Local dive sites along the coast of Sharm-el-Sheikh between Tiran Island and Ras Mohammed national park. Most of them are good for beginners as the current usually absent or week, there are a sandy areas and not deep plateau with gardens of soft coral.
Local Dive Sites
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
The generic name ‘Local Dives’ (due to their closeness to Sharm) covers all the shore diving sites north and south of Naama Bay between the Strait of Tiran and the town of Sharm el Sheikh. Naama Bay, still a desert at the end of the eighties, is now a famous international tourist resort.
This splendid bay was originally called Marsa el-Aat, situated at the outlet of Wadi el-Aat. Naama Bay has one of the two jetties that diving boats usually embark from; the other one, Travco Marina, is situated to the southwest in the bay of Sharm el Sheikh, known locally as Sharm el-Maya, or the ‘bay of the harbour’ due to the large tourist port which is also present.
You reach the different local dive sites from Naama Bay following a boat ride that may take anywhere from 10 to 70 minutes. North of Naama Bay there are nine diving spots on a 7.5 mile stretch of coast. Ras Ghamila, the furthest away lies almost directly opposite Gordon Reef; Ras Nasrani is on a level to the international airport; the others, within a short distance of each other are Ras Bob, White Knight, Shark’s Bay, Far Garden, Fiddle Garden, Middle Garden and Near Garden (corresponding to the northerly tip of Naama Bay). South of Naama Bay are a further nine diving sites:
Sodfa,Tower, Pinky Wall, Amphoras, Turtle Bay, Paradise, Ras Umm Sid, Temple and Ras Katy
Generally speaking, besides their vicinity to Naama Bay, these diving sites have other features in common due to their position, sheltered from waves and strong currents, and to the configuration of the fringing reef, which has found an ideal ecosystem for its growth along this stretch of the coast. Diving here can be enjoyed by divers at all levels and, in good conditions, you can observe many genera of mandrepores (hard corals), innumerable varieties of Alcyonarians (soft corals) and an almost complete range of fish life, from the small anthias to the large Napoleonfish (Cheilinus undulatus), multi-coloured butterflyfish and angelfish to parrotfish, triggerfish to surgeonfish.
‘Delightful Cape’ or Ras Ghamila in Arabic is the most northern of the local dive sites, and separates a shallow, sandy lagoon from the sea. The end of the dive site is marked by a green beacon, the starboard side of the Enterprise Passage, with it’s corresponding red beacon siting atop nearby Gordon reef.
Ras Ghamila is made as a drift dive, usually starting immediately at the end of the Conrad Resort. The end of the dive site is marked by a green beacon, the starboard side of the Enterprise Passage, which has it’s corresponding port-side marker atop Gordon reef. Obviously the current can run in the opposite direction, so a current check is advised before starting the dive.
The topography of the site is very simple with a relatively shallow fringe reef (10-15m), and a large, extensive sandy plateau that ranges in a depth of 14m – 26m. The plateau is covered with coral heads, porite corals, pinnacles and numerous large sea fans (it has the largest number of sea fans of all the dive sites around Sharm).
The dive is very straightforward, especially when the current is running north to Aqaba, as it simply pushes you along to the green beacon allowing you to “sit back” and smell the roses. If posiible, venture in to the gorgonia garden as the sea fans here are very beautiful, and there’s the chance to come upon fantail rays resting on the sandy floor, turtles sheltering under the pinnacles, as well as pelagic visitors to the area such as tunas, trevallies and even sharks.
Ras Nasrani (Arabic for ‘Christian Cape) is a beautiful dive site, located 11km from Naama Bay and directly south of Ras Ghamila.
Generally made as a drift dive from a boat, the dive starts at a large sandy plateau, enclosed by the fringe reef and large coral heads. The reef here is very vibrant but especially on the north side of the plateau. You then follow the sandy plateau down to approx. 18m, head north with the reef on your left, and you immediately find some large gorgonian sea fans.
Once past the sea fans the reef flattens out in to a large coral plateau, 8m against the fringe reef and then ranging anywhere between 15m to 26m along the drop-off, with the fringe reef becoming more and more predominately made of porite corals. Eventually the plateau becomes a sloping reef wall of little interest .
