Perched on the Red Sea coast, Hurghada diving spots are world class. Clear waters and coral gardens are the backdrop to sea life encounters newbie divers can only dream of. Scuba diving in Hurghada could see you peer into the hull of a stricken minesweeper, drift along a coral-packed reef or snap shots of curious behaviour at a cleaning station. Encounters with turtles and dolphins are almost guaranteed and smaller sights – think seahorses and shrimps, are just as impressive. There’s also the chance to swim alongside whale sharks… if you time your trip just right.
When to go
Scuba diving is a year round activity in Hurghada. Yes, temperatures will vary from a warm and welcoming 28°C in August to a decidedly less balmy 21°C in January – but there’s nothing to stop you slipping into a wetsuit throughout the calendar. What might tempt you to pick one month over another? Hurghada’s marine life. White tips stick around all year, but if you’re here to see whale sharks? You’ll need to be scuba diving Hurghada’s coast from May to July for the best chance of an epic encounter.
We’ve already mentioned a couple of Hurghada’s big hitters – whale sharks and white tips, but the Red Sea isn’t known as one of the world’s best dive sites on sharks alone. Sponges and hard and soft corals species numbers run into the hundreds, the colourful coral forests provide nooks and crannies for crustaceans and colourful fish to hide and the thriving eco-system feeds the all-important apex predators. Among the hundreds of fish species, expect to see parrotfish, butterfly fish, spangos, emperor angelfish, groupers, barracuda, giant morays, carpet flat heads, Picasso triggers, freckled hawkfish and feather stars. Manta rays and hawksbill turtles gracefully swoop in to Hurghada’s waters in May, but don’t stick around for long.
Unfortunately, the eco-message hasn’t quite reached the dive and experience boats in the Red Sea. Dolphins here are often harassed by tour boats – and eager deck-mates looking to impress tourists with their dolphin swimming skills. And, while most of the coast’s dive shops operate a ‘hands off’ approach to sea life, few boast any real steps towards eco or sustainable tourism.
That said, there are some extra steps you can take to play your part. The number one eco-move? Reef-safe sunscreen. You want a sunblock with non-chemical UVA and UVB filters. It’s still early days on the regulation side of things, so look for the ingredients (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) rather than a stamp of approval on the label.
Strictly speaking, Abu Nuhas is a reef. Albeit, a reef with at least four decent wrecks to dive. This tricky to navigate spot has a bit of a rep for being a ship’s graveyard and the sheer number of stricken vessels makes it a nautical haven for wreck divers – with a gorgeous clutch of sheltered reefs thrown into the mix. Dive down to the Kimon M, Giannis D, Chrisoula K or the Carnatic. Of the four, the most photogenic is the Carnatic. Love them or loathe them, this is spot where lionfish prowl, amid glistening shoals of glassfish. The intact wreck of the Giannis D is still explorable for advanced divers. Inside, the cargo of wood isn’t that exciting, but the eels and glassfish that call the hull home add an eerie ambience. Currents affect all of the ships in this area, so prepare for a challenging dive.
If the currents are too tough to take on at Abu Nuhas, consider heading east to the wreck of El Mina. The dive to this 65 metre minesweeper is all about nautical architecture – rather than corals and sealife. Despite lying on the seabed for more than 50 years, the bullet-hole peppered wreck hasn’t become a fully-fledged artificial reef. Sure, you’ll see some glassfish nipping into the ship via the huge tear in the ship’s side. But, other than that, you’re here for a peer at the anti-aircraft guns, radio room and the mine sweeping torpedoes.
Orbzii tip: It’s worth mentioning that the sea floor in this spot is littered with live ammo and shells. If ever there was a time to stick to the ‘no touch’ dive mantra, this is it.
This long stretch of reef has many merits, not least its ability to be all things to all divers. Mixed ability groups can dive here without issue. And the conditions are suitable to everything from easy drift dives to a thrilling night dive. For the best experience, you’ll want to stick to the south end of the 30-40m reef. Yes, the corals here are home to shy octopi hiding from hungry morays. But the standout moment will be the second you spot seahorses swaying in the seagrass. Add in the many, many cleaning stations situated along the reef wall and your species spot-list starts to really rack up. Expect stonefish, pipefish, scorpionfish, sweetlips, goatfish, jacks, tuna, silversides, grouper, shrimps, wrasse and more.
Orbzii tip: Although there’s plenty of easy to spot marine life at El Fanadir, it pays to carefully inspect the caves, cracks and coves in the reef wall. Expect to see even more sea life sheltering from marauding predators.
Dolphin House (Shaab El Erg)
This is the reef you’re likely to hear the most chatter about above the surface. It’s hugely popular with day trippers looking to snorkel with the reef’s resident dolphins. So what’s it doing on this list? Well, the coral garden here is simply stunning. And, as playful and fun as the dolphins are with the snorkellers up top? Having a tank and flippers on gives you an edge. The dolphins are genuinely curious and keen to engage with divers. Though, obviously, it’s all on their terms. Dolphin experience aside, the table corals, tall pinnacles, channels, tunnels and reefs make this a must dive. The mixed underwater topography houses wrasse, blue spotted rays, sea slugs, masked pufferfish, turtles, morays and crocodile fish.