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If you are a diving enthusiasts seeking for an extraordinary underwater adventure and a very close contact with the local Egyptian culture, you should look no further than Marsa Alam. Nestled along the stunning South Red Sea coast of Egypt, this hidden gem has gained popularity among divers for its mesmerizing coral reefs, vibrant marine life, and pristine diving conditions. In this thorough guide, we will walk you through the enchanting underwater world of Marsa Alam. We will introduce tips for getting around, planning your visit, how to choose your lodging; highlighting its top dive sites, essential tips for divers and the breathtaking marine biodiversity that awaits beneath the surface.

marsa alam, beatiful reef in the red sea

Marsa Alam above the water

Marsa Alam, meaning ‘Anchorage Mountain’, is a town in the southeast corner of Egypt. Its coastline is bathed by the western shore of the Red Sea and its borders are adjacent to the vast desert. These features give birth to idyllic scenarios, outstanding beaches and steady dive conditions year round.


Marsa Alam presents a very stable desert climate with very few rainy days along the year. The average temperatures during the coolest months, from December to February, typically ranges between 22-25°C / 72-77 °F. During June to August, the hottest time of the year, it can reach between 33-40°C / 91-104°F. In general days are hot from early morning but as the sun sets the temperature cools down. The fact that days get so hot, reflects on the day to day local activity and the town will look livelier on the late evening.


Marsa Alam is a very safe place for tourists, focused on providing a serene and natural environment for divers, which also means that it lacks the vibrant nightlife and extensive entertainment options found in larger tourist destinations. Visitors looking for a bustling nightlife scene or a wide range of non-diving activities might find Marsa Alam relatively quiet in comparison. However, it's worth noting that the focus on tranquility can also be seen as an advantage for those seeking a more peaceful diving experience.


Embrace the local culture and traditions by engaging in a Bedouin experience. Interact with the friendly Bedouin communities, savor traditional cuisine, and learn about their customs and way of life. Do not forget to haggle prices, as it is part of their culture as well.


Marsa Alam is also land-base to embark on desert safaris and explore the stunning landscapes of the Eastern Desert, where towering mountains, vast sand dunes, and ancient caravan routes await. Desert camping under a star-studded sky and participating in a traditional Bedouin tea ceremony are activities that provide a deeper understanding of the region's heritage. Furthermore, Wadi el-Gemal National Park, located south of Marsa Alam, offers magnificent sceneries, with its canyons, mangrove forests, and diverse wildlife, including gazelles and migratory birds.

Lodging and dive operation

Besides being a very popular scuba diving destination, Marsa Alam can present some draw backs when it comes to lodging and dive operations. Marsa Alam which was planned to be a touristic epicenter in the beginning of the 2000s, has become a support town for one of the most important gold mining operations in the world. Some of the biggest mining companies hold a base and develop activities here, so the town is nowadays focused on supporting workers and it might not look as appealing as the beaches.


As Marsa Alam is a less developed and less populated area compared to other tourist hotspots in Egypt, the overall infrastructure, including accommodation options and facilities, may be more limited. Visitors should be prepared for a slightly more rustic experience in terms of amenities and services if choosing to stay in town. However, this can also add to the charm and authenticity of this destination.


If staying in town, you will find a few budget guest houses and some high end hotels that can provide quality services, usually with breakfast included. Staying in town is going to provide a closer contact with the local culture and give the opportunity to taste the Egyptian cuisine in the few but great local restaurants.


If choosing to stay in town, it is recommended to contact and make plans with a dive operator ahead of time. Most operators outside resorts have an office in town, but it will be most likely closed during the day, as they run their operations from locations on the beach. If feasible, do not plan to show up as you get settled in.


There are not many dive shops outside dive resorts. Two of them are Deep South Divers and Blue Fin Divers (its former name was Awlad Baraka Dive Center), which run their operations from Tonduba Beach during the day. They can provide dive packages for fun dives and training and will also be in charged of logistics such as pick ups from and back to your hotel.


A second option is staying in a dive resort. There are multiple beach front resorts along the town suburbs. Although they can result more expensive, they are capable of providing all inclusive lodging and dive packages altogether. Most dive resorts also count with outstanding infrastructure and private beaches, ideal for shore diving or snorkeling.


