The Sinai Desert is in Egypt and includes the Red Sea. The region is famous for two reasons: outstanding scuba divingand Mount Sinai, which is a key Christian monument.
There are a number of diving sites in the Sinai Peninsula, including:
- Ras Mohamed is considered one of the top 10 diving sites in the world. It’s at the southern tip of the peninsula and contains not one but two reefs: Shark Reef and Jolanda Reef. In 1989 the area was designated a National Park and there are very strict rules against fishing, weighing anchor and collecting shells and coral. On your dive you are a likely to see sharks, barracudas and moray eels. If you have the time and the inclination, Sub Sinai suggests you include Anemone City in your underwater adventure. It’s about 100m to the north-east of Shark Reef and offers a colourful marine landscape you won’t find anywhere else.
- The Thistlegorm is a famous wreck dive in the Gulf of Suez. She’s been there since October 1941. In addition to the old war wreckage, you’ll see plenty of fish (barracuda, rabbit fish and bat fish). The currents around the wreck can be strong, so only attempt the dive if you’re confident and have the appropriate experience.
- The Straits of Tiran are near the Island of Tiran and roughly 7km north-east of Sharm el Sheikh Harbour. The site consists of four reefs:
- Jackson Reef, which includes a wrecked freighter and a coral forest.
- Woodhouse Reef, which is home to reef sharks and eagle rays, as well as a few reef cave dives.
- Thomas Reef, which is only suitable for experienced divers, but rewards them with beautiful coral gardens.
- Gordon Reef, which also boasts a wrecked freighter and lots of fish.
The Sinai Desert is awe-inspiring. It’s barren and lifeless appearance belies the diversity of fauna and flora that have adapted to its severe climate, not to mention the various Bedouin tribes that still eke out a living.
There are three ways you can explore the desert: as part of a guided tour, by hiring a private guide or by yourself. The latter option is only recommended if you have previous experience in desert exploration, are comfortable driving a heavy-duty vehicle in soft sand and are able to navigate when your GPS conks out.
The guided options are much safer. For one thing, guided tours typically include the sundry equipment that you’ll need for a 2-5 day trek, so all you need to do is pitch up. For another, Egypt is home to one quarter of the world’s landmines and a lot of those are buried in the desert. Reputable tour operators and experienced guides will have a couple of safe routes mapped out, so you don’t lose an arm or a leg.
Once you’re in the desert you’ll see sand and rock sculptured over millions of years, both bleached and dyed by the wind and sun. The colours, which range from white to yellow, red and black, are at their richest in the early morning and evening sun.
Don’t miss out on:
- The Coloured Canyon, which is a hot, but rewarding walk that highlights the tenacity of the plant life and the beauty of the rock formations.
- Nabq Protected Area, which is a national park in the southernmost region of Sinai and which ends at Ras Mohammed.
- Geziret Faraun or Pharaoh’s Island in the Gulf of Aqba, from where you can see Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
- Mount Sinai, which is where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments. There are two trails up the mountain, with the option to go by camel.