I had been hearing about some good scuba diving in the Red Sea of Egypt, in the southern Sinai Peninsula, for a while from various people, and decided to check it out.
I flew into Sharm El Sheik, then took a taxi through the desert 45 minutes north to Dahab, arriving in a small costal village, clearly built around the scuba industry.
Walking down the main, dirt street behind all the many hotels lining the shores, I had to but choose where I wanted to stay. The options were limitless, and each one had a Egyptian standing out front becoming me to stay with them.
Egypt, the Middle East, and even the Sinai had had plenty of turmoil, and along with it a lot of bad press, so every business in town was hurting from the lack of tourist. It was nearly a ghost town. That also meant that very nice hotels were now very cheap.
The few tourist that were in Dahab, were in the “Lighthouse” area of town. Dahab is basically split in two with a short bridge in the middle. The Lighthouse side being the most touristy with tons of restaurants and souvenirs shops.
The other side of the bridge still had souvenirs shops and some local restaurants, but was far less touristy. This area is called Masraba. All of Dahab can be traversed by foot in 20 minutes or less, but for some reason Masraba had far fewer foreigners.
It’s in the Masraba side that I ran into Bassem, who owned a little dive center called Liquid Adventures. We quickly became friends, and he set me up in the adjoining hotel. I had a huge room with AC and wifi, for less than $10 a night, and steps from the beach.
Little did I know that I would fall in love with Dahab, and what I thought would be a two week visit would turn into a 13 month stay. Life was just too slow and easy in Dahab, and I loved being in a small town that thrived on diving.
Every hotel had a dive center, there were scuba gear shops all over, at all times of the day you could see tank-wearing divers carrying their fins, heading to a dive. It was my dream environment, and I got caught in the trap that many foreigners do, and stayed.
Life was awesome. Every day I either went diving in one of the many amazing dive sites in town, or I didn’t. What ever I felt like doing. I worked out a deal with Bassem because I was doing so much diving, and it was so cheap it was almost free.
Most days a friend and I would wake up, throw tanks in a taxi-truck, and do the 2 minute drive over to Lighthouse to dive in the bay. This was the easiest dives to do, and each time we would try to explore a different area and find new things.
We would set up our gear at one of the restaurants lining the beach, that had tables and cushions under a overhang roof. With no rush of other divers, we would smoke shisha between dives, eat falafel and drink lemon juice.
The most relaxing way to do 3 dives a day, without having to carry tanks far, take long boat or truck rides or do much prep at all. We raked up hundreds of dives just in this one area. Paradise.
It was inevitable that I would stay here a long time. I was making money online so didn’t need to return to some job. My passion was diving and I could do as much as I wanted, 3-4 star hotel rooms were dirt cheap, and a 1 year visa costed about $20.
Don’t get me wrong, even with this awesome environment and cheap prices, I would not have stayed if the diving was no good. But as luck has it, Dahab also offers better diving than anywhere in Europe or North America. It was the perfect place.
Besides our lazy Lighthouse dives, probably my favorite dive site was Canyon. It was about a 10 minute drive down the coast thew the desert, with a bunch of overhangs and restaurants lining the shore around the dive site entry.
The canyon itself is a giant crack in the rock that divers can ascend into, with a sandy floor at about 30 meters, which makes it a awesome first “deep” dive for advanced course takers. It was a great site looking up and seeing the sun from the bottom.
Even just getting to the opening of the canyon is a nice dive. You follow the wall at about 1-15 meters deep, exploring the many soft and hard corals and rock formations for the countless critters living there. Its a spectacular dive.
And then of course there is The famous Blue Hole that most divers know about. Many divers head here to dive in the Blue Hole with its seemingly bottomless depths. But to me the best diving is just down the shore, at Bells, and then following the wall back to the Hole.
I’ve only mentioned a few of the great dive sites around Dahab, but there are a lot more. Did you see my story about my scuba camel safari to Abu Galum? There are even great dives out of Sharm, such as Thistlgorm, which are good day trips.
With the amazing dive sites, the scuba life environment, they cheap prices and everything else, its no wonder I stayed so long. Now that I write about it, all I can think about is planning my return!
Also check out: Backpacking Gear List For World Travel