From Aqaba to Zubayr; DIVER's guide
to the reefs and wrecks, sea life and
shore life, and how to pick a liveaboard.
Red Sea Survival Kit
Are Liveaboards too cheap?
Two silky sharks circled us. Nearby on the crowded beach, children played happily in the sand. A few days earlier, at another holiday resort 100 miles to the north, I had stepped into the water to photograph a whale shark and came back to reload my camera three times, repeatedly stepping over the recumbent bodies of sunbathers blissfully unaware of the exciting wildlife beneath the water a few metres from where they lay.
This for me sums up what has happened to the northern Red Sea in recent years. Huge investments might have been made in the infrastructure to make sophisticated European-style holiday resorts, with international airports, air-conditioned hotels, good cuisine and clean beaches, but the sea remains the sea.
You can still enjoy dives with all the excitement of the time when places like Sharm el Sheikh were unheard of, almost impossible to get to, uncomfortable to stay in and likely to send you home anxious to make a doctor's appointment.
The northern part of the Red Sea is undeniably now Europe's most popular holiday diving destination. Its normally clear water teems with all manner of life.
This "A to Z" covers the whole Red Sea, this remarkable underwater extension of the African Rift Valley that extends for more than 1000 miles to the south, and includes the coastlines of Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. But we bear in mind that it is the vast empty spaces of Egypt that currently attract huge international investment to build new resorts from the sand up.
Those who have not visited the area for some years will be surprised to find some of the world's most prestigious hotels now standing where intrepid pioneer-divers of the early 80s bivvied down for the night on the uncomfortable red rocks.
There was a time when the nearest international airport was in Israel or Cairo and one made an arduous and somewhat tedious transfer by road. Now package-holiday flights land at nearby international airports and new arrivals can feel the sand of their chosen destination between their toes within minutes of arrival.