Red Sea diving holidays

Lia Williams, who embarked on a diving holiday in Dahab in 2019, sums the experience up perfectly: “A glorious combination of a low key friendly and welcoming atmosphere combined with some simple but delicious homemade food, clean and simple accommodation and wonderful scuba diving with a fantastic teacher… Don’t expect frills. Do expect a genuine warmth and an unpretentious environment. The family who run this place love it and look after the people who visit as if they are family too. It and they are very special.” Dahab, just north of Sharm El-Sheikh, is a Red Sea gem, long a ‘hidden paradise’ on the backpacker circuit and now a full-fledged dive resort more than capable of holding its own against well-known destinations including Sharm and Hurghada.
Most travellers to Egypt can broadly be split into two camps: your Egyptologists, there for the ancient Pyramids of Giza, Luxor, and maybe a cruise along the Nile, and your divers, drawn by the world-renowned resorts strung along the coast like a pearl necklace, such as Hurghada, Sharm, Marsa Alam, Soma Bay, Safaga, Hamata, Makadi Bay and Dahab. The Red Sea dive industry has for many years enjoyed a sterling reputation for the strength of its infrastructure and regulations, as well as what are regarded as some of the best-preserved coral reefs in the world, which support a genuinely spectacular array of marine life.
There are some 150 species of coral found in the Red Sea, and many hundreds of fish species, some of which are to be found nowhere else. That’s in addition to the usual suspects: turtles and manta rays, as well as spinner dolphins and several species of sharks, including tiger sharks, threshers and enormous whale sharks. You might encounter lionfish during your dives, slow moving dugongs, giant morays, stonefish, Napoleon wrasse, marauding titan triggerfish, crocodile fish and scorpion fish. Many divers opt for the ‘live aboard’ boat experience, but resorts such as Dahab offer superb shore diving opportunities too. Whether you’re looking to gain your PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water certification, or take things up a notch with an Advanced or even a Rescue qualification, there can be few better places to earn your water wings than the Red Sea.

Advanced PADI courses

Reach new heights, and new depths, in your training with an Advanced PADI course. You’ll need to already have your PADI Open Water certification, be at least 12 years old, and, depending on when you last went (anything more than a year requires a PADI reactivate, available online too) will likely require a check-dive first.

On an Advanced course you will complete five dives, two of which are mandatory (Deep and Nav). Among the skills you’ll learn will be to be a more independent diver who can control their own buoyancy easily, navigate effectively, and you’ll also have the chance to dive at night.

PADI have many courses which you can do to extend your knowledge in specific areas, called PADI specialities, such as Night, Naturalist, Photography, Deep, Navigation, Project Aware. If you are a confident PADI Advanced level diver then you might also want to consider doing the all-important PADI Rescue Course.

Holidays are tailor made so if you have your Open Water certification already you can work with the instructors to create an itinerary that focuses on your interests.
You must be trained to go scuba-diving anywhere in the world, but here in the Red Sea, they insist on many protocols which are designed to keep you and the reef safe. If you want to learn, then a PADI Open Water qualification is the first step. The theory part of this can be done on-line via PADI E-learning tutorials, which means less time with your head in a book on holiday plus the confidence to have covered the main aspects before you start. Your PADI instructor will then take you through the steps to become qualified. With good tuition, you can move from complete novice to certified diver in only four days, gaining the confidence you need in open water and learning how to be safe in yourself, towards others and, importantly, towards the reef.
Expert supervision is provided by environmentally conscious instructors who take charge of no more than four students at a time, ensuring that you get all the one-on-one time you need to progress quickly. Everything you need for your course is provided, including full dive gear, wetsuits, and regulation masks and snorkels too. You will learn the basic skills necessary, in the shallows, before moving on to diving to a maximum of 18m (12 for juniors). By the end of your holiday you’ll have mastered your buoyancy, know how to signal underwater, and how to make an emergency ascent, as well as what that thingy is called that you breathe through.
Your instructor will also be sure to inform you of the need to protect the reef and its inhabitants. That will cover collecting rubbish whenever it’s seen, controlling your buoyancy, and keeping an eye on where your fins are going. Small tuition numbers make it that much easier.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Diving in the Red Sea or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Family diving

With unrushed, personalised lessons and no more than four people to each instructor, the Red Sea is a superb option for family diving holidays. A typical itinerary will feature several guided dives and naturally it can be tailored around what you and your family want to experience. If you’re already Open Water qualified and want to look at more advanced options then you can work on any areas you’d like to see improvement in, from buoyancy to building confidence at depth.
You can also blend your diving with many other Red Sea activities, from windsurfing and kitesurfing, to hiking in wadis or overnight stays in Bedouin encampments.


Red Sea diving holidays are usually based in Dahab, a coastal town 90km northeast of Sharm El-Sheikh. It offers a more laidback atmosphere to that city, with exceptional shore diving and some of the most renowned dive sites in the Red Sea.

Accommodation is in a family-owned and operated resort, set slightly away from the main strip and with a strong eco-friendly drive, and PADI instruction reflects that. You’ll be clearly advised on how to avoid causing any damage to the reef, and instructors do their best to pick up anything that doesn’t belong there. The proximity of your accommodation to the sea means that dives can be incredibly flexible – you can be wading in within half an hour, so there’s no unnecessary waiting around.
Our Red Sea diving operators will be sure to make you aware of this when booking anyway, but you must allow for at least 18 hours between your last dive and your flight.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Rich Carey] [Coral: Francesco Ungaro] [Wreck dive: Reiseuhu] [Kids: Vitaliy Paykov]