All of our Egypt Snorkeling Safaris take place on the Red Sea, obviously, which runs northwest to southeast along the northeast edge of Africa. The Red Sea starts about one hundred miles east of Cairo at the mouth of the Suez Canal and finishes way down by Djibouti and Yemen where it empties into the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. It’s a massive and unique body of water, and given the arid landscape, crystal-clear blue water, thriving coral reefs that start at the water’s surface and extend as far as the eye can see, and a host of unique and beautiful marine life are the last things you’d expect to find. However, with so much life and beauty hiding beneath the Red Sea’s surface, it’s no wonder that the Egyptian Red Sea has been one of the world’s most popular snorkeling destinations for decades.
As Egypt has a whole range of different destinations full of great-looking resorts and liveaboards to choose from up and down its coastline, it can be a little daunting deciding which area to visit and which operator to use. However, given our team’s collective experience working in Egypt over the years, we’ve opted to run all of our snorkeling tours in southern Egypt where the shallow reefs are more robust, the marine life is prolific, and there are fewer people.
Marsa Alam International Airport (RMF) is the closest port town to the resorts we use, Marsa Shagra Village and Marsa Nakari, as well as Port Ghalib where we board the liveaboard, the Red Sea Aggressor IV. If the tour starts in Cairo, we will fly to Marsa Alam, which is a one-and-a-half-hour flight. Or, if our tour starts in Marsa Alam, you will fly directly into Marsa Alam. As flight schedules are subject to change, it may be that we need to fly into Hurgada from Cairo, as a group, and then take large vans or busses down the coast from Hurgada to the resorts or liveaboard. The drive from Hurghada to either of the Red Sea Diving Safari resorts, Marsa Shagra & Marsa Nakri, is about three and a half to three hours, depending on the resort. The drive from Marsa Alam to Port Ghalib or the RSDS resorts is about thirty to forty-five minutes.
The Area where we’ll be snorkeling depends a bit on where we are based at that time. If we are at Marsa Shagra Resort, we’ll spend much of our time exploring their house reef as it’s absolutely massive. We will also explore some of the other offshore reefs, either by day boat or by one of their large Zodiacs. The same goes for Marsa Nakari, which also offers an extensive house reef accessible by shore and the opportunity to explore some of its offshore reefs.
On the liveaboard, our snorkeling expands significantly as we can travel as we take our meals or sleep. The general itinerary is to depart Port Ghalib and head south towards Fury Shoal and St. Johns, snorkeling all the best offshore reefs along the way.
The reefs in Egypt are very different than the reefs you might find in places like Raja Ampat, Komodo, Alor, or pretty much anywhere else in the Indo-Pacific/Coral Triangle. There are two types of reefs we’ll be snorkeling on, the reefs that fringe the coastline, and the offshore reefs. The offshore reefs are essentially giant limestone blocks that come up just beneath the surface. This absolutely massive coral blocks plateau just at the waterline, so it’s not really possible to snorkel over the tops of the reef as it’s just too shallow. Instead, we snorkel along the edges of these coral cities where the reefs sort of terrace down to about ten to twenty meters where the floor is lined with pure white sand. On many of the outer reefs, you’ll find small coral pinnacles that come up to the shallows. The coral and combined topography is a sight to behold.
The way we snorkel the fringing reefs is similar to the offshore reefs in that the reef tops are just too shallow to snorkel over. You wouldn’t want to anyway as reefs that shallow don’t host much marine life and the coral is often the first to be damaged by waves and the sun. The corals along the slopes, walls, and terraces are immaculate as they just seem to melt over the limestone base and encrust everything they come into contact with. For both the fringing reefs and the offshore reefs, the types of corals we’re encountering are hard corals and lots of them.
Egypt boasts a whole array of interesting marine creatures, most of which are not very shy making it much easier to photograph them! Some of the more iconic creatures you can expect to see are clouds of orange and purple anthias, lionfish, scorpionfish, blue spotted stingrays, lots of different types of butterfly fish, anemone fish, sea turtles, unicorn fish, goat fish, and even large pods of friendly dolphins are not uncommon! If you are lucky you might even get an opportunity to swim alongside dugongs. Reef sharks are present, but they tend to hang out in the deeper areas.
Likely Marine Life Encounters
Egypt Snorkeling Season
Egypt can be snorkeled year-round, though there are some better months for sure as the winter months tend to bring colder water and stronger winds. We choose to go in the months before and after summer as it’s when the air and water temperatures are most favorable and the winds are milder. You should expect a light to medium breeze from the north on most afternoons though. The wind will make the seas a bit choppy at times, but with the way the reefs are oriented, we’ll always have protection on the south side of the reefs. This wind will also help keep things fresh as air temperatures in southern Egypt can reach 90°F (32°C). At night you can expect the temperature to drop to around 75°F (24°C). In the springtime, you can expect the water in the south of Egypt to be a bit on the cooler side, at least where tropical conditions are concerned. Water temperatures will range from 77°F (25°C) to 81°F (27°C). In the fall months, you can expect a bit warmer seas, with temperatures hovering around 84°F (29°C). With regards to rain, that’s not something you need to worry about, it’s Egypt.
Snorkeling Holiday Examples
We run two different types of snorkeling safaris to Egypt. One option is a resort and liveaboard combination tour where we spend the first half of the tour at Marsa Shagra Resort, and the second half of the tour is spent on the Red Sea Aggressor IV liveaboard. We also have a resort-based safari where we’ll spend the first part of the tour at Marsa Nakari Resort, followed by a week at their sister resort, Marsa Shagra. Both resorts are owned and operated by the Red Sea Diving Safari so things like quality of food, safety, accommodation, etc. will remain consistent throughout the resort experience.
There are a few variations to these tours depending on the year you are joining. For example, our 2024 Egypt Snorkeling Safari, which is the resort and liveaboard combo tour, does not make any stops in Cairo. Our 2025 Egypt Snorkeling Safari, again another resort and liveaboard tour, starts in Cairo, but only for a night. Our Egypt Resort Snorkeling Safari also starts in Cairo and we’ll spend two days seeing some of the sights. I mention this, as Cairo can be a big attraction to people as the pyramids, museums, and markets are pretty amazing the experience. If Cairo is something you’d like to do and it’s not a part of the tour itinerary, then we suggest arriving a few days early or extending by a few days. We can help organize a guide and everything else you would need to have an enjoyable time in this historic city.