At this point you should head back to the entry point, while exploring the fringe reef’s extensive porite garden but, the current can be very strong here, so this isn’t always possible.
Another way to dive Nasrani is too head deep (28m) from the sandy plateau and follow the reef at depth. Nasrani has two very beautiful walls but they are often overlooked due to their depth.
After the walls, you simply drift around the corner of Nasrani with the reef still on your left looking out for large rays and fish. After approximately 50m distance, you’ll see a small reef outcropping on the drop-off with some impressive sea fans and whip corals and a small, sandy road. From this point you should make your way up the reef to the porite garden and begin your safety stop. This version of the dive can involve a seriously strong current, especially on the corner of the reef, and should only be attempted by experienced drift divers in good health and with good air consumption.
Ras Bob was named in honor of an underwater cameraman, Robert Johnson, who lived and worked in Sharm for many years.
Ras Bob was, reportedly, one of Robert’s favorite dive locations and he filmed here extensively including an advert for the UK mortgage and savings provider, Cheltenham & Gloucester, which featured a young boy diving for pearls.
Ras Bob is atypical of Sharm’s local dive sites in that the coral plateau which usually follows the coastline is very narrow here and in some parts completely non-existent; instead a series of small coral gardens are to be found, separated by the fringe plate and, in some places, connected via swim-throughs in the reef.
At approximately 24 meters you will find an expansive eel garden, possibly only dwarfed by the one at Eel Garden in the Ras Mohammed National Park, running parallel to the drop-off at 30m. The dive is often made as a mooring dive, usually by descending to the eel garden and following the reef, current permitting, to the east in the direction of Ras Nasrani.
Eventually the reef becomes a series of porite corals and at this point you should ascend to the shallows and explore the coral gardens, caves and swim-throughs of Ras Bob. The dive obviously can also be made as a drift dive, and is generally done so in the direction of Ras Nasrani.
Originally named ‘Wichita Falls” due to an almost permanent sand flow down it’s canyon, White Knight is the closest dive site to Sharks Bay jetty.
The site is effectively split in to two areas; the northeast area comprises a sandy plateau that stretches from the fringe reef (3m) to the drop-off (18-20m), while the southwest area comprises a canyon that bottoms out at 40m, and a rolling reef that contains metallic fragments, old air cylinders and engine remains of a long sunk dive boat, Noose One.
White Knight can either be dived as a mooring dive or as a drift dive, generally in the direction of Sharks Bay. The dive site has a lot of macro-life but large filter feeders, such as mantas and eagle rays, are often seen here in the summer.
You’ll probably never see hundreds of snappers there, or a shiver of sharks, and no wrecks (except for sun-wizened dive guides), so why would anyone want to dive at Shark’s Bay? Well, for a start, it’s an excellent place for a night dive, teeming with crustaceans, echinoderms and cephalopods being predominately made up of hard corals, ideal for such creatures.
It’s also an excellent place for photography, with lots of macro and little current. It is quite easy to spend 90 minutes on a dive and not drop below 8 meters.
Secondly, admittedly you have to look a little harder in the daytime, but Shark’s Bay has a very healthy population of stonefish and scorpionfish (devil, bearded, and smallscale).
The ‘ugly bastards’ of the fish world are not to everyones taste but that doesn’t matter as there are plenty of ‘pretty fish’ such as butterflyfish, angelfish, gobies, blennies, anthias and anemones (including at least two pink anemones).
And there’s not just the small things there either. Admittedly not a regular basis, but large marine life can be seen here too; whale sharks, leopard sharks, eagle rays, mantas, fantail rays, and honeycomb rays have all been sighted here.
There is a beautiful glassfish pinnacle (28m) but don’t look for it on the dive site map as it seems, amazingly, to have been overlooked.
Here you will find a very healthy pinnacle with a large pygmy sweeper colony protected by several red-mouthed groupers. On the pinnacle itself you can find numerous types of shrimps and a very active cleaning station, while usually somewhere at the base of the pinnacle you can find a couple of resident scorpionfish. Often you’ll also come across a large malabar grouper that likes to stop at the aforementioned cleaning station and, while it is being cleaned, is quite happy for you to ‘float’ next to it (usually at all other times this fish will not have anything to do with you). Shark’s Bay also hosts the two fiercest anemonefish in the whole of the Northern Red Sea.
