Much of the diving in Sinai is easy to access and relatively sheltered from harsh winds and currents, making it a popular destination for those who have little or no experience. It’s an inexpensive place to learn open-water diving and gain a PADI, BSAC or CMAS certificate, entitling you to dive anywhere in the world.
Prices and packages
Prices for diving courses tend to be lower (often significantly so) in Dahab and Nuweiba than Sharm el-Sheikh; the best deals for all destinations are generally to be had online. Boat trips to dive sites usually include equipment, though lunch is often extra (about £E50–60).
Dive packages can be a good deal, costing around €200–260 for ten dives. Liveaboards can work out cheaper than staying in a hotel and buying a dive package separately, averaging around €100 per person per day, including full board. Where equipment rental isn’t covered, count on an extra €25–30 per day. During quiet periods, bookings can be arranged at short notice, but to be sure of what you’re getting it’s best to book in advance.
Dives and courses
The type of diving and the degree of experience required at each dive site are mainly determined by underwater topography and currents. Around Sharm el-Sheikh the chief activity is boat diving. Up the coast towards Dahab and Nuweiba this gives way to shore diving, where you wade or swim out to the reefs. Liveaboards (also called safari boats) allow you to spend days or weeks at sea, cruising the dive sites and shipwrecks of the north Red Sea around Ras Mohammed and the Tiran Strait (or the more southerly reefs beyond Hurghada). They also give access to less-visited sites out of “peak hours”, and the chance to make up to five dives a day.
Choosing a dive centre
When choosing a dive centre, stick to operators that have been around longest and have proper links with organizations like PADI. The Chamber of Diving and Watersports (w cdws.travel) has a list of all legal dive centres in the Sinai, as well as those that have been blacklisted. When visiting a centre, ask to see a card proving the instructor is qualified to teach the relevant course (PADI, BSAC, or whatever), and isn’t merely a dive-master. Many dive centres offer courses not only in English but also in various other European languages. Finally, a number of Sinai dive centres charge an optional €1 per day levy on all divers to pay for the upkeep of the local hyperbaric chamber (see Diving in sharm and Na’ama bay).
Snorkelling is also great fun and much cheaper than diving. Equipment can be rented at most of Sinai’s dive centres (€5–10/day), but if you’re planning to snorkel a lot, it’s cheaper to bring your own gear from home. Note that coral reefs and spiny urchins can rip unprotected feet to shreds; in all events you should only walk in designated “corridors” to protect the corals – if the water is too shallow to allow you to float above them. However cool the water may feel, the sun’s rays can still burn exposed flesh, so always wear a T-shirt and use waterproof sunscreen.