sheikh, especially from the beach resorts. Most of them are equipped with jetties allowing direct access to the reef drop-off.
The best hotels with house reefs in Sharm el-Sheikh are, from north to south, the Coral Sea Sensatori, the Park Regency Sharm El Sheikh Resort and the Mövenpick Resort Sharm el-Sheikh. Some private beaches, such as Shark Bay, provide access to the reef for visitors who do not stay on the coastline.
It is however around Hadaba, in southern Sharm el-Sheikh, that you’ll find the city’s best snorkeling sites. The peninsula has four snorkeling locations that are filled with healthy coral reefs and abundant sea life: Ras Katy, Temple Reef, Faraana Beach, and Ras Um Sid (aka El Fanar Beach) and its kaleidoscopic drop-off.
Sharm el-Sheikh is also the starting point for day boat trips to Ras Mohammed National Park. Located around the southern tip of Sinai, it features 345 km2 of coral reefs and mangroves, and the perfect conditions for snorkeling.
The four reefs of the Strait of Tiran, a few kilometers from the mainland, are another must-visit area for Egypt snorkeling enthusiasts. Jackson Reef, Woodhouse Reef, Thomas Reef and Gordon Reef, a shell-shaped reef on which a huge cargo ship ran aground, will delight all snorkeling and colorful fish lovers.
A hundred kilometers north of Sharm, the small town of Dahab is known by divers from all over the world for its Blue Hole, a sinkhole vertically dropping to around 120 meters. Although you will mainly snorkel on the shallow edge of it, witnessing the Blue Hole is another otherworldly experience.
On your way to the Blue Hole, stop at The Canyon, where you can explore a small lagoon carved into the flat and a steep drop-off. Closer to downtown Dahab, you’ll find fair snorkeling on the reef that borders the city (for example in Mashraba) and at Lagoon Beach.
Snorkeling in Marsa Alam, Al-Quseir and Port Ghalib
On the west coast of the Gulf of Aden, Marsa Alam is another snorkeling hotspot in Egypt. This area has everything that avid snorkelers can dream of: dugongs, dolphins, turtles and reefs teeming with life.
The two offshore reefs of Shaab Samadai, a 45 minutes boat ride from Marsa Alam marina, and Sataya Reef, a 2-2:30 hours boat trip from Hamata jetty, are considered to be among the world’s greatest places for snorkeling with dolphins. These two horseshoe-shaped reefs provide shelter to large pods of spinner dolphins, which use to rest and nurse their calves in their calm waters.
Marsa Alam area is also one of the few places in the world where you can swim with dugongs. Although their population is very small (it is estimated that less than ten dugongs live along the 100 km long coastline between Al-Quseir and Marsa Alam), some territorial males almost permanently reside in specific spots.
The location that offers the best chance to spot a dugong is Marsa Mubarak (or Umm El Ros, “Dugong House”), a sheltered bay with seagrass beds located a few kilometers south of Port Ghalib. In addition, dugongs are also occasionally spotted in Marsa Shouna and Abu Dabbab.
The dugong spots are also the best locations to encounter green sea turtles, which favor the same underwater environment. While green sea turtles are almost never seen while snorkeling in Sinai, they are very easy to see (not to say unmissable) in Marsa Mubarak and Abu Dabbab.
Another option is the Gorgonia Beach Resort‘s lagoon, which is also frequently visited by turtles.
If you want to explore fringing reefs with colorful life in Marsa Alam, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Head to Abu Dabbab, Marsa Shagra, Mangrove Bay Resort, Gorgonia Beach Resort, Tulip Resorts, Aurora Bay, Coraya Bay, Utopia Beach Club or Brayka Bay, all of which are accessible from the shore, but with access sometimes restricted to hotel guests – see the dedicated pages.
The small coral islands off Marsa Alam that can be reached by boat, such as Shaab Marsa Alam, offer great snorkeling too.
