The amazing underwater world of Egypt

The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba are a real paradise for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. Due to the relative separation from the Indian Ocean, these waters contain a huge wealth of marine species not found anywhere else in the world, as well as other fascinating creatures. In addition, the vibrancy of the climate, small tides and the exceptionally high salt content of the Red Sea create the perfect living conditions for unusual corals and sponges. You will be bewitched by their beauty. Even if you have previously dived in places like Maldives or Thailand, the coral reefs will now seem less attractive, compared to Egypt.

Coral reefs

The coral reefs that surround the Egyptian Red Sea coast were created over years by microscopic polyps that fold in calcareous outer skeletons on the remains of their ancestors. The living reefs can grow by 4-5 cm per year. The Red Sea is inhabited not only by coral-forming corals but also by populations of eight-sun corals. Extremely impressive are the powerful whiplas corals that can reach a width of up to 2 meters.

Most of the Red Sea reefs are coastal reefs located on relatively flat terrain. Almost all corals need oxygenated water and a measured amount of light. Therefore, the most spectacular specimens can be found at a depth of up to 30m. Reefs vary in size; near the shore you will find shallow lagoons. Its warm water and sand covered with stones attracts sea snails and starfish. Mussels and sea urchins can be found hiding among stones. The surface of the reef separates the lagoon from the depths of the sea.
Behind the deeper reef zone there is a steep slope covered with a layer of coral, which is usually ended by a slope similar to the edge of the cliff. Shallow areas of the reef are sometimes strewn with coral resembling poles, cigars or hills, and their highly developed flora attracts many fish. In the reef part located deeper there are less corals. Here you can see sandy terraces covered with marine plants usually found on the seabed as seagrass, as well as seahorse or needlefish colonies. Immediately after the reef's fall, the deep waters begin.

What can you find?

Some of the most colourful and wonderful sea creatures inhabiting the Red Sea can be found in the shallow waters, where sunlight reaches almost directly. Among the most widespread species there is a papu-fish, very easily recognisable thanks to its lips in the shape of a beak and the intensely coloured butterfly fish with its stripes. The fish with an extremely exotic appearance is the wing, whose long dorsal fins float when the fish exposes the spikes. Among the soft, stinging anemones attached to the coral reef, you can see clownfish (Nemo fish). Scalar is also very common and can be found close to corals. These fish swim alone or in pairs. The area around the reef is a shabby, lucian, barn and sloth habitat, the largest of which is a humpback napoleon wrasse. Large individuals can be bigger than humans. In deeper waters you can meet white-finned reef sharks, gray reef shark and sometimes a hammerhead shark. Stingrays float above the sandy bottom.

Turtles are the most fascinating marine animals. Several species can be found in the Red Sea. The greatest chance of seeing them is in Marsa Alam on the Abu Dabbab beach and in Marsa Mubarak bay. Meetings with dolphins are also not uncommon. Dolphins are a great attraction for trips to Giftun Island in Hurghada. In addition, special trips to the so-called "dolphin house" in Hurghada and the Sataya reef in Marsa Alam, where the chance of meeting dolphins is almost 100%. In Marsa Alam on the Abu Dabbab beach and in the bay of Marsa Mubarak you can see sea cows (dugongs). The coastal dugongs are large mammals, adapted to aquatic life and unable to move on land. Adult individuals reach a length of 3 meters and weigh about 400 kg. They are herbivorous, they eat throughout the day and feed on moscow grass.

Dangers of depths

Few marine animals behave aggressively towards humans. They can attack, however, only when you inadvertently touch them or if they are provoked. Therefore, when diving or snorkelling, you should be careful and keep an appropriate distance from sharp and fragile reefs and fish. Poisonous species include spiny scorpion fish and active night wing with bright fins. The pretending scarlet stone is very dangerous. It is extremely difficult to recognise. It may also be unpleasant to touch an anemone, fiery coral or sea urchin. Avoid animals such as moray eels that may bite or sting, injecting painful venom. The tiger shark can attack a man, but he can only be found in deep waters and hunts at night. In some seasons there are large amounts of jellyfish, whose wings can cause skin irritation.

Top five snorkelling locations in Egypt:

1. Ras Mohammed in Sharm el Sheikh

2. Sharm el Naga in the Hurghada region

3. Sharm el Luli Marsa Alam region

4. Mars Mubarak in the Marsa Alam region

5. Cruise to Giftun Island (Paradise) in the Hurghada region

Reef protection

Snorkelling and scuba diving make it possible to discover fantastic coral reefs and learn about the complex ecosystem that creates them. However, it should be remembered that the reefs are very fragile and can be damaged when exposed to excessive sunlight and wave motion. Irresponsible tourists who trample or break off corals are one of the most serious threats to reefs. For both scuba divers and snorkellers, the basic rule is: look, but do not touch. It is also forbidden to feed fish and take anything from the bottom of the sea. Do not throw rubbish into the water, especially cigarette butts. Do not buy sea souvenirs. It is illegal to take them from Egypt. Even scallops collected on the beach can be confiscated at the airport and you will be fined.