Regarding dive packages, divers will find a base price for fun diving of around $30. In addition to this, the price per dive might increase depending on the logistics, accessibility of the site and also depending on the location. Some sites are located outside marine protected areas, but some are not, and those will most likely carry extra marine park entrance fees.


There are also two main ways of moving around in the water. There are daily boats which will take you on longer day trips, and there are speed boats. These last ones are meant for shorter rides. As some dive sites present an easier access from locations away from the dive shops and shore diving is common, you will sometimes find yourself on a bus or car in the early morning, catching a speed boat to get to the dive site or settling camp on an beautiful beach.


One last considerations to bear in mind is that night diving is not allowed outside some dive resort´s beaches. In fact the Marsa Alam area is controlled by the Egyptian Army and Navy, they provide the permits for diving and do not issue permits for night diving.

dugong in abbu dabbab

What to expect diving in Marsa Alam

Compared to other popular diving destinations, Marsa Alam remains relatively unspoiled and less crowded. In some dive sites, divers can enjoy a more intimate and immersive experience, without feeling overwhelmed by other divers. This sense of tranquility adds to the allure of diving in here, allowing to fully connect with the natural surroundings. However, there are some dive spots that you should not miss, and these tend to be more crowded.


Water temperature fluctuates seasonally. It ranges between 22-29°C / 72-84°F, being the highest from June to November. May to June are the windiest months of the year, otherwise the ocean is usually flat, making it easy to navigate.


Marsa Alam is renowned for its exceptional coral reefs. These reefs boast an impressive variety of coral species, including vibrant hard corals and delicate soft corals. Divers can explore intricate formations, swim through coral gardens, and witness the stunning colors and shapes that make the underwater landscape truly wonderful. Marsa Alam’s marine biodiversity is remarkable. The reefs teem with life, creating a mesmerizing underwater spectacle that leaves divers inspired. 


The area also benefits from excellent water clarity, providing divers with exceptional visibility year round. The clear waters allow divers to fully appreciate the vibrant colors of the coral reefs and observe marine life from a distance. This enhances the overall diving experience and ensures that divers do not miss any of the underwater wonders.


Marsa Alam presents dive conditions for both experienced and newer divers. You can find yourself giant striding into the water from a big boat, back-rolling from a zodiac or shore diving. As drifts are common in the Red Sea, you should expect to get picked up with a boat after a gentle glide over the colorful reef or in some cases, you will find yourself climbing the ladder after a fine adventure surfing a current.


As in most locations along the Red Sea, wreck exploration is abundant here. There are amazing wrecks to explore in the nearby area, each one with their own story, from cargo ships to world war antiques.


  • SS Numida - 140m/460ft length British cargo ship deployed in 1901 which went aground due to a navigational error that same year. Its location is accessible from Marsa Alam or Al-Qusseir


  • El Qaher (HMS Myngs) - 111m/364ft British Destroyer, survivor of World War II, sold to the Egyptian Navy in 1956. Sunk after an air strike in 1970. Located close to Port Berenice, south of Marsa Alam


  • SS Turbo - 114m/374ft British merchant ship which broke in two and sunk in 1943. Located 85km/53mi away from Marsa Alam


  • SS Hamada - 65m/213ft coastal cargo vessel. The wreck lies approximately 68km/42mi south of Marsa Alam, after the Wadi El Gamal National Park entrance and the phosphate terminal at Abu Ghoson

napoleon wrasse in marsa alam

Diving in Marsa Alam also presents the opportunity to encounter some rare and extraordinary marine creatures. While sightings cannot be guaranteed, there are a few of the most elusive and rare species that divers may come across in the nearby. If looking for bigger marine animals, you may be able to encounter Hammerheads, Oceanic White Tips and occasionally Whale Sharks among other types of sharks. Napoleon Wrasses, Green Turtles and Eagle Rays might make themselves present during your dives as well as Dolphins, which can be spotted from the boat or underwater in some cases. Other of the amazing creatures you will be able to find are the Dugongs. These creatures tend to be seasonal, but there are spots where they hang year round.


If fond of macro, for fun or for underwater photography, the Southern Red Sea will introduce you to some of the most colorful species of nudibranchs. You will also find Leaf Scorpion Fish, Sea Moths, Frog Fish, Thorny Seahorses and a variety of tiny creatures that will make your time underwater fly.

