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Japanese Garden, north of South Beach, is probably Aqaba’s most easy-to-access snorkeling spot. Its reef, sheltered and shallow, lends itself to great beach snorkeling. Beginners, in particular, will love this spot, as it allows to easily observe the sea life from the surface. Even if the coral there is very damaged, there is a wide diversity of fish to see, many of which endemic to the Red Sea.

Snorkeler at Japanese Garden reef
Japanese Garden drop-off is quite shallow, which is very reassuring for beginners and kids.

How to go snorkeling the Japanese Garden?

The Japanese Garden is located north of South Beach, near the Aqaba Marine Park visitor center. From the center of Aqaba, take the “South Beach Highway” for about 12km, then exit just after the Berenice Beach Hotel. Parking is available along the beach.

Two other snorkeling spots are located nearby: walking south along the beach, you will first get to South Beach (about 500m walk), then at Seven Sisters (about 1200m walk), famous for its immersed tank.

Japanese Garden snorkeling map, Aqaba

Water entrance for snorkeling the Japanese Garden

We advise entering the water just to the left of the pontoon. The current going from north to south (from right to left if you are facing the sea), entering the water near the pontoon will allow you to follow the drop-off and then get out of the water a little further south.

At the water entrance point, the seabed is made of sand and pebble. Try to enter the water without walking too much, as stonefish and lionfish can be present even at very shallow depths.

Japanese Garden snorkeling exploration tips

Once in the water, follow the pontoon for about 40m to reach the reef drop-off. Along the way, you can explore the reef flat, covered with seagrass meadows and some very damaged corals. Klunzinger’s wrasse and sulphur damselfish are very common in these shallow areas.

School of surgeonfish
A school of surgeonfish on the reef flat.

Unlike other nearby spots, the Japanese Garden drop-off is not very deep, which allows snorkelers to fully enjoy it from the surface. The reef gradually slopes to a depth of 10-12ft/3-4m, where it gives place to sandy beds.

Like other reefs in Aqaba, the Japanese Garden suffers from the impact of tourist activities. The shallower parts of the reef (↕2-5ft/0.5-1.5m) are badly damaged, with only a few living corals. It is only from a depth of 6ft/2m, out of reach of people stepping on the coral, that the reef comes back to life.

Bird wrasse at Japanese Garden
A female green birdmouth wrasse.

The drop-off is mainly made of fire coral, massive coral and brain coral, in which some red pencil urchins and Red Sea collector urchins are found. In places, hundreds of sea goldies and damselfish (whitetail dascyllus, sulfur damsel, whitebelly damsel, etc.) gather near the drop-off.

You will see many fish species at this spot, including the Red Sea raccoon butterflyfish and the Eritrean butterflyfish, moray eels, and lizardfish lying on the sand. The Red Sea clownfish is also common at this location, where it can be found between 3-10ft/1-3m deep near the sea anemones.

Japanese Garden coral reef
The Japanese Garden’s reef.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

On the beach, there is a café and sometimes some food trucks. Between the Japanese Garden and South Beach, on the other side of the road, you will find some hotels and diving centers which are great options to spend the night within walking distance from the reef.

 

  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaAqaba Marine Park
  • Maximum depth12ft/4m
  • Water entranceFrom a sand and pebble beach
  • Potential DangersStonefish, scorpionfish, lionfish
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.