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Know Before You Go: Scuba Diving in Sharm el Sheikh

South Sinai is one of Egypt’s top scuba destinations. Here’s what to know about diving in Sharm el Sheikh.

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Hi, I'm Theodora!

A freelance writer and recovering nomad, Theodora divides her time between Britain and Bali. With bylines including CNN, BBC, the Guardian, Discover, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic Traveler, she’s working on a book, still blogs once in a while at EscapeArtistes.com, and spends far too much time on Twitter.

Nestled on the shores of the Red Sea, the world’s northernmost tropical sea, Sharm el Sheikh offers vibrant coral, sharks, turtles, aquarium fish, and World War II wrecks—all within a hop, skip, and a jump of the Mediterranean. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of Europe’s favorite scuba spots, and these Sharm el Sheikh scuba diving tips will help you make the most of it.

When is the best time of year to go scuba diving in Sharm el Sheikh?

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You can dive in Sharm el Sheikh all year round, but fall is a great choice.

The Red Sea offers greater visibility year-round and toasty warm waters than the Mediterranean. But you can expect some seasonal chill, with winter water temperatures routinely hitting the low 70s F° (low 20s C°) and cooler weather on the boat as well. If you’re planning a scuba diving trip to Sharm el Sheikh, consider fall (mid-September through November). It combines summer’s warm water advantages with much less crowded dive sites and a lower chance of overheating in your wetsuit on the dive boat.

What are the best dive sites in Sharm el Sheikh?

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The best Sharm el Sheikh dive sites are in Ras Mohammed National Park and the Straits of Tiran.

The protected waters of Ras Mohammed National Park, 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Sharm el Sheikh, offer some of the best diving excursions in Sharm el Sheikh. Highlights include Shark Reef, featuring a spectacular wall often alive in schooling fish, and Yolanda Reef, a lovely coral garden with a wreck whose sanitaryware cargo now hosts a wealth of marine life. The Straits of Tiran run between Sharm el Sheikh and Tiran Island. Dive sites here include Jackson Reef, with a coral garden, a deep wreck, hammerheads in season, and Gordon Reef, home to a grounded wreck.

What should I wear for scuba diving in Sharm el Sheikh?

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Types of wetsuits vary by season, but swimwear should err on the side of modesty.

Depending on the depths you’re diving to, the season, and your tolerance for cold, you could dive Sharm el Sheikh in everything from a rashguard and swimwear in summer through to a 5mm full-length wetsuit plus a hooded vest in winter. Women will generally have a better experience on the dive boat if their swimwear is conservative—thong bikinis play better in Rio than in Egypt.

What scuba equipment do I need to bring to Sharm el Sheikh?

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Most dive packages include the basics, but you can always bring your own.

Sharm el Sheikh dive packages generally include all the essential scuba equipment, which can be in wildly varying states of repair, but if you have your own gear, you’ll probably want to bring it anyway. Dive computers are not included in packages, and rented dive computers often give inaccurate profiles, so bring a computer if you have one, as well as any underwater photography kit or phone housing you own. If you have a wetsuit you feel comfortable in, you may want to bring that as well.

Insider tip: If you bring your own scuba equipment for Sharm el Sheikh, you can negotiate a lower price for a dive package with just tanks and weights.

How safe is scuba diving in Sharm el Sheikh?

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The Red Sea is relatively safe, but operator standards can be patchy.

Sharm el Sheikh generally offers great visibility and low currents compared to many popular tropical dive destinations. A seasoned local dive guide always leads dives, the city has a hyperbaric chamber, and shark attacks on divers are rare. However, scuba diving safety in Sharm el Sheikh is not always up to the highest standards, and equipment is not always well maintained. Be sure that your travel insurance covers you for scuba diving.

What are the diving conditions in Sharm el Sheikh?

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Conditions vary from site to site but expect clear waters.

The Red Sea is famous for its excellent visibility: It’s common to see 100 feet (30 meters) ahead of you. High waves are rare, but diving conditions vary from site to site, with relatively strong currents at the Thistlegorm and some Straits of Tiran sites.

Can I get my scuba diving certification in Sharm el Sheikh?

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Yes, Sharm el Sheikh offers a full range of diver training, from entry-level certifications to tech diving courses.

Many people learn to dive in Sharm el Sheikh, and schools offer courses from both PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International). The most useful entry-level certification is the open water course: These typically take three days, although you can save time by studying online and certify you to dive to a maximum of 60 feet (18 meters). If you are already a qualified diver, you can take your advanced open water course, which involves much less studying and only takes two days. This certifies you a depth of 100 feet (30 meters). If you want to go further, Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab have flourishing technical diving scenes.

Do I need my scuba diving certification to go diving in Sharm el Sheikh?

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No, discovery packages are available for beginners to taste the underwater world.

A scuba diving certification is a big commitment of time and effort—not to mention money!—so both PADI and SSI offer discovery diving packages. First, an instructor teaches you some basic techniques in a swimming pool or shallow water, including clearing water out of your mask and recovering your breathing device if you manage to spit it out. Then, you go into the ocean and get up close to the coral reef at 40 feet (12 meters), with your instructor close at hand.

What other Sharm el Sheikh underwater experiences are available?

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Sharm el Sheikh offers several semi-submersible “submarines.”

If the kids are too young for scuba, they can admire Sharm el Sheikh’s coral from one of several semi-submersible boats marketed as “submarines” or “semi-submarines.” Rather than descending below the surface, these craft offer underwater viewing platforms—complete with scuba divers to bring tropical fish flocking to the picture windows.

More ways to explore Sharm el Sheikh

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