3 of the best snorkelling spots in Dahab, Egypt

Posted on 13 March 2013

When in Egypt you have to be amazed by the pyramids and stand small in front of the temples at Aswan, Luxor and Gisa. However, on the Sinai Peninsula I found a completely different world in the laid back town of Dahab: a must for any tourist wanting to do some diving, snorkelling or just-plain relaxing when visiting Egypt.


Restaurants and shops in Dahab, Egypt

Dahab, which is Arabic for gold, is a coastal town situated on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula which was restored to Egyptian rule in the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in 1982. It consists essentially of one street and parallel to this is a holiday-inspired path with hotels and market shops on one side and restaurants opening onto the Red Sea on the other.

Chillax, Dahab, Egypt

They say that when one is in Dahab, the best thing to do is nothing. However, the activities in the close vicinity are abundant, especially diving and snorkelling. The Sinai Peninsula is the connection point of two continents (Africa and Asia) and also the link between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. It was the Red Sea that interested me most and I was not disappointed. I snorkelled in three of the most eye-enriching coral sites in the world.

The Blue Hole

Underwater at The Blue in Dahab, Egypt

I travelled by jeep with three Australian tourists between the stark contrast of desert on one side and blue sea on the other to one of the best dive sites in the world, the Blue Hole. On arrival we were escorted into the Camel Restaurant and greeted by Mahmoud, the owner, who settled us down on cushions with an aerial view of the deep blue ring where we would be snorkelling. (I unfortunately could not dive due to a recent pneumo-thorax and the others were not certified divers). Mahmoud told us, ‘The Blue Hole is better than the Great Barrier Reef’ as he offered mint tea, Turkish coffee and freshly squeezed juices which you become accustomed to in Dahab.

With my expectations high, I climbed into my wetsuit and headed to the easy accessible entry/exit point in front of the restaurant. As I lowered my head into the cool but clear water, I immediately saw some small coral fish scatter around me. A few strides further, I was at the coral cliff face with the about 136m sheer drop of the hole. I imagine a hole as a dark, underground pit but this was a turquoise shade as though a spotlight shone through it and it glowed invitingly. I could understand why divers would be curious to explore the tunnel through the reef (known as “The Arch”) despite it having claimed the lives of even experienced divers.

I, on the other hand, was content to snorkel around the coral which engulfed the large centre of deep water, mesmerised by the life and colour. The vivid red, orange and yellow of various anemone fish or the striped surgeon fish species and the sparkling purple of the jelly fish or even the contrast of the black pipe fish in the blue water, not to mention the multiple-coloured parrot fish created the impression that I was in an aquarium.

When we returned to our belongings (unusual for a South African that they were safe unattended), we all agreed the Blue Hole is more spectacular than some snorkel sites on the Barrier Reef. It had become irresistible. So after a good meal and refreshments we walked a few hundred meters above the hole and followed the coral with ease as the tide gently pushed us back to the main attraction. There was yet again an abundance of fish on and around the coral gardens of varying textures, colours and shapes.

Three Pools

After my snorkel indulgence at the Blue Hole I was somewhat concerned that my Red Sea fascination would not be satisfied as I left the next day on a quad bike for the Three Pools. There is something adventurous about riding a quad bike through a desert despite the sand and cool air which penetrates your face.

It was deja vu as I stopped outside the Camel Restaurant and this time hospitality was offered by Achmat, (Mahmoud’s bother). Similarly to my second snorkel at Blue Hole, I entered the water some meters above the three pools and let myself drift down while watching National Geographic on the underwater world.

I spun around inside the first pool which again was a turquoise colour, except the sandy bottom was visible, as vivid from the outside of the water and as inside it.  The fish seemed to swim along with me, veering off every so often to nibble at the coral. I was again fulfilled and amazed at singular fish type alone or with friends and the schools of fish swimming linearly or circularly around me. From the first pool, I literally jumped out and into the next and the next.

Ras Abu Galum

As my time in Dahab was limited, I decided to snorkel Ras Abu Galum National Park over Ras Mohammed which is a two hour drive back towards Sharm El Sheikh. Jimmy, my guide, told me ‘Ras Mohammed is one of the most beautiful, unspoilt areas in the world with over 100 species of fish, sea stars and sea urchins as well as occasional shark’. Nonetheless, to get to Ras Abu Galum I was going to have to do what every tourist to Egypt needs to do and that is ride a camel.

We, two British girls and I, mounted the lopsided looking camel as it lay down and swung forward and back as it rose. It was quite intimidating being so high off the ground but more secure than a horse with a larger seat rest. However this didn’t help my thighs from hurting on the one hour ride while I placed trust in that the camel had better foot holding than I as we made our way next to the sea around the desert mountains.

Ras Abu Galum is in a more pristine and less inhabited area than the other two sites and here there were only Bedouin tents where we found shelter from the sun and were served a meal of fish.

The snorkel was more difficult than the others with the coral less organised but the fish were just as beautiful. Unfortunately I did not get to see the turtle which is found in this area.

After three days of different dive sites I spent the last day in Dahab doing nothing and chilled at the Buddha restaurant. I did, however, get into the big blue one last time to cool off and say farewell to my Red Sea fish friends.

More diving in Dahab

Other than snorkelling or diving the sites mentioned, you can dive The Canyon or Wadi Quanai (which is a smaller canyon with sandstone and granite). There are many dive operators that offer various dive qualifications in varying languages.

You may prefer to stay on top of the water and learn to kite surf at Blue Lagoon or take a glass bottom boat trip.


An Egyptian visa is free (single or multiple) for South Africans but you are required to obtain it before travelling to Egypt. If you decide to visit Israel or Petra, Jordan you can travel on your Egyptian visa but need a multiple visa to re-enter Egypt.

How to get there

Dahab is in Sinai, Egypt. The easiest way from Cairo is to fly to Sharm El Sheikh and then take a taxi (about one hour’s drive) to Dahab. It is cheaper to go by train or bus from Cairo to Dahab with daily departures.

Where to stay

Accommodation varies from backpackers to bed and breakfast hotels and more luxury hotels on the Blue Lagoon such as The Hilton, Dahab.

Where to eat

Dahab is paved with restaurant after restaurant which can be summed up by the name of one, ‘Same, Same but Different’. Pushy restauranteers invite you to eat at their establishment by offering a free Meze platter starter and free ice-cream and fruit dessert with every main meal.

My favourite restaurant was Ali Baba, which is more upmarket with fresh fish bought by weight and excellent service. After the meal they wash your hands for you so you feel like royalty dinning there. Due to the Muslim religion they do not sell alcohol but you can take your own without corkage fees.

Funny Mummy is a restaurant that attracts a younger crowd and has a great ambience in the evening with lights on the trees and fires around the ground seating cushions. There is also WiFi.

Buddha Restaurant was another favourite of mine but may be as a result of the hard working 13 year old who interacts well with the young and old while serving guests and cleaning the area. It may also be that we had learned to haggle and arranged different starter and desserts.

Wherever you eat you can be sure that there will be shisa on offer and cats (most places give you a spray bottle of water to keep these strays away as you eat).


There are various tour operators such as Expat Explore (www.expatexplore.com) and On the Go Tours (www.onthegotours.com) that offer packages that include a stay in Dahab. However, it is easy to arrange activities in Dahab with various agents found at the hotels or along the main street such as King Safari Dahab (www.king-safari.com) or New Sphinx Safari (www.newsphinxsafari.com).

This blog post was originally published on Getaway Travel Blog and can be viewed on http://journeysclaire.wordpress.com/


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