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Going Local in Sharm

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

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Whilst the more famous dive-sites of the Strait of Tiran, Ras Mohammed and Thislegorm tend to steal the limelight a little, there is fabulous diving to be had just minutes from the jetty.

We tried to pack in as many dives as we could on our return to Sharm, and so always took up the offer of a third boat dive in the afternoon if we could. Whilst your morning dives might be further afield, these afternoon dives are often closer to home and take in the reef systems that hug this coastline.

The topography of the area lends itself to shallow dives, with a sandy sloping bottom, and coral pinnacles springing up from the seabed. These pinnacles provide a home to a myriad of marine life and we found ourselves, sometimes, spending most of the dive engrossed in the comings and goings on just a single bommie. At Near Garden, we found glassfish shoaling around a pink seafan, tiny pipefish hiding in the shadows and minute coral crabs, which kept Caroline, with her macro lens on, entertained for a good 30 minutes. There were blue-spotted stingray, angelfish and gorgeous corals for Nick to focus on in wide angle.

Fiddle Reef, which lies between Middle and Far – hence the name, saw Nick and Beth having fun, with Beth modelling for Nick as she peered through the many windows in the reef. The more slowly you go, the more you will see, with butterflyfish and parrotfish giving flashes of electric blue and various shades of yellow against the reds and purples of the soft corals.

Temple saw us spend the whole dive circling a single pinnacle, starting at the bottom and working our way, at snail’s pace, to the very top. Caroline was trying out the new LenzO iPhone housing and spent her time switching between video, panoramas, and photos with and without the filters applied, so this shallow dive was perfect for her. There is always plenty of light on these dives, making them perfect for the underwater photographer, and there is no need for artificial light.

Whilst we have written about the shore diving in Naama Bay during the day, there is, of course, always the opportunity to dive this site at night too. With such an easy entry, and being so close to Camel Dive Club, the shore dive here is perfect for night diving. You do have to watch out for lionfish, who eagerly rush over to any diver with a light to try to gain an advantage over its prey. Nick was testing a couple of UV lights on this dive to try to photograph the coral glowing in the dark. You will be able to see these dive light reviews on Scubaverse soon. Alas, somewhat contrary to what we thought would happen, the lionfish were still attracted by the blue light, and so Beth had to spend her time fending off lionfish, while Nick concentrated on photography. One of the highlights of the night dive was to see a Torpedo Ray hunting amongst the seagrass and sand.

One of the great things about basing yourself in Sharm for a diving trip is that you can choose to dive the Thistlegorm, have a day at Ras Mohammed, spend a couple of days diving the Strait of Tiran, and you can even do a day trip to Dahab to dive the Canyon and Blue Hole. But if you want a relaxed day of shallow diving, then the local dive sites have so much to offer, and they make the perfect way to round off your diving day after one of the longer boat rides too.

www.cameldive.com

www.egypt.travel/diving-in-egypt

For more from Nick and Caroline visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

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6 Best places to go diving in Saudi Arabia

Scuba Schools International (SSI)

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Saudi Arabia is a land of contrasts, rich in ancient history and dazzling cities with dramatic desert scenery throughout. It is one of the least-dived areas of the Red Sea and offers incredible diving among untouched reefs full of life. There are shallow reefs swathed in soft corals, deep walls and challenging wrecks to discover there. Boasting a wealth of reef and pelagic marine life, plus abundant sharks and mantas, Saudi Arabia needs to be on your diving wish list. Read on for our pick of the best places to go diving in Saudi Arabia before the rest of the world discovers this hidden gem.

Diving in Makkah

The Mecca Province, also known as the Makkah Province, is home to Mecca and the main port city of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah. This historically-rich area offers spectacular Red Sea marine life and is home to some of the best diving in all of Saudi Arabia. This is where most of the cities that offer scuba diving in Saudi Arabia are found.

  1. Jeddah

The coastal town of Jeddah is Saudi Arabia’s best-known dive destination and offers fantastic wreck diving for all experience levels. As well as hosting famous wrecks, Jeddah has thriving reefs busy with vibrant Red Sea marine life.