On a sandy plateau at about 14m, you come to a very nice coral head (often with two large morays inside it) and next to this is a bubble anemone inhabited by some seriously aggressive fish. If you believe anemonefish don’t have teeth, spend a few minutes near this anemone and they will demonstrate your misconceptions in a painful manner; these fish are reincarnated sharks!
Far Garden is the fourth & farthest Garden from Naama Bay.
Its configuration is different to the other three Gardens (Near, Middle & Fiddle Gardens) in that the plateau is more inclined, more narrow and has a greater number of pinnacles that the other gardens.
At 30m there is the top of a large overhang, known as the Cathedral, which penetrates the reef for a dozen meters or so.
Divers should only enter the Cathedral with the appropriate level of experience and training. Ideally, when weather conditions and currents permit, the best way to enjoy this dive is as a drift dive by starting your dive in front of the Intercontinental Resort, exploring a sequence of three tower-like pinnacles, before making your way to the drop-off (20-24m) and heading east with the reef on your left. You should end the dive at the private jetty constructed of steel and concrete.
You should be careful not to go past this point as the current becomes very strong and your exit point will be behind the corner of the bay and out of view of the boat’s crew.
Nestled in the sheltered corner of a large bay, almost exactly halfway between Middle Garden & Far Garden (from whence the site derives its name), Fiddle Garden is the third dive site in the collective known as the Gardens.
Like Middle Garden, Far Garden is completely shielded from winds & currents and is a very popular site for dive courses and lunch breaks, and when sea or weather conditions are poor.
The topography of the site is typical of the Sharm coastline, with a shallow reef wall, an extensive sandy plateau and the drop-off running parallel to the shoreline at approximately 20m.
Generally this dive is made as a mooring dive but it is possible to make it as a drift dive heading in the direction of Far Garden. The main features of this site are two large coral pinnacles (marked as A & B on the map).
Pinnacle B is covered in soft white corals and has a very healthy growth of fire coral. Pinnacle A is generally regarded as the more beautiful of the two pinnacles, with its many varied corals, and healthy shoals of pigmy sweepers, juvenile fusiliers and hatchet fish.
Directly behind pinnacle B, at a depth of 8m, overgrown with corals, you can find the broken remains of amphoras that are believed to date to Roman times.
Demonstrating divers pragmatism to state the bleeding obvious, Middle Garden, the second of four reefs known collectively as the Gardens, lays in the middle of a large bay between Near Garden and Far Garden.
The site is shielded completely from wind and currents and is therefore a very popular spot for Open Water courses, skill intensive related dives such as navigation or photography and lunch breaks, leading the moorings (shamanduras) to often be overcrowded.
Moorings here tend to mysteriously disappear on an ad hoc basis, and unfounded allegations abound from guides and boat crews alike that a local hotel is responsible.
Middle Garden is a vast sandy plateau, directly opposite the Hyatt Regency Resort, that stretches out to the drop-off at roughly 14m. Traveling east in the direction of Fiddle Garden, you will find several large coral-heads, and sandy splits that follow the drop-off. Once you reach your turn around mark, you should head in to the fringe reef and head back to the moorings with the reef on your right shoulder.
The sandy plateau here is at its most narrow giving the impression of a white road with various table corals scattered over the vicinity.
Near Garden is the first dive site in a series of four known collectively as the Gardens, and the closest dive site to Naama Bay.
Intermittently you will find a mooring here but the best way to enjoy this site is as a drift dive.
Unfortunately its closeness to Naama Bay has had a detrimental effect on the dive site; it is a very popular site for water users and it has also suffered from the construction of local hotels built to service visitors to Sharm.
Collectively the impact was so bad that some sections of the reef are declared “dead areas”. Having said that, it is still a good dive. The dive usually begins on the east corner with an inclined plateau that meets the drop-off at around 30m (although you don’t want to be that deep here). At 14m-16m you’ll find a pinnacle and a very nice example of a red anemone. Continuing west, with the reef on your left, you’ll encounter numerous pinnacles with gorgonian sea fans and, often, pigmy sweepers or glassfish.
