The 10 Best Dive Sites in the Egyptian Red Sea

Red Sea reef fish with a scuba diver in the background

Georgette Douwma / Getty Images

Located in between Northeast Africa and the Middle East, the Red Sea is a dream destination for many scuba divers. Its attractions are numerous, ranging from reefs teeming with aquatic flora and fauna to some of the world’s best wreck diving sites.

Of course, the Red Sea can be reached from several different countries—including Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Eritrea, and Sudan—but by far the most popular destination for Red Sea diving is Egypt. With multiple resort towns—from Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula to Marsa Alam in the south—and many different liveaboard options, the country is one of the best places to base yourself for your underwater adventure. Here is our pick of the top 10 Red Sea dive sites in Egypt.

01 of 10

SS Thistlegorm

Motorcycle cargo on the SS Thistlegorm wreck


RW7C+F86, El Tor, South Sinai Governorate, Egypt

Undoubtedly the Red Sea’s most famous dive site, the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm lies in approximately 100 feet of water off the west coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Easily accessible from Sharm el Sheikh and also the highlight of most northern Red Sea liveaboard itineraries, the wreck is that of a British merchant navy ship sunk in 1941. At the time, the Thistlegorm was fully loaded with supplies for the Allied troops in Egypt, including Bedford trucks, armored vehicles, motorcycles, Bren guns, and aircraft parts. After suffering two direct hits from a German bomber, it sank too quickly for its cargo to be salvaged, meaning that it is still onboard for divers to explore today. As such, the Thistlegorm offers an invaluable insight into World War II history and is often considered one of the world’s best wartime wrecks.

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02 of 10

Shark and Yolanda Reefs

Cargo from the Yolanda wreck in the Red Sea, Egypt

Westmorland Images / Getty Images

Shark and Yolanda comprise two separate seamounts, located next to one another on a shallow plateau known as "The Saddle" in Ras Mohammed National Park. The two pinnacles rise to within a few feet of the surface, then drop first to The Saddle (at around 65 feet), and then off into dizzying depths of more than 2,600 feet. These vertiginous depths and often-strong currents make Shark and Yolanda best suited to experienced divers—but what sights await those who do take the plunge! Shark Reef stands out for its thriving coral and schooling shoals of gamefish, the latter being most abundant during the summer months. And Yolanda is named after a Cypriot merchant ship that ran aground here in 1980, depositing a cargo of bathroom fixtures that make for interesting photo opportunities. 

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03 of 10

Elphinstone Reef

Oceanic whitetip, Red Sea

atese / Getty Images

Al Qusair - Marsa Allam Rd, Egypt
Phone +20 109 487 2011

Located approximately 6.5 nautical miles from shore, near the resort town of Marsa Alam, Elphinstone Reef is one of the highlights of the southern Red Sea. The reef is essentially a plateau that measures some 1,000 feet in length and rises up to within a few feet of the surface. On all sides, steep walls plunge into the depths, while strong currents allow for some excellent drift diving. Elphinstone boasts pristine hard and soft corals, and is frequented by bucket list species including hawksbill turtles, manta rays, Napoleon wrasse, and hammerhead sharks. Above all, it is famous as one of the best places in the world for close encounters with oceanic whitetip sharks. These graceful apex predators are notoriously curious and approach within a few feet of divers—making for a once-in-a-lifetime experience for underwater photographers. 

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The Brother Islands

Thriving coral reef, in the Red Sea

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The Brothers

The Brother Islands lie roughly halfway between Hurghada and Marsa Alam, and more than 20 nautical miles from the nearest coastline. They are among the most remote of the Egyptian Red Sea dive sites, and are best visited on a liveaboard cruise. Between them, the two tiny islands offer untouched coral reefs and superlative shark diving, as a wide variety of predators are attracted to the area's abundant fish life. Keep an eye on the blue for possible sightings of grey reef, silvertip, and thresher sharks, with oceanic whitetips and schooling hammerheads being particularly abundant. Little Brother is the superior site for majestic coral cover, while Big Brother is arguably better for shark sightings. The latter also boasts two wrecks: that of the Aida II (an Italian troop ship sunk in 1957) and the Numidia (a British cargo ship that sank in 1901 and is now a popular technical diving site). 

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Daedalus Reef

Split view of Daedalus Reef, Red Sea

Colors and shapes of underwater world / Getty Images

Daedalus Reef

The southern Red Sea is famous for its remote dive sites, and Daedalus Reef is one of the best. Marked with a lighthouse and measuring over 0.6 miles in length, this reef plateau is ringed by steep coral walls. Its isolated location (some 43 nautical miles southeast of Marsa Alam) makes it a sanctuary for marine life and a gathering point for prey and predators alike. Because it can only be visited via liveaboard, it’s also one of the Red Sea’s least crowded dive sites. Expect pristine corals, teeming fish life, and many visiting pelagics—including manta rays and large schools of jack and barracuda. Shark sightings are common here, too, with the most sought-after species being hammerheads, silky sharks, and oceanic whitetips. The reef’s exposed nature makes for often-challenging surface conditions and strong currents, meaning that it's suitable for experienced divers only. 

