Egypt // The Red Sea Coast //

Dangers of the deep

Common sense and conservation-mindedness should keep you from touching any underwater flora or fauna, particularly coral, which can be extremely sharp and is easily damaged. It’s also important to avoid aggravating any potentially dangerous creatures such as moray eels, which may bite when threatened, or stingrays, which can deliver a painful dose of venom. Contact with jellyfish, meanwhile, can cause a mild skin irritation. Very few Red Sea species behave aggressively towards people, though there have been some well-publicised shark attacks. Poisonous creatures to look out for include the spiny, bottom-dwelling scorpion fish, and the nocturnal lionfish, with its elaborate array of strikingly marked fins. The lethal stonefish, camouflaged as a gnarled rock, is harder to spot but fortunately rare.

Arguably the biggest dangers to divers, however, are their own actions and those of their diving company. In 2008, for example, two Danish tourists and one Egyptian went missing, presumed drowned, on a private diving trip just off the coast of Marsa Shagra, just north of Marsa Alam – a pertinent reminder of the importance of following full diving safety procedures. Then, in June 2009, a French tourist on a boat trip near Marsa Alam mistook a shark for a large fish, jumped into the water to have a closer look, and was attacked and killed by it.

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