After such a busy week of driving and sailing through history, a break from the dust and sand was definitely needed. We headed towards the Red Sea, East Egypt upto the North East of Egypt where the weather is hot, the sea water refreshing, and so close to Europe there’s no excuse to not visit this beautiful part of the country.
Sharm el Sheikh
This is one of the busiest and most popular areas of Egypt for the sun worshippers, and adventurers, located in the North of the Red Sea and only a 4 1/2 hour flight from the UK. With several different areas to choose, from like Sharks Bay being the most popular with bars, restaurants, a rustic original feel to it with beaches and hotels all along the sea front. There is Turtle Bay which is where me and my family stayed, a little further out but still great links to the main areas like Red Square for evening entertainment. With more of a cliff like sea front, with steps, and pontoons for people to enjoy the coral which is directly below. Finally there is an area called Naama Bay not as well known but still beautiful and perfect for people who want to get away from the busy crowds of Sharm el Sheikh. The final area is the Soho Square, known throughout the area for entertainment after dark, with shops, restaurants, bars and even a night club.
While staying in Turtle Bay our accommodation was the Hilton Hotel, which had several different pools areas, restaurants, and only 10 minutes drive from Sharks Bay , 10 minute walk to the Red Square and a perfect location for snorkelling. The main rooms were away from the sea front, but a small walk or even a hotel shuttle to the bottle of the hotels premises to a bar and pontoon area with sun loungers to enjoy the sun, sea and snorkelling. They even had water sports for the kids like pedalos and blown up trampoline for everyone to be happy.
For the adrenaline junkies who cant stay still on a sun lounger for 7 days straight, there are quad bikes, water sports, mountain hiking in the nearby National Park of Ras Mohammed with big mountains and different terrains for a great day out.
The best and most popular reason for people to swarm to the Red sea, is SCUBA DIVING AND SNORKELLING, its been known as one of the best coral reefs in the world, from its colour, to the amount of fish and different ecosystems in the Red sea. Snorkelling could be something I accidently do for hours without even realising. with a different scenario every time you go under the water, to diving down under the sea to feel like your part of a different world (little mermaid wannabe). There are scuba diving centres found all along the sea fronts in sharks bay with some hotels even having there own personal dive schools for guests. We found Ocean Collage, Sharks Bay www.sharm-el-sheikh.com/ocean-college/ who not only provide introductory lessons to beginners and first timers, but also do full courses and qualifications. For our first day we learnt correctly but quickly and got to walk into the sea from the beach office, where we went to 10 metres down and saw so many fish so close to the shore. The second day we had the opportunity to have a day trip on a boat with others, 3 dives, 3 different locations, full reign of the boat for relaxing (my mum isn’t he best with scuba diving so came along to top up the tan and see us go under), lunch on the deck with a fully friendly crew, the same instructor we had the other day who went down each time with us. We had the opportunity to fully jump into the deep this time, with insane bold colours and unique fish waiting for us which we would never have seen from the shore. It gave me a new passion, and a new goal to some day earn my PADI certificate in diving. On the other hand others came along and snorkelled and still enjoyed the experience, so something or every type of swimmer.
After a busy day a popular place to head is Soho Square is located between Sharks and Turtle Bay, as I mentioned it is an area purposely built for tourists to come together to enjoy a night life in Egypt away from the hotels they are staying in. With different entertainment for everyone from arcade games, an ice bar if you want to experience minus temperatures in a 30 degree country, shisha bars to enjoy the traditional past times of locals, and even the beautiful water fountain displays throughout the square. There are camel rides, music and shops for everyone to pick up a souvenir. It is ever changing with new ideas being introduced everyday to bring more people into the area, myself and the family ended up there 4 our of our 7 nights stay.
This small, quiet part of the Red Sea I would class as an up and coming area of Egypt’s tourism industry, 2 hours from Sharm el Shaikh more people are heading further away from the busy areas and wanting more unknown and quieter locations to explore or just relax in.
I stayed with my group tour in Dahab Paradise Hotel… a beautiful eclectic small resort with only 24 rooms, normally used for Travel Talk tours due to its location being quiet, secluded but also perfect for people to relax while knowing there are things around to do and keep you busy. With a fire pit for evening chats and entertainment, to the cutest hotel mascot in the form of the puppy Tika running round. The 2 tiered hotel has balconies for every room, and the ground floor rooms have a private patio which leads straight into the communal circular pool area . There is a beach 2 minutes over the road, and the food is unreal in the cost and the taste!
Scuba diving is one of my passions, I don’t get to do it enough, but once you are hooked your hooked, the coral around Dahab are beautiful from the coral itself to the fish swimming round it. I visited in May and this is prime mating season so the activity and amount of fish within one metre was ridiculous! We first jumped into the sea at the Blue Hole which is a vertical drop off from where the coral starts, scuba diving is huge here, but snorkelling is just as popular. The location is perfect for a sunset drinks and food or even a midday cool drink in the sun between dives.
We arrived at the Blue Hole this way 10 minute jeep safari drive, in the back of the cars… This was so exciting, we were all screaming and holding on for dear life with the driver going faster because of our reaction, my hair was a knotty sandy full of straw mess when we arrived! But was amazing to drive through areas of the mountains and along the side of the sea front. Platting and swerving through the other jeeps going in the same direction.
St Catherine and Mount Sinai is the mountain range behind Dahab, for the avid hiker this is a morning hike for 3 hours depending on fitness levels, but the views from the top by 8am sunset is completely worth it. I cant say I did this, but the traditional villages and way of life which is still noticeable as you drive through the mountains is also worth a visit, we had the opportunity to go quad biking to one of these Beaduin villages for tea when the sun was setting. I have said before just how selfless this people can be and it was the same in this homestay.
As we settled into the area for the 3 days we were there another opportunity was to drive into the main Dahab town, where we visited Big Blue Dahab diving centre www.bigbluedahab.com/, located on the sea front in central Dahab the place is so friendly with loads of dogs, and also friendly staff who are always there for a chat before and after your dives . They provide PADI, advanced scuba diving, and intro dives which is what me and my team did. Due to odd numbers I headed out for a private dive with my tandem diver guy. We drive up the road to the well known area of The Lighthouse. A busier tourist area with beaches which run off into the coral edges. With bars, restaurants, hotels, other diving schools, but also a lot of locals enjoying a day off school and work which has a real inclusive feel to it.
Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to go here, but I felt it was important to mention this great area of Egypt, even though its known as the ultimate summer holiday destination, It has so much more to offer due to its location. Located on the west side of the Red sea, it is actually only 3 hours away from the heart of Egypt. Although Hargada has amazing facilities for families and all inclusive resorts to really just wind down… I for one wouldn’t be able to chill for 7 – 14 days straight, so for the adventurers and culture junkies, excursions to Luxor , known for being the Ancient Museum city with over 40 temples, plus the Valley of the Kings and Karnak temple to name a few you would be silly to not take the opportunity to explore. The other must see is the River Nile running through Luxor, with cruises, traditional felucca boat tours, or even an hour sailing along this ancient river, why not make the most of what Egypt has too offer away from its colour coasts and seas.
I would go back to the Red Sea again and again AND AGAIN, the coral is the best in the world, the scuba diving just as amazing with the deepest seas with only a spot of sunlight still glaring through the clear sea. It has something for everyone to enjoy from the culture and history of Egypt to the pure exhilarating feelings of the red seas natural beauty. The people are so humble, and the children cheeky. With experiences and adventure as well as relaxation it has everything to offer a traveller or a family.