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The Red Sea

September 19, 2014

The Red Sea
The Red Sea is a flooded continuation of the African Rift and is bordered on all sides by arid desert. The countries of Djibouti and the Yemen form a narrow gateway to the Indian Ocean at its southern end and Saudi Arabia makes up most of its eastern coastline. On the western side, Eritrea, the Sudan and Egypt form its borders, and it is part of a major sea route from the Middle East and India via the Suez Canal to Europe and North America. At its northern end it splits into two gulfs. The Gulf of Aqaba leads to Israel and to Jordan which both have small areas of coastline. The other is the Gulf of Suez.
The Red Sea is extremely deep and as such can provide startlingly good visibility because detritus sinks away to the depths. There are times however, mainly around April, when plankton blooms temporarily disrupt the clarity of the water. Due to its proximity to Europe and the sympathetic political nature of its government, Egypt has proved exceptionally popular with divers. The Egyptian part of the Red Sea has probably the largest and most visible leisure-diving industry of anywhere in the world.
People can dive from the shore, by taking short trips on day boats, or extended journeys to the more remote reefs by live-aboard dive boat. The fleet of live-aboards for diving is the biggest in the world and boasts more than a hundreds vessels.
Despite the vast numbers of divers that visit the Red Sea each year, the diving is still good. Encounters with hammerhead sharks, whalesharks, dolphins, manta rays and turtles are regularly reported. The oceanic white-tip shark, once the most prolific large predator on the Planet Earth, is making a comeback and is often seen patrolling the Red Sea reefs, just beneath the surface.
The reefs of the Red Sea are not only famous for their quantity of coral, they are noted for the quantity of varieties of different corals that grow alongside each other in such profusion. Among these, colourful soft corals are revealed in vibrant crimsons and delicate pinks as soon as diver shines a light on them. The fish life of the Red Sea is equally impressive with several species that are indigenous to the area. Orange coloured anthias flutter around the hard corals and yellow and black striped bannerfish gather in droves. Bright yellow and black anemone fishes bustle around their host anemones, themselves showing off mantles in luscious reds and pinks. In shallow areas where there is no coral, enormous green turtles graze the seagrass and it's the lucky diver that gets an encounter with a grazing dugong, the marine version of a manatee.
For all this, most of the Red Sea is not tropical. The northern border of the tropics passes through close to the border with the Sudan. The sea temperature can be quite chilly in winter months requiring divers to wear a thick suit and because of winds generated by the heat rising off the desert sands, there is a strong prevailing northwest wind and the surface of the water is rarely calm. Egypt has good flight connections with international airports on its Red Sea coast at Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada and Marsa Alam.

Want something to read while you're away? My book Amazing Diving Stories is now available as a paperback.
Happy Diving - John Bantin

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