Snorkeling in Hurghada and Port Safaga
North of Marsa Alam, Hurghada is also home to good snorkeling locations, particularly around the Giftun Islands National Park. These two small desert islands, surrounded by a turquoise sea, are very popular with day-trippers.
The most famous beaches, such as Orange Bay, Paradise Beach and Mamiya Beach, however, have poor or no coral: prefer the reef located at the southern tip of Giftun Soraya, even if it may be crowded.
The resorts of central Hurghada have just decent, mostly damaged house reefs. Instead, head to Makadi Bay, a few dozen kilometers south of Hurghada, where Fort Arabesque and Grand Makadi Hotel are some of the best options for all-inclusive stays with beach snorkeling. By boat, you can also reach the Blue Lagoon and Abu Hashish offshore spots.
A little further south, Port Safaga also has great snorkeling, especially on the coral reef that fringes the northern coast of Soma Bay. There, a jetty allows snorkelers to snorkel the drop-off, known as Ras Abu Soma, from the shore.
The waters of the Red Sea, a semi-enclosed sea protected from the main oceanic currents, are particularly calm, with unrivaled underwater visibility. Egyptian shore waters are teeming with biodiversity rarely seen elsewhere: more than 200 species of corals, 1200 species of fish and 1000 species of invertebrates call the Egyptian Red Sea home.
Most marine life makes their home in the shallows, providing the perfect opportunity for even beginner snorkelers to witness fascinating underwater life.
Snorkeling in Egypt, you’ll have the chance to swim and explore alongside a wide range of fish species including surgeonfish, sea goldies, Red Sea anemonefish, wrasse as well as several species of angelfish (such as the emperor angelfish, the yellowbar angelfish and the regal angelfish) and butterflyfish (including the iconic bluecheek butterflyfish).
The bays sheltering extensive seagrass beds, especially Abu Dabbab and Marsa Mubarak, attract many green sea turtles with which you will enjoy swimming at shallow depths.
It is in these same spots that you might encounter the very rare dugong, especially in Marsa Mubarak. Make sure to go snorkeling early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and have the best chance of spotting them.
In the seagrass beds, especially in the Marsa Alam area, keep your eyes peeled for other forms of wildlife that favor these open environments including bluespotted ribbontail ray, Halavi ray and crocodilefish.
Shaab Samadai and Sataya Reef snorkeling tours provide guests with unique encounters with lively spinner dolphins.
Snorkeling is possible all year round on the Red Sea coasts of Egypt, where the water temperature is relatively constant, around 77°F/25°C.
The climate, which is dry and hot in this part of Egypt, becomes sweltering from mid-June to mid-September when the temperatures can get up to 104°F/40°C.
In winter, snorkeling can be trickier because of the wind and the air temperature, which is cooler (don’t forget your rashguard). April, May, September, and October are the best months to explore the region.
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Commonly sighted on reef drop offs, especially at Ras Um Sid and Dahab’s Blue Hole
Common on reef drop offs; frequent sightings at Ras Um Sid and Gordon Reef
Abu Dabbab and Marsa Mubarak are considered the best and most accessible spots to see sea turtles in the country
Sataya Reef and Samadai Reef are among the best places in the world to spot them
On all spots; abundant on the shallow Ras Um Sid reef flat
Potentially present on all spots, but uncommon
On all spots, in large numbers at Ras Um Sid
On all spots; important colonies on the reef slope of the Blue Hole
On all spots
On all spots; abundant on the reef flat of Ras Um Sid
Reef flat and drop off with many coral and reef fish
Level: Free shore access Resort nearby
Deep sink hole and reef drop off with coral and fish
Level: Free shore access
Deep lagoon visited by pods of spinner dolphins
Vibrant reef drop off with colorful fish
Level: Resort nearby
Small bay with dugongs, sea turtles and reef fish
Natural pool and reef drop off with colorful fish
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