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Jackson Reef

Clouds of anthias on Jackson Reef, Red Sea

Westmorland Images / Getty Images

Straits of Tiran

The Straits of Tiran (located on the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula and within easy reach of Sharm el-Sheikh) boast four spectacular reefs, of which Jackson is arguably the most pristine. Famed for its thriving hard and soft corals, the topography of this dive site features a wide plateau populated by riotously colorful coral gardens, as well as sloping walls that descend gently to the sandy sea floor. Technical divers enjoy visiting the colony of garden eels down at the bottom, though at circa 164 feet, it's out of reach for recreational divers. Highlights of this dive include the wreck of the Lara, a Cypriot cargo ship sunk in 1981; a rare red anemone and several picturesque fan corals on the reef wall; and the coral gardens with their shifting clouds of anthias, fusiliers, triggerfish, and butterflyfish. The gardens’ shallow nature makes them ideal for beginners.

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SS Dunraven

Inside the wreck of the SS Dunraven, Red Sea

Westmorland Images / Getty Images

The Red Sea has many rewarding wreck diving sites, and although the Thistlegorm is the most famous, the SS Dunraven is a popular choice for less experienced divers. The British merchant ship sank in 1876 after running aground on Beacon Rock near Ras Mohammed National Park in the northern Red Sea, and despite its age, is very well preserved. Measuring 262 feet in length, the Dunraven lies in two upside-down halves in 49 to 98 feet of water. Those with the appropriate training for diving in overhead environments can enter the stern through large holes in the side of the ship, then go on to explore an interior filled with dense shoals of glassfish. The wreck is excellent for macro enthusiasts (with plenty of moray eels, nudibranchs, and pipefish), while turtle sightings are common on the adjacent reef. 

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08 of 10

Ghiannis D

Scuba diver approaches the wreck of the Ghiannis D, Red Sea


A Greek cargo ship that ran aground in the Strait of Gubal in 1983, the Ghiannis D is now one of the Red Sea’s most photogenic wrecks. She lies in 20 to 88 feet of water and boasts an impressive superstructure comprised of three distinct parts—an intact bow and stern, and a largely collapsed mid-section where the remains of the original soft wood cargo can still be seen. Iconic features of this wreck include the mighty anchor chains and propeller, the funnel painted with the cargo company’s signature “D,” and the horizontal main mast. Certified divers can easily penetrate the engine room and living quarters, while those who aren’t comfortable with entering the wreck can explore the wide-open bridge section. In addition to the usual wreck-dwelling species, look out for large groupers, eagle rays, parrotfish, and a resident Napoleon wrasse. 

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09 of 10

Shaab Sataya

Pod of spinner dolphins on Fury Shoals, Red Sea

bearacreative / Getty Images


Shaab Sataya is the largest reef in the southern Red Sea’s Fury Shoals system, with an outer wall that extends for about 3 miles. Best accessed via liveaboard or day trip from Marsa Alam, the dive site is also called "Dolphin House." This is in honor of its star attraction—a pod of resident spinner dolphins that inhabit the reef’s sheltered lagoon. Well accustomed to people, the dolphins often come close, allowing for an unforgettable interaction with these charismatic, inquisitive marine mammals. Usually, encounters are conducted on snorkel in between dives on the surrounding reef walls, where flourishing hard and soft corals attract a plethora of fish life. Look for pelagics swimming in the blue when exploring the outer wall, and for rays buried on the sandy lagoon floor. With a maximum depth of 65 feet, the lagoon is ideal for beginners.

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The Blue Hole

Snorkellers in the Blue Hole, Dahab, Egypt

Andrei310 / Getty Images

Submarine sinkholes hold a fascination for divers around the world, and Egypt’s is no exception. Located just north of Dahab on the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula, the Blue Hole is clearly visible from shore and connected to the open ocean via a tunnel known as "The Arch." With a maximum depth of 463 feet in the Blue Hole itself (and a minimum depth of 172 feet in The Arch), this site is especially popular with technical divers and freedivers looking to set new world records. Much of it is beyond the limits for recreational divers—a fact that should be respected, considering the many fatalities associated with the dive site. However, there is a popular recreational route called Bells to Blue Hole, which starts with a descent through a chimney in the reef plateau north of the hole, and ends with a dive around its upper limits.

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  1. Professional Association of Diving Instructors. "SS Dunraven Wreck." Retrieved August 18, 2021.

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The 10 Best Dive Sites in the Egyptian Red Sea