One of the most rewarding liveaboard dive destinations is definitely Egypt. Its close distance from Europe makes it affordable, even for budget divers, the best value for the money. Liveaboards diving in the northern part of the Red Sea in Egypt have a great variety of dives for divers of all experience levels. Here you will find shallow coral gardens amazingly rich with corals and fish, with almost no currents and no waves, as well as top-quality wreck diving. On the other hand, if you are looking for thrilling experiences while diving steep walls and drop-offs with strong currents on plateaus rich in pelagics (fish of the open oceans, usually predators like sharks, tuna, sailfish, giant jacks, etc.), then the southern itineraries and marine parks are the right places to go as well.
The Egyptian part of the Red Sea is commonly separated into 3 different parts.
North Red Sea Liveaboard Diving Trips
The easiest and most colorful part is definitely the northern part. Starting with Dahab and the famous Blue Hole and Bells, moving south to the Straits of Tiran and Ras Mohammed, which are near Sharm el-Sheikh, you will find Shark and Yolanda Reef, named as one of the best dive sites in the world by Jacques Cousteau, which guarantees excellent diving all year round. Another great dive site here is Jackson Reef in the Straits of Tiran, which is truly the aquarium of the Red Sea. Wreck lovers definitely need to see the SS Thistlegorm WWII wreck, which is considered to be one of the best wreck dives in the world. Liveaboards often start from Hurghada and visit Abu Nuhas as well. Here, in the same spot, there are 4 diveable wrecks from different time periods to be explored. Divers often see dolphins swimming freely here. This region can be reached by day-trip boats, but experienced liveaboard captains and guides can plan the dives in a way that makes divers feel they are alone there.
How to choose among North Red Sea itineraries
There are some variations (Sinai Classic, Get Wrecked, Classic North, etc.), and the itinerary can be focused more on wrecks or reefs, and depending on that it may or may not include the Straits of Tiran, Rosalie Moller, and other sites. Ras Mohammed and SS Thistlegorm are almost always included as the core of this trip. There is also a Deep North Red Sea itinerary, which only starts from Sharm el-Sheikh and includes dive sites to the north of Sharm el-Sheikh and around Dahab (Bells, Blue Hole, Canyon) and some other dive sites in the Gulf of Aqaba.
The north itinerary is considered to be less challenging in general than the southern trips. But it doesn't mean its boring--certainly the north is a must-do trip in the Red Sea. The north itineraries offer 20+ dives per week. Usually there are 4 dives per day including one night dive. The minimum required level is AOWD certification and having logged 15+ or 20+ dives. The north itineraries are not for big fish encounters--they are more about the great variety of coral life, different coral fish, triggerfish, rays, jackfish and other caranxes, barracudas, Napoleonfish, lots of lionfish, dolphins, tuna, and some macro life. It is famous for awesome underwater landscapes as well, very deep walls, drop-offs, canyons, drift dives, all in perfect condition with great visibility!
There are pretty high chances to see sharks (whitetip reef sharks, oceanic whitetips, hammerheads) and mantas only during the summer, between June and August, when the water in the south is very warm and sharks come to the north.
Brothers Islands and variations
Going from Hurghada to the headland of Ras Banas, the dive sites are suited for less experienced divers. Here there are fewer currents, and close to the mainland the sea is protected from the wind and big waves. The famous ferry boat Salem Express lies here. Some of the dives close to the shore include Sha’ab Claudio and Sha’ab Maksour in the Fury Shoals area. The highlights of this area are Elphinstone, the Brother Islands, and Daedalus, which are further away from the mainland. These are world-class dive sites, and experienced divers will enjoy these the most. You can see pelagic fish and sharks during the right time of year. Those who like wall diving will enjoy diving here as well.
The main attractions of this itinerary are the Little Brother and Big Brother Islands, two Islands far in the sea with great walls, two wrecks, and a variety of big fish. Usually trips include 3-4 days on the Brothers Islands and some other dive sites on the way there and back. One of the best combinations is Brothers + Daedalus + Elphinstone. Night dives are not allowed on the Brothers Islands. Diving is quite challenging there, and the minimum required experience level is to have logged 30+ or 50+ dives. Sometimes there are strong currents, and the walls go deep. There are waves and the open sea, and lots of sharks on every dive, such as reef sharks, oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, and thresher sharks.
South Red Sea
The dive sites that are reached usually starting from the ports of Hamata or Ghalib are the southernmost sites in the Red Sea, and have steep walls with strong currents, as well as places that are also suitable for night diving and easy diving. Starting from St. John’s, you can go to the famous Habili Ali or Gota Kebira, and moving away from the mainland in the northeast direction, you can go to Zabargad and the Rocky Islands. The Rocky Islands offer wall diving with strong currents, and shark encounters. Zabargad is good for night diving. It is better to go to these sites in the spring (from May to June) or in the fall (September or November), when the seas are calmer, and the chances to encounter sharks and pelagic fish in normal recreational diving depths are much higher than in the summer. Be prepared to travel approximately 4-5 hours by bus from airport of Hurghada to Hamata or Port Ghalib, the southern ports.
The main points of interest there are Elphinstone, Fury Shoals, St. John’s, Rocky, Zabargad, and Daedalus. The routes in the South, especially Daedalus and Elphinstone, are also famous for sharks and pelagics. Some reefs are very extraordinary, with lots of narrow passages, labyrinths, and plays of light. Abu Dabbab is home to dugongs and turtles, and you can snorkel with big family of spinner dolphins in the lagoons of Sataya Reef and Samadai Reef.