After the sea fans head north to explore the gullies, cut-throughs and clefts in Near Garden’s fringe reef or, if conditions permit, you can instead head west towards Middle Garden and look for resident white tip reef sharks resting on an expansive and deep plateau. You may also encounter the remains of a dive boat resting along the edge of the drop-off, that caught fire and sank in the area.
Like Pinky Wall, Sodfa is visited less than the popular Tower.
Situated in the front of Tower Club’s floating pontoon, this site has to be made as a drift dive from a boat.
The site is typical of the local coastline, with a large plateau that extends down from 8m, where you will find numerous pinnacles, to approximately 20m., where there are some nice examples of gorgonian sea fans along the drop-off.
Named after a large fossil coral tower on the shoreline that marks the site, a small beach and the Tower Club, Tower is not only a favorite of divers but, due to the deep canyon (120m) here providing ideal conditions for the sport, free divers. Ideally the site should be dived from shore but this is, unfortunately, generally impractical for most dive centers.
As a drift dive, you should begin your dive at the aforementioned tower then, keeping the reef on your left, explore the canyon (being careful of your depth).
On the outside left of the canyon there is a large coral head with glassfish (20-25m) where you can see red-mouthed groupers valiantly trying to shepherd them from predators such as lionfish & trevallies.
Once past the coral head, the configuration of the reef returns to a more familiar shape with a large, inclined (14m – 25m) sandy plateau and numerous pinnacles to explore.
Due to the shape of the coastline at Tower, plankton and other food substances in the water tend to “pool”, resulting in a high number of sightings, especially during the summer, of large filter-feeding, marine life such as mantas and whale sharks; so it wouldn’t hurt to keep your eyes on the blue every now & then.
Pinky Wall, Pinky’s Wall or, for that matter, Pinkies Wall, derives its name from the fact that it is a wall dive (generally made as a shallow drift dive from a boat) and from the abundance of the soft coral Alcyonanian that grows in this area, which is pink in color, thus demonstrating that divers are very pragmatical when it comes to naming a site or suffer from a serious lack of imagination.
The topography is very unusual for one of Sharm’s dive sites, as the coral plateau that generally follows the shoreline is very narrow here, producing an almost vertical wall that drops for more than 180m.
Despite it’s uniqueness and beauty, few guides seem inclined to take their guests here, so generally the site is quiet and uncrowded.
Amphoras lays along the same stretch of coastline as Paradise & Turtle Bay, so it’s no surprise that it shares a similar topography to them; a fringing reef wall approximately 10m deep, an expansive sandy slope that meanders gently down to a depth of 25-30m and then the drop-off.
The sandy slope has various sized coral pinnacles covered in Alcycnarians (genus Dendronephthya).
The site’s name is derived from the wreckage of a 17th century Turkish vessel that sunk carrying a cargo of amphoras containing mercury.
Scattered over the site you can find various fragments of amphoras from the ship’s cargo as well as the ship’s inscribed anchor (24m).
Complete examples of the amphoras can been seen in the reception area of the Amphoras hotel which is unsurprisingly on.
“I have no memory of this place” – Gandalf the Grey. It’s hard to describe a place you’ve never dived and, as far as I can personally recall, I’ve never dived Turtle Bay.
It’s a drift dive. Apparently. The topography is similar to Amphoras & Paradise dive sites … which isn’t that surprising as it lays in the middle of the those two sites … and … probably, at a guess … it has loads of pretty corals, lots of reef fish, and the chance to see larger pelagic fish, rays, possibly turtles, along the drop-off. Maybe.
Paradise consists of a reef wall (approx. max depth of 10m) which slopes down to a long sandy plateau that runs parallel for almost the whole site.
On the seaward side of this sandy plateau, along the drop-off, are numerous large coral pinnacles covered in Alcyonanians (a soft coral of the genus Dendronephthya) giving the pinnacles a gorgeous coloring of red, pink, and yellow.
You will also find some impressive table corals and sea fans. In the shallow areas you will find numerous caves and overhangs, often inhabited by large numbers of glassfish The dive, ideally, is made as a drift dive, starting in front of the Hilton Waterfalls with the reef on your left, and ending at a floating pontoon in front of the Royal Paradise Resort.
