Marsa Alam, Egypt


When most people think of Egypt they are usually only thinking about the pyramids. It is certainly the most famous archeological site in Egypt and quite possibly even the entire world, but there is so much more that this country has to offer. We spent almost two weeks in the country and considering the pyramids can be tackled in just one day we needed to figure out what we were going to do for the rest of the time. That is how we came across Marsa Alam on the Red Sea, a paradise not far from the bustling Cairo streets.

If you are an avid diver you have probably heard of Egypt’s most frequented dive location, Hurghada. It is a little bit of coastal Red Sea paradise that offers some of the most amazing diving in the area. Since this location has become so popular, some of the more southern areas have escaped the radar of many travelers and Marsa Alam is one of these places. Arriving there can be as simple as a flight from Cairo or you can opt to take the overnight bus for a cheaper price. The flight is pretty quick and the bus takes 8-10 hours depending on traffic and police checkpoints but over all it is relatively comfortable and not so difficult to sleep on - we took the bus because it was the budget option.

Cairo is a bustling city, completely full of people and if you are like us then an escape from the busy city will be on your mind after only a day or two in a place like this. It is nonstop there, traffic jams and people shouting, and we were very much ready for a quiet, more picturesque escape. We both love to dive so making a trip to the Red Sea was a no brainer. After doing quite a bit of research we came across a dive shop, Red Sea Diving Safari, and decided to reach out to check on availability. They were incredibly responsive and helpful and we booked a bus out for the following evening to make our way over.

Marsa Alam is quiet, situated perfectly on the Red Sea and yet still close to a local airport and some other smaller towns. This location is known specifically for their offshore reef dives. They run their operation on a self-reliable system, allowing you to dive with a buddy at any time you want, provided your certifications allow for it and you have been following a dive computer’s decompression models to ensure you are not overextending your bottom time. The dive sites here are pristine… clear blue water, vibrant corals and aquatic life. Sharks, rays, dugongs, turtles and dolphins are often spotted in the area along with the rare but occasional whale shark. Sounds like paradise right?

Our biggest draw to this place, outside the sand, sun, and occasional reef dive was the more challenging option that they have. A few times a day you are able to go out on a scheduled dive at a farther off site, a pinnacle known as Elphinstone. Here, with really no luck required, you have the chance to dive with one of the most incredible sharks on the planet: the oceanic whitetip.

Our first dive out was early in the morning, a time before the bigger boats would make it to the site. The waves were rough on the way out, lifting and dropping the boat constantly. The rougher waters only began to subside when we reached the site, roughly a 30 minute boat ride. The excitement we felt was incredible, knowing that roughly 20 minutes into the dive we would be in the location where they like to hang out during the day. There is a current that runs directly into the pinnacle, splitting to either side as it approaches and leave a perfectly calm marine habitat that reaches out around 30 feet from the pinnacle itself. We waited here for a while, slowly rotating and watching around us in all directions, hoping to catch site of one approaching. The sharks blend in with the water’s gradient so well that it is tough to see them until they are about 15-20 meters away from you - unless you already knew they were there. There is no warning to their approach either, they make no noise as they effortlessly glide through the water. You continue to rotate around until a dive guide makes a sound to alert you of one or you just suddenly notice one next to you as you continue to search around you.

The oceanic whitetip is an incredibly curious shark and they want to see you up close and personal. You can actually make eye contact with them as they effortlessly glibe past you. Our first dive yielded a few shares but they kept their distance for some reason and that left us unsatisfied. We came for the personal experience with them so we exchanged our tanks upon return and went back out for the second morning dive in an attempt to get a better experience with the sharks. This was the dive to end all dives… it couldn’t have been more perfect.

As a scuba diving and freediving instructor I have seen a lot of sharks in my life, all over the planet, but I have never had an experience like this. Kelly has been on a lot of dives with me but sadly she missed out on this dive as she had to recover from the motion sickness caused by the waves on the way back from the first dive. The sharks came in a much higher number, they were all bigger than on the first dive and they all came in much closer. One shark in particular came so close to me that its nose touched the glass on my mask. It was the most exhilarating dive of my life. The curiosity and trust of these sharks has been unparalleled by any other diving experience that I have been on in my life and it is something that anyone who loves diving should experience at least once in their life.

Photo Rights Owned and Managed by Kelly and Kody, @positravelty.

Copyright: Positravelty LLC

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