The Red Sea resort town of Dahab is a wonderfully chilled-out spot on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Its clear water teem with fish and coral, making it one of the world’s premier scuba diving destinations. Dahab, and its glitzier neighbour, Sharm el Sheikh, have long attracted experienced divers to incredible wrecks, deep blue holes, and sites filled with large pelagics. But, Red Sea diving isn’t just for experts. Dahab also has plenty to keep the novice diver happy, safe, and bubbling for more.
Dahab Dive Sites
Diving in Dahab is blissfully easy. Many dive sites are accessed directly from the town’s beach; others are a mere 15 minute truck drive along the coast. No getting up at the crack of dawn and no long, bumpy boat rides. It’s just a short swim to calm, shallow sites with spectacular walls, corals, and fish. We never dove below 15 m, the restriction on our teenage son’s Junior Open Water certification, and we were totally impressed by the variety of marine life. Here are a few beach accessed dive sites that we enjoyed:
- Lighthouse Reef, just steps from Dahab’s pedestrian boardwalk and relaxing cafes, this sheltered spot is brimming with life and is popular for introductory dives.
- Eel Gardens, near the north end of the boardwalk, is a fascinating place where hundreds of garden eels sway gracefully on the sandy bottom.
- Coral Gardens, next to the famous Dahab Canyon dive site, has beautiful coral formations. You’ll see many varieties of lion fish, and if you’ve got a good eye, you might spot a red sea octopus.
- Islands is a lovely shallow site with huge brain corals, pinnacles and scenic swim- throughs. Colours are vibrant and it’s a great place for photography.
Further afield, Gabr el Bint, makes a terrific day excursion. It is in pristine condition with a gorgeous wall covered in soft and hard corals. From tiny, gem-like nudibranchs to giant morays and turtles, Gabr el Bint will fulfill your Jacques Cousteau diving fantasy.
Dahab Diving Facilities
Dahab has dozens of diving centres, many associated with hotels. The challenge is finding a reputable operation that will meet your needs.
You can glean much information from a dive center’s website but nothing beats a direct inquiry to get a sense of the operation’s professionalism and customer service. For our trip it was extremely important to find a dive centre that catered well to families and novice divers. I sent emails to several places asking specific questions about dive site suitability, dive group size, safety and equipment rental.
We were thrilled with Blue Realm Divers. They were professional, safety conscious and friendly. They limit their group size to 4-6 clients per dive leader so we had personalized service for our family. Giovanna, our dive master was patient and helpful when our son was having ear difficulties, and she showed great enthusiasm and competence in pointing out weird and wonderful creatures.
Dahab Top-Side Attractions
Dahab’s roots as a Bedouin village and its 1960’s popularity as a hippie hang-out still have noticeable influence on the town’s look and character. While upscale hotels have sprung up, much of Dahab retains an eclectic charm and bohemian feel. Its boardwalk is lined with artsy shops and open-air restaurants decorated with bright Bedouin textiles. The striking combination of stark desert and azure sea add to Dahab’s appeal.
There’s no shortage of great places to relax after diving. We loved sipping smoothies, sprawled out on comfy floor cushions at Eel Garden Star. Restaurant options are staggering. Many places lure customers with enticing “catch of the day” displays. If you need a change from fish or standard Egyptian fare, The Blue Thai House serves up delicious curries and I Pescatori has yummy homemade pastas. Wherever you go, you’ll find friendly service, and fellow divers happy to talk about their tales from the deep.
Like the diving, Dahab surface time feels easy, unhurried and warmly exotic.
Header photo credit: Matt Kieffer taken at Gabr el Bint, Dahab.