Take the plunge and dive into the Red Sea with Jess Spate

Spate is a keen photographer who has been diving for over a decade, so who better to ask about delving into the depths of Egypt and the Red Sea.

The Red Sea Coast of Egypt offers world-class diving, and for most European visitors it’s the closest warm water.

Sea temperatures start at a fairly balmy 20°C and top out around 27°C. That’s just cool enough to be refreshing in a hot Egyptian summer, but still a whole lot warmer than anything Cornwall or even the South of France can offer.

A true tropical reef is one of the great sights of the underwater world, and Egypt’s Red Sea has more than its fair share. Dive spots like Ras Mohammed should rank amongst the best anywhere, and warm water means tropical fish in a rainbow of bright colours, ranging in size from tiny clowns to swift, massive barracuda, plus a huge number of different corals.

About 200 distinct coral species have been counted, and more than 1,000 fish species. Many are found nowhere but the Red Sea. There are grouper, butterfly fish, sharks, giant moray eels, and several different species of ray.

In fact, there are a few dive sites that are famous around the world as great places to see the world’s biggest ray. The manta ray is a true gentle giant- although these massive creatures can be more than 20ft from wingtip to wingtip, they live on a diet of tiny plankton and are harmless to people.

Mantas are most easily found around Sharm el Sheikh – ask about the Tower dive for the best chance of spotting one of these enormous, graceful creatures.

While you’re in Sharm el Sheikh, don’t forget to check out the wreck of the Thistlegorm. In its glory days the HMS Thistlegorm was a 300ft freighter in the service of the British armed forces. She was sunk during World War II and some of her cargo has been preserved to an almost unbelievable level.

There aren’t many places where you can see a 1940s motorbike as home to a variety of submarine plants and animals, and the Thistlegorm’s cargo of Bedford trucks, motorbikes, and artillery can still be viewed by divers.

Of course, it takes more than a wide variety of interesting wildlife and the odd wreck to make a great dive destination. It doesn’t matter how spectacular the underwater scenery is if you can’t see it – clarity of the water (what scuba divers call visibility) is a consideration too.

Happily, conditions on the Red Sea coast are often excellent. It’s relatively sheltered and lacks the huge waves that sometimes pummel the best dive sites in the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Gentle swells make for good visibility, and they also make the Red Sea an ideal place to learn to dive. Although many of those who come to enjoy this part of the world are already fully qualified and experienced scuba divers, many more come to try diving for the first time or to get their Open Water scuba license.

It’s far easier and far more relaxing to learn to dive in a friendly, warm water environment than it is on the cold and choppy waters off the British coast, for example. Equipment hire is available on site, so there is no need to bring anything more than a willingness to explore the underwater world.

A lover of all things dive, Jess Spate is also a surfer,  kayaker, and writer for Mozaik Underwater Cameras.

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