Diving vacations in Dahab

As far as Lynne Helal of our specialist dive operator, Dive Urge, is concerned, the appeal of Dahab is as clear as the water off the coast here. To begin with, the town might be conveniently close to Sharm El Sheikh, an hour or so north by taxi, but it has an entirely different feel to that city. “Dahab is nowhere near as busy as Sharm nor, more importantly, does it have the built-up hotel culture. Places here tend to be more low level and individual in style, so Dahab has retained the flavour of a seaside village whereas in Sharm, you can’t even see the sea.”
There’s also the fact that much of the diving here takes place directly from the shore. “Staying and diving in a closed boat for a week or so, potentially with someone you don’t get on with, doesn’t appeal to everyone. Shore diving allows for a certain spontaneity which suits the Dahab lifestyle. We can be ready and at a site in half an hour.”
You can add to this the fact that Dahab boasts what many consider to be some of the healthiest coral reefs, and the finest dive sites, in the world. The Blue Hole particularly, with its notoriously dangerous Arch, is internationally renowned among very experienced divers. Divers and snorkellers have flocked to this coastal town on the Sinai Peninsula for years. In Egyptian Arabic, ‘Dahab’ means gold. And while it’s no longer a ‘hidden paradise’, now that it’s firmly on the map this former Bedouin fishing colony shows no sign of losing its sheen.

A Dahab state of mind

Above the surface, Dahab is a mecca for kite and windsurfers. A reliable breeze is complimented with shallow lagoons that are perfect for learners, while calm summer waters appeal to a growing contingent of paddleboarders. Trekking is popular in the nearby wadis, and you can also climb Mount Sinai, said to be where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Bikes are the easiest and most enjoyable way to get around Dahab itself, and for heading further afield you might tour by 4x4 jeep, horseback or camel. In winter many people spend a night in a Bedouin desert camp, sleeping under the stars, while summer sees day trips to other Bedouin communities, this time in national parks, where you can swim or dive then huddle around the campfire in the evenings.
The ease of socialising and number of options is, to Lynne, a big part of Dahab’s charm, “Culturally, this is a really mixed community, from the indigenous population of Bedouins and Egyptians to the many folk from all over the world who are drawn to Dahab to live and work. It’s not unusual to be sitting around a fire in winter and find that there are more than 10 countries represented.”
Egyptian tourism, especially around Sharm El-Sheikh, has taken a big hit in recent years due to concerns about terrorism, but in Dahab it could scarcely feel safer. “Dahab folk tend to get wound up by their friends and family sucking in their teeth at any mention of Egypt,” says Lynne Helal. “But when people come here and see kids playing freely and everyone just enjoying the wonderful ambience of Dahab, it hits home how much they were misled.”

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Red Sea diving vacations

Red Sea diving vacations

Eco friendly Red Sea shore diving, max 4 pax per dive guide

From £620 to £820 7 days ex flights
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Operates all year. Courses can be tailor made to suit your budget and requirements as necessary
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You will be staying at a boutique, family-run hotel in Dahab, with the beaches of the famous Eel Garden right on your doorstep, a short walk from the town’s bars, restaurants and rooftop terraces, but far enough away to enjoy a tranquil ambience. You’ll enjoy a deeper connection with the local community than you might get at a larger resort given that local Bedouin people are employed at the hotel, for activities, and as instructors.
PADI certification, if required, is provided with a limit of four people per instructor to ensure you have plenty of one-on-one time. Personalised dives are then tailored to your own preferences, and for the more experienced there is the option of an Advanced PADI course with guided dives around Dahab’s most celebrated attractions, including the Blue Hole.
The state of the environment, particularly the reefs, is a constant concern in the dive community. Climate change, overfishing, pollution and damage caused to coral by careless flippers are all leading causes of coral reef degradation. Dahab’s marine environment is flourishing, but that doesn’t come without a lot of effort. The local community gets involved with regular beach and sea cleans, and you’ll be staying at a leading eco-conscious accommodation that supports numerous initiatives including the reef-monitoring Project Azraq, and Don’t Mess with Dahab, which aims to cut single-use plastic usage. In Lynne Helal’s view, this kind of direct action comes naturally to a place like this, “Tourism in Dahab offers a vital living to the indigenous folk here, mostly Bedouins but also Europeans whose impact regarding conservation and eco responsibility is really significant. I think that the strong sense of community spirit and civic pride, coupled with the type of eco-aware person who chooses to live in a place like Dahab tends to balance out any negativity from tourism.”
Dahab is also a perfect location for families, as Kelly Pawlyn, a previous guest, explains, “My kids didn’t want to leave and have been planning how to get back and continue their diving adventure as soon as possible! …our dive instructor was totally brilliant, fierce but in the best way – he wanted us to learn, to be aware and to appreciate the very special environment that we were privileged enough to be able to explore.” Maggie Carruthers meanwhile is appreciative of the personal attention that comes from staying at a smaller, family-run property, “Nothing was ever too much trouble to arrange, and I felt thoroughly spoilt by each and every one of them, from the chefs right down to the boys who ferried our dive gear around…They are a small, quality hotel and by far the best place to go because the level of care from all the staff was amazing.”

Best time of year for
Dahab diving vacations

You can dive and snorkel in Dahab all year-round. In the summer however the temperatures can be uncomfortably hot, even at night. Winter is often your best option, with warm days but mild nights, and typically dry weather. In January it is generally around 15°C, while it’s not unknown for the mercury to top 40°C in August. But do note that marine life tends to be most active between June and September, so if you can stomach the heat, you should have a more satisfying dive. Water temperatures are sublime whenever you’re there.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Dudarev Mikhail] [Shallows: Nassim Wahba] [Kite surfing: Peggy Anke] [Dahab coast: Peggy Anke]