There you will find the Ann Ann wreck, the biggest wreck in Jeddah. She sunk in 1977 and is a staggering sight, covered in soft corals. This is a challenging dive, but with the right conditions, you can start at the stern at 32 meters deep and work your way up to 5 meters at the bow.

The Boiler wreck is another one of Jeddah’s top dives, offering deep reef and wreck diving from 45 meters deep up to 15 meters. As well as the wreck itself, there are caves, a tunnel, and a reef wall covered in black, pink and bright red corals. On any given day, you have the chance to see sharks, manta rays, and large pelagic fish at this remarkable dive site.

These are just two of the many highlights of diving in Jeddah. You can go diving from shore at Jeddah’s luxurious resorts or explore further afield by day-boat diving. With a range of dive centers to choose from, Jeddah is an excellent place to get a scuba certification and experience some of the best Red Sea diving there is.

  1. Farasan Banks, Al Lith

Al Lith, one of the largest seaports in Saudi Arabia, sits just south of Jeddah and is the gateway to one of Saudi Arabia’s best-loved dive spots; the Farasan Banks at Jabal Al-Lith Island.

Jabal Al-Lith Island is stunning; swathed in white-and beaches and surrounded by mangroves and thriving coral reefs full of marine life. This little island is fast-gaining the attention of tourists and is an unmissable dive spot.

At the Farasan Banks, you can enjoy diving in the light-filled shallows or explore the depths, which plummet down to 500 meters. It’s an excellent destination for novice divers and experienced technical divers alike.

The Banks are well-known for their diverse marine life and boast diverse corals, a mixture of Red Sea reef and pelagic fish, plus numerous sharks. White-tip reef sharks, grey reef, silky, and hammerhead sharks can all be found there.

  1. Five Sisters, Rabigh

Another great city for diving, Rabigh sits between Jeddah and Yanbu and offers excellent coral reef diving. It is most famous for hosting the Five Sisters Reef: a series of five coral atolls just offshore from Rabigh.

The Five Sisters Reef is Rabigh’s most popular dive area and offers outstanding diving. This area is completely untouched, and each atoll has different underwater landscapes, including steep walls, plateaus, columns, and anemone beds. The dive sites are teeming with a wealth of reef life and are covered in corals. Added to that, schools of pelagic fish, hammerheads and mantas are often seen in the blue.

Diving in Madinah

The Madinah Region hosts another of Saudi Arabia’s top dive areas, Yanbu. This ancient port city north of Jeddah dates back to around 500BC and was an important rest stop for traders navigating one of the world’s oldest trade routes, the Incense Route.

Today, Yanbu is a major port and fast-growing tourist destination, surrounded by azure waters, gorgeous beaches, and untouched reefs. With access to areas such as the Seven Sisters Reef, Yanbu truly deserves its nickname ‘the Pearl of the Red Sea’.

  1. Seven Sisters. Yanbu

Seven Sisters Reef is known for one thing – hammerhead sharks. This reef hosts these unmistakable sharks almost year-round and offers excellent reef diving as well. There are beautiful shallow coral landscapes to explore, plus plunging walls patrolled by schools of barracuda and snapper.

  1. Abu Galawa, Yanbu

Abu Galawa is part of the Seven Sisters Reef and is an underwater world covered in corals and visited by numerous sharks, including hammerheads. It is one of the most rewarding dives of the Seven Sisters Reef system.

Diving in Tabuk

  1. Tabuk

Tabuk Province is less well-known for diving than other areas of Saudi Arabia, yet it boasts the longest stretch of Red Sea coastline in all of Saudi Arabia. It is home to the Red Sea Project and NEOM, two impressive coastal development projects that will put Tabuk firmly on the map of enviable places to go diving in the Red Sea.

Go diving in Tabuk before the rest of the world discovers this dive area. You will be rewarded with crystal-clear, warm waters and pristine coral reefs few people have ever dived. If you like exploratory diving, Tabuk could be the place for you.

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Kathryn Curzon, a conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.

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Scuba Diving and Marine Life: Hawksbill Turtle, Red Sea (Watch Video)

Jeff Goodman

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Scubaverse Underwater Videographer and Editor-at-Large Jeff Goodman takes us on a tour of some of his favourite marine life in this video series...

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