Untouched and pristine, the world that lies beneath Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea is truly the final frontier of diving. With a wealth of world-class dive sites along its coastline, the longest in the Red Sea, the kingdom represents one of the most exciting and undiscovered diving destinations.
This is a place where uninhabited desert islands sit surrounded by spectacular technicolour reefs and where ancient shipwrecks await discovery. A place where the azure waters teem with schools of clownfish, sergeant majors and the uniquely shaped hammerhead shark; a place ruled by rays, moray eels and the majestic whale shark – the largest fish in the ocean.
With ideal water temperatures, excellent all-year-round visibility and very few currents, Saudi Arabia’s coastal waters are a scuba diver’s dream, and the ancient port town of Jeddah is the perfect base for exploring them. These are some of the best dive spots within day-tripping distance of the city.
The appeal of diving at Sharm Obhur is how much it feels like a boat dive, despite the fact you’ll be entering the water from the shore. A short drive north of Jeddah city centre, close to the Bahadur Resort, this beautiful and easy to explore reef is the perfect place to cut your teeth and earn your scuba stripes.
For company, expect to meet turtles, the eponymous ‘Nemo’ clownfish, and lionfish, a host of eels and – if your luck’s really in, or not – the rare bull shark. Sharm Obhur is also popular for those that like to brave a night dive.
The most famous shipwreck at Abu Tair is that of the Stephanos, also known as the Cable Wreck, a name given to it because when the Stephanos went down in 1978, its cargo was mainly cables, chain fences and large steel beams.
Sitting on its side, during calm days, much of the wreck is beautifully lit by the light coming through the crystal-clear waters, making it easy to explore for divers. The Stephanos wreck is also a popular hangout for whitetip sharks, schools of goatfish and blue-spotted rays.
It will take around a two-hour car drive to get to the coast directly in line with this huge reef, which stretches for almost 40km in length.
You’ll need to be an experienced and confident wreck diver to navigate its most famous site, the Ann Ann, which went down in 1977 and now sits facing east in an upright position at a depth of 32m. The wreck has quite a few sections still more or less intact, including the power supply room, the captain’s quarters and the now-empty cargo room, where the only residents today are tuna, blue-spotted rays, white-tip sharks, and snappers.
One of the most popular features is a toilet that divers liked to be pictured sitting on, and the wreck’s propeller, now completely covered in brightly coloured coral.
Yes, it’s a long way to come, and yes, it can feel barren and deserted, but Jebel Al Lith – or the Lion Mountain – is the closest whale shark territory to Jeddah, so time your visit to take place between January and April, and there is a chance you could find yourself swimming beside one of these majestic ocean giants.
Rising off the coast of the town of Al Lith, approximately 200km south of Jeddah, this coral island is surrounded by crystal clear waters, and blessed with white sandy shores, making it the ideal place to live out your desert island fantasies. It also sits at the northernmost edge of the Farasan Bank, a huge reef wall that stretches all the way south, down the coast of Saudi Arabia.