Best Dive sites around Marsa Alam

Marsa Alam offers a variety of dive sites for all levels of scuba divers. From further reefs to coastline walls, gentle currents, narrow canyons and stunning underwater structures. Here are some of the best dive sites in Marsa Alam:


Elphinstone - probably one of the most remarkable dive sites in Marsa Alam. Elphinstone is an off-shore underwater reef structure with drops up to 100m/333ft which can present challenging conditions in both the east and western wall. Diving here is reserved for experienced divers, requiring a minimum of 50 logged dives and a check-out dive before embarking in the experience. While diving in Elphinstone there is a high chance of encountering strong currents as well as big pelagics like tunas, and barracudas. This site is part of the Golden Triangle, a particular section of the elongated Red Sea where shark sightings are frequent. The other two sites forming the triangle are Deadalus and Brother Islands, both further off-shore and only accessible by liveaboard. Macro life is also fantastic here, so do not forget to look for Pipefish and nudibranchs hanging of the wall. Bear in mind that this dive site can be crowded with liveaboards and dayly boats as well as speed boats coming from Abbu Dabab dock some times of the year.


Dolphin House or Samadai Reef - another of the popular dives sites, this off-shore reef neighbors a marine protected area. There are two singular features on this dive site besides the amazing coral structures. In first place, there is set of swim throughs, presenting crystal clear viz, that will resemble diving in thin air. The second; the local Spinner Dolphins pod leaving in the area. If you are lucky, these playful creatures will make themselves present, even tagging along while you enjoy your dive. However, the mentioned features also turn this site in a well liked one for diving and snorkeling.


Nakari Reef - being other stunning site, Nakari’s off-shore reef is less crowded than Elphinstone or Dolphin House. This interesting formation presents a very shallow top and walls that extend towards the 25m/82ft. Coral are particularly healthy and you have a high change of spotting Eagle Rays here.


Samadai beach - located in one of the nicest beaches around Marsa Alam, Samadai makes a great spot for a relaxing dive. After swimming out of the bay, to the south and along the wall, divers can find coral formations full of life over a sandy bottom. To the north, the topography may be more interesting, while the reef a tiny bit less lively. In both direction, depth can get as far as the aye can see along the sand.


Abbu Dabab - probably one the most popular dive sites in the area together with Elphinstone and Dolphin House, Abu Dabbad is a site you can dive from shore. Viz on this site can get poor since the bottom is silty, reaching depths of 18m/66ft. However, the shallow waters here are covered in sea grass, which attracts Dugongs and Green Turtles that feed in the area. For macro lovers, this is also a special location to look for Ghost Pipefish and Thorny Seahorses.

reef in marsa alam, red sea

How to get to Marsa Alam

Marsa Alam is located in a more remote area along the Red Sea coast compared to other popular diving destinations in Egypt, such as Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab or Hurghada. As a result, reaching Marsa Alam may require additional travel arrangements, such as connecting flights or longer road journeys. However, the seclusion also contributes to the untouched and pristine nature of the diving sites making the trip totally worth it.


There are two main ways to get here. The easiest way is by plane, as Marsa Alam has an international airport nearby in Port Galib. Although there are not many international direct flight except from a few Polish and Chec Republican airlines, Air Cairo and Egypt Air run frequent flights to Marsa Alam from Cairo. An additional fee to consider travelling by plane will be the taxi from the airport to Marsa Alam town or your resort which can cost around 1000EGP ($32).

A second and, more adventurous way of getting here is by bus from Cairo. Go Bus and High Bus are two of the bus companies that run daily buses to Marsa Alam. You can take a look at the Go Bus overnight buses schedule and book the ticket through their website The ticket should cost around 400EGP ($13). Consider buses in Egypt seem to take longer than expected.

Diving in Marsa Alam presents an extraordinary opportunity to explore pristine coral reefs, encounter diverse marine life, and immerse oneself in the beauty of the Red Sea. With its thrilling dive sites and diverse marine life, it is a true paradise for diving enthusiasts. Due to its clear waters and untouched environment, Marsa Alam stands out as a premier diving destination, offering an unforgettable underwater adventure for divers of all levels. Embark on an adventure to Marsa Alam and witness the magic that lies beneath the surface!

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