Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Scuba Diving in Sharm El Sheikh - the Gateway to the Red Sea

Sharm El Sheikh is located at the very tip of the Sinai Peninsula, and given its ease of access to the Red Sea has grown over the past twenty years into one of the worlds best and most popular scuba diving locations. Large amounts of scuba divers travel here each year to sample the delights that the Red Sea has to offer.

It offers a good variety of diving, from shore dives, to reef dives all the way through to one of the most developed liveaboard industries to be found anywhere. Each year, thousands of divers flock to Sharm El Sheikh to sample what is truly fantastic diving is exceptional conditions.

The main reason for the success of Sharm El Sheikh, as a diving destination is the Red Sea, which is one of the worlds richest marine environments. With over 400 recorded species of coral and over several hundred species of fish, coupled with warm waters and exceptional visibility, the Red Sea has everything that a diver will be looking for. On top of this, Sharm El Sheikh, due to its position on the south of the Sinai Peninsula, has easy access to some of the worlds greatest dive sites, including sites such as Ras Mohammed Marine Park, and the famous Thistlegorm wreck. The diving in Sharm El Sheikh tends to be focussed on a few big dive locations, including the Straits of Tiran and Ras Mohammed Marine Park. Both areas, rich in plant and marine life, tend to have something to satisfy even the most experienced of divers.

The Straits of Tiran lie 7 kilometres north east of Sharm El Sheikh, and is actually a series of four major reefs which form the top of an underwater bridge, and which support large amounts of hard and soft corals. The Straights of Tiran also offers divers an excellent opportunity to spot some of the large pelagic marine life that inhabit the area. The four reefs, Jacksons Reef, Woodhouse Reef, Thomas Reef and Gordon Reef all offer excellent dive sites, and it is certainly worth taking the time out to explore the Straights of Tiran in detail over the course of a few days.

The Ras Mohammed National Park is located on the very tip of the Sinai Peninsula, and its nutrient rich waters from the Gulf of Aquaba consistently bring large levels of marine life into the area. Steep coral encrusted walls, sloping down to depths of over 1000 metres tend to dictate the nature of the diving in Ras Mohommed, however there are a number of beautiful shallow reefs which are also worth spending time at. There are a number of good dive sites in the Ras Mohammed area, including Shark Reef and Yolanda Reef, Eel Garden, Anenome City, Jackfish Alley and Shark Observatory, all of which are covered in greater detail in our dive sites directory.

Of all the dive sites accessed through Sharm El Sheikh, undoubtedly the most popular is the Thistlegorm Wreck, a World War II supply ship which sank in 1941. The wreck itself still contains two large Rolls Royce armoured cars, along with crates of Lee Enfield rifles. Within the holds of the Thistlegorm wreck, you can also see the Morris cars, Bedford Trucks, and the BSA military motorbikes, as well as other supplies such as wellington boots and ammunition.

It is possible still to dive through parts of the Thistlegorm wreck, giving divers access to the wheel house, the chart room, and the bathroom salon and the various holds that contained so much of what was sunk. The Thistlegorm is usually a two dive day, with the first dive following the outer curcuit of the wreck, observing areas such the Locomotive (which was blown clear of the wreck), and the propeller towards the rear. Nowadays, a large variety of marine life has made it's home at the Thistlegorm Wreck, and you are likely to see large shoals of Batfish alongside good numbers of Barracuda here. Even a couple of Crocodile fish seem to have made their home on the decks of the Thistlegorm!

Overall, Sharm El Sheikh presents scuba divers both novice and advanced with a multitude of interesting dives. For people looking to learn to dive, Sharm El Sheikh has a particularly strong offering, with numerous established, and professionally run operations. Each year, large numbers of people, especially Europeans, come to Sharm to learn to dive, and to enjoy the various other attractions that the area has to offer. In particular, it is worth while taking the time to visit the St Katherines monastry and climb Mount Sinai, both of which are a short drive away.

About the Author

Mark Burns is Director of Scubaworld.tv, a large scuba diving site specialising in scuba diving in the Red Sea and a leading provider of Red Sea diving holidays.