Untouched and pristine, the world that lies beneath Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea is the final frontier of diving. With a wealth of world-class dive sites along its coastline, the longest in the Red Sea, the kingdom is home to one of the most exciting and undiscovered diving destinations for adventure travelers near and far.
Explore ancient shipwrecks and uninhabited desert islands surrounded by spectacular technicolor reefs. While under the sea, marvel at the azure waters teeming with schools of clownfish, sergeant majors, rays, moray eels, uniquely shaped hammerhead sharks and the majestic whale shark — the largest fish in the ocean.
With ideal water temperatures, excellent year-round visibility and very few currents, Saudi Arabia’s coastal waters are a scuba enthusiast’s dream, and the ancient port town of Jeddah is the perfect base for exploring them — especially during a summer vacation. Dive in at four of the country’s best scuba spots, all within day-tripping distance of Jeddah.
The appeal of diving at Sharm Obhur is how much it feels like a boat dive, despite the fact that you’ll be entering the water from the shore. A short drive north of Jeddah city center, close to the Bhadur Resort, this beautiful and easy-to-explore reef is a great place to begin earning your scuba stripes.
Your underwater welcoming committee includes turtles, the eponymous “Nemo” clownfish, lionfish, a host of eels and even the rare bull shark on occasion. Before diving in areas where sharks live, make sure you take precautions to have a safe dive.
The most famous shipwreck at Abu Tair is that of the Staphonos, also known as the Cable Wreck, a name given to it because when the Staphonos 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 Staphonos wreck is also a popular hangout for whitetip sharks, schools of goatfish and blue-spotted rays.
It will take about a two-hour car drive to get to the coast directly in line with this huge reef, which stretches for almost 40 kilometers.
You’ll need to be an experienced and confident wreck diver to navigate Abu Faramish’s most famous site, the Ann Ann, which went down in 1977 and now sits facing east in an upright position at a depth of 32 meters. The wreck has quite a few sections that are 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, whitetip sharks and snappers.
One of the most popular features is a toilet that divers like to be pictured sitting on, and the wreck’s propeller, now completely covered in brightly colored coral.
Though a bit of a trek, Jebel Al Lith — or the Lion Mountain — is the closest whale shark territory to Jeddah, making it worth traveling about 200 kilometers south. Plan to visit in spring or early summer to increase your chances of swimming beside one of these majestic ocean giants.
Rising off the coast of the town of Al Lith, this coral island 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. Surrounded by crystal-clear waters and blessed with white sandy shores, it’s an ideal place to live out your desert island fantasies.
● The Red Sea is about 35 percent saltier than other seas, and this salinity is associated with health benefits such as improved circulation.
● It is home to more than 1,200 species of fish, nearly 20 percent of which are found only in the Red Sea.
● The sea is home to the fastest fish in the world: the solitary sailfish, an extremely rare fish that can swim up to more than 109 kilometers per hour.
● With year-round sun, divers don’t have to worry about the water being too cold. Surface water temperatures around Jeddah range from the high 70s Fahrenheit in winter to the high 80s in summer.
● Each summer since 2017, a Women’s Dive Day has taken place on the Red Sea. To learn more about female divers in the region, check out Pink Bubbles Divers.