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Not Just Desert; Egypt’s Red Sea Coast is a Mecca for Divers

Egypt’s Red Sea coast

Egypt — The Red Sea is a Mecca for divers and snorkeling enthusiasts from all over the world. Second only to the Dead Sea for its salinity, the excessively salty water retains heat year-round allowing around 1,800 species of tropical fish to thrive amongst its coral reefs.

I have always been of the opinion that package holidays are to be avoided like the plague—where is the traveler’s sense of adventure? Their intrepid independence? Their individuality and freedom to choose? But all this was cast aside by the difficulties, and extra cost, of independently booking a week’s diving holiday in Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt.

Our hotel had a private beach with a floating jetty extending over the coral reef, so we were just one jump away from our face-to-face experience with Nemo (a two-banded clown fish, of course) and his colorful friends. Shoals of fish frolic around the snorkelers, weaving up, down, and over the coral growth, oblivious to any (absent) dangers. To them, we are simply larger than they are—I spotted one globe-fish (or puffer-fish) approaching a couple on the jetty, and raising its head for a picture!

The diving trips give similar delights at depths of up to 100 feet. Our first, a shore-dive, from the same jetty yielded a large crocodile fish lying flat on the sand bed at almost 60 feet, as well as an abundance of butterfly and Napoleon fish, the latter’s name coming from the hump on their brow, similar to Bonaparte’s hat (he was the grumpy one in Nemo).

The next day’s we were at Jackson and Gordon Reef, near Tiran Island. Things move slowly in Egypt, so despite an early start we found ourselves waiting…

Read more: Fergal Kavanagh, Fodors

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