Paradise makes for a beautiful drift dive in Paradise, but it is advisable to make a current check before beginning the dive.
Ras Umm Sid
So what do we know about this site? Firstly that Sid’s mother had a funny looking head.
What!? Okay, let us explain. Ras in Arabic means “head” and Umm in Arabic means “Mother of”, therefore this site’s name could be read as “The Head of Sid’s Mother”.
Who Sid was, we’ve no idea, and we’ve been unable to find any information regarding him, assuming Sid was a “he”. Anyway, we digress … Ras Umm Sid is one of the Sinai’s classic dives. Situated on a promontory and overlooked by a lighthouse, the site is the most southern point of the Strait of Tiran. Famous for a large, dense collection of gorgonians, and widely regarded as the most beautiful in the whole of the Northern Red Sea.
The site also boasts a very beautiful reef wall and two plateaus, the second of which (the most northern of the two) is richly covered in coral pinnacles and forms a veritable forest. Ras Umm Sid has a honeycomb network of caves, nooks and crannies at the top of the fringe reef (5-6m) and can make for very beautiful photography.
Apart from a very healthy and varied collection of reef fish, there is always the chance to see pelagic marine life as the site is abutted on both sides by deep water.
The site is accessible from shore from a very handy jetty built at the El-Fanar beach, as well as via by boat, obviously. Some things to take in to account:
- the site can be subjected to a very strong current, so divers and snorkelers should be wary of venturing too far from the corner of the reef, which is marked by a white post
- Ras Umm Sid makes for one of the finest night dives in Sharm el-Sheikh but again consideration should be given to the aforementioned current.
This site lies between the two dive sites Ras Katy and Ras Umm Sid in a large bay, bordered by a tall cliff of fossilized coral.
This site derived its name from three large coral pinnacles, one of which almost breaks the surface, that reminded divers of temple columns.
The pinnacles are in the middle of a large sandy plateau that slopes gently seaward from a depth of 10m to 20m. The site is very popular for courses, introduction dives, snorkeling and those damn “submarine boats”, as it has several shallow moorings, and is generally sheltered from winds and waves. Unfortunately its popularity has had a detrimental impact on the reef and the site is often very busy, especially in the afternoon as it makes an ideal spot for a third dive due to its closeness to the Sharm’s main marina, Travco.
Along the drop-off you can find numerous pinnacles with sea fans and glassfish, and often on the sandy patches you’ll see resident fantail rays. Temple also makes for a very good night dive but its popularity can sometimes transform the place in to an underwater night club with all the divers torches, camera strobes, dive strobes and boat lights.
Probably due to it’s closeness to Travco Marina (approx. 15 minutes travel time) Ras Katy is often described as a “nice, easy dive site usually used for check dives and OW courses” and, while that is certainly true around Katy’s pinnacles, there’s actually more to the site than just that.
For a start, Ras Katy offers a very good drift dive. From the moorings, following the drop-off in a SE direction you come to a large ridge at approx. 22m with some large gorgonias.
The ridge is usually very busy with large shoals of red-toothed triggerfish and schooling bannerfish, and often you’ll see large tuna in the area too.
From the plateau, heading towards Temple, there’s a large plateau with numerous pinnacles. This area is a good place to look for rays, such as eagle rays, fantails and mantas, and there’s also the chance you’ll bump in to the resident white tip reef sharks.
Ras Katy also makes for a very enjoyable night dive. Around the main pinnacles (see map) the maximum depth is 16m which is an ideal maximum depth for a night dive. The floor slopes gently up to a depth of only 3-5 meters against the fringe reef enabling a night dive to continue right up to the very last minute of your dive (unlike Temple, for instance, which requires you to make your safety stop on a mooring line).
Two things you should be aware of at Ras Katy: i) there is sometimes a strong local current that generally is in the direction of Temple – if you are making a mooring dive, you should not venture too close to the NE corner of Katy and ii) there is a lot of “submarine boats” (a fancy name for glass bottomed boats) in the area and they tend to sail close to the reefs causing a possible hazard to snorkelers and divers alike.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
Poet and writer