Dahab, as well as being a cool little settlement, is home to my favourite dive sites in Egypt. Unlike the reefs around Sharm El Sheikh the reefs here get far fewer visitors so are in better shape. While living in Dahab I taught many people to dive and had a fantastic time exploring the varied local dive sites, both by camel safari, believe it or not, and loading everything into a pickup truck. From deep blue holes to coral gardens it is all here. The reefs are in good nick, fish populations are healthy and there are lots of critters too. Here is my guide to the best dive sites in Dahab.
‘Bells’ and the ‘Blue hole’ are actually two separate dive sites a little drive North of Dahab, but I prefer to swim from one to the other during a single dive. Bells is an easy deep water entry, but not so easy to exit and the Blue Hole is simply a deep blue hole and marvellous as it is, most people can’t stare into the blue for more than a few minutes. This combined with the average holidaying diver’s buoyancy skills made it a stressful dive for me!
This dive starts with a stride entry into a large rockpool. At certain times of year it is full of pinky-purple jellyfish, perfect for jellyfish fights. Your descent starts in the rockpool and continues down and through a tunnel that opens onto the reef at 16m and 25m. As you exit the tunnel turn right and swim south along the wall for about 100m ascending gradually to about 8m. As you come to the lip of the Blue Hole it is possible to swim over the lip and across the top of the hole. There are often daredevil types who descend rapidly straight down into the hole. By all means watch them but be very aware of your own buoyancy here. Don’t be the next life claimed by the Blue Hole. You don’t want a plaque on the shore with your name on it. Once you have passed over the lip out of the Hole again it is possible to make a shore exit.
Further proof of the dramatic underwater landscape lies at Dahab’s canyon. It is a magnificent canyon stretching away into the deep. A giant stride entry finds you in a large lagoon about 6m deep cut into the coral reef shore. Swimming across this lagoon can be a challenge as there is often surge but persevere and you come to a narrow gateway to open water. As you exit the lagoon swim around to your left and follow the reef edge until you see a forked coral head. At this point swim away from the shore and you will see the canyon beneath you.
Descend into the canyon at the widest point. Be careful not to snag your equipment or meet any crown of thorn starfish as you do so. Pause at the 30m bottom for a moment to look up and enjoy the silhouette of the canyon against the open water and to look along the deeper portion of the canyon and wonder what lurks down there. Do not swim deeper within the canyon. It continues to a depth of 50m with open water observable above but has no points wide enough to enter or exit beyond that at 30m.
Swim through the canyon in the direction of the shore and you will slowly ascend until you find yourself in the fishbowl. This is a large cave-like structure at the shallower end of the canyon and is home to a shoal of glassfish, hence the name. If you can creep in it is fantastic to linger there with the fish. A few noisy diver bubbles though and the fish are off. From here you need to return to the lagoon to exit the water, so make sure you have enough air remaining to make it back.
|Emperor Angelfish, Egypt|
Another site North of Dahab, Eel Garden is a simple site with a large sloping sandy bottom and is home, as you might imagine, to lots of eels.
As you descend at Eel Garden keep an eye on the sandy bottom beneath you, you will see a forest of little sand eels poking out of the sand and peering up at you. These fascinating little creatures can sense your approach and shoot back into the sand at record speeds. You won’t hurt them if you settle on the bottom (around 20m) as they shoot back into the sand (but do so very slowly and carefully or nobody will see anything while the sand settles). If you lurk very still for a few seconds you can see them peer up at you to decide if it is safe to come out again.
If the eels are not playing game the day you dive here, or the water is rough and you end up part of a sandstorm, there is also a lot of coral growth along the reef wall which is worth checking out.
At the Northern point of Masbat Bay is a lighthouse. Lighthouse reef lies just offshore here. The shore entry here is simpler than the rockpool entries further north and merely requires wading down the beach.
As you swim down the beach, to 15-25m, heading left and out of the bay, the reef, some of it visible from the pedalos above, unfolds magically in front of you teeming with creatures. There is an especially impressive population of unicorn fish.
As you exit this site, returning back up the beach, it is imperative to keep an eye on the traffic above you as this is also a popular launch point for windsurfers in the bay. Ouch.
|Scuba Diving, Egypt|
A short drive South of Dahab brings you to The Islands, two large coral pinnacles just offshore. There is very little traffic at this site so the coral is in magnificent condition.
There is any number of ways to dive this site, but I always found a figure of ‘8’ dive plan covered most things. The two pinnacles are enormous and both boast hard and soft corals as well as lots of fish. This site is busy with wildlife but peaceful at the same time. It is magnificent for photographers who could happily spend hours here.