For keen divers who have made it this far, there are several camps and hotels to the south of town offering the opportunity to explore the most remote dive sites in the southern Red Sea – and to experience an eerily empty and barren region of mountains, ocean and reef far removed from the commercialized northern Red Sea coast.
One of the most popular of these dive sites is the Dolphin House Reef (also known as Samadai Reef), a crescent-shaped protected area set up in 2001 to protect the area’s spinner dolphins. Tourist numbers to the reef have been capped at two hundred per day – previously there were up to 2,500 – and it’s now a great spot for snorkelling as well as diving. Other notable dive sites include Elphinstone, a 300-metre-long reef ideal for drift diving; Abu Dabab, a series of sheltered reefs; Fury Shoals, a set of reefs rich in marine life; and St John’s, a site with caves, black coral and – if you’re lucky – sharks.
Wadi Gimal National Park
A unique protected area covering 6000 square kilometres of land and 4000 square kilometres of sea, Wadi Gimal National Park is home to an interesting mix of archeological sites and wildlife. The area once lay on an important trading route, and there are several pharaonic and Roman ruins to explore, including the village of Geli and an old emerald mine. Wild gazelle can also be seen, while in spring and the autumn you may be able to spot migrant birds such as osprey, falcons, white-eyed gulls and the occasional flamingo. Red Sea Desert Adventures (w redseadesertadventures.com) and the Shams Alam Beach Resort can organize dives, excursions and overnight camping in the park.