While Egypt is renowned for its architectural wonders at Giza and Luxor, the north African country also has plenty of spectacular natural attractions that provide the perfect respite to the heat and crowds found at the pyramids and tombs.
None more so than the coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula in north-east Egypt, which offers some of the best diving in the world, with a multitude of incredible creatures hiding beneath the surface of the Red Sea.
For beginners, most of the local operators offer a range of entry-level courses that will give you the skills you need to tackle dives in the open water. With children as young as eight able to take part, scuba diving can be an adventure for the whole family.
Even if you’re a complete novice, the professional operators at the resort will be able to get you out on the reef experiencing Egypt’s undersea treasures in no time at all. But what can you expect to see beneath the waves?
From the adventures of Tintin, we know the Red Sea is home to sharks, and there’s a good chance you will have a close encounter with one of these amazing predators during your dive, as reef sharks, hammerheads and oceanic black and white tips all frequent the warm waters.
However, these are far from the only incredible fish you could spot off the Sharm El Sheikh coast. At times, the Red Sea becomes a kaleidoscope of color, with parrotfish, angelfish, butterfly fish, clownfish and emperor fish lighting up the water.
You might also run into some bigger and stronger varieties of fish, including sharp-teethed barracuda, snapping moray eels and huge Napoleon wrasse, as well as graceful stingrays and turtles.
And if you’re really lucky, you could get the chance to swim with two of the world’s underwater giants: the whale shark and the manta ray.
The whale shark is the planet’s biggest fish, measuring up to 14m in length and 30,000kg in weight, yet only feeding on plankton and other microscopic creatures. A ferocious man-eater the whale shark is not! The manta ray is similarly impressive in size, dwarfing other rays, and indeed divers, with a 5m wingspan and bulk in excess of 1,300kg.
Whichever creatures happen to be in your vicinity when you dive, one of the best things about Sharm El Sheikh is the crystal clear and warm water, which provides perfect visibility for spotting and photographing underwater life.
This also makes it a great location in which to snorkel, if you find the thought of being completely submerged too intimidating. Many of the dive companies will offer packages for snorkelers to allow them to attend the top sites, although you can just as easily try it yourself from the shoreline.
Once you’ve completed your dive or snorkel, there’s also few better places to dry off than on one of the region’s pristine sandy beaches in the sizzling sunshine. Other top attractions in the area include the Aqua Blue Water Park with its numerous pools and slides, a desert adventure at Sinai Mountain and karting fun at the Ghibli Raceway.
There’s a lot more to Egypt than the Ancient Egyptians, so experience another side of Africa in Sharm El Sheikh this year with a package vacation from Monarch.