The lighthouse at DaedalusOFFSHORE MARINE PARKSThe undoubted stars of Egypt’s diving attractions are the offshore marine parks. This collection of islands and pinnacles located in the middle and deep south of the Egyptian Red Sea boast some of the most-spectacular coral growth you will ever see, with the additional bonus of world-class shipwrecks, awesome shark action and the occasional rip-roaring current to spice things up Hard coral formationsDaedalus

Daedalus Reef (Abu Kizan in Arabic) is a 400-metre-long and 100-metrewide reef situated some 90km east of Marsa Alam in the middle of the Egyptian Red Sea. The reef itself comes to just below the surface, but there is a small artificial island in the centre which holds a lighthouse that was initially constructed in 1863 and then rebuilt in 1931.

This enormous reef is renowned as a hotspot for encounters with pelagic fish, in particular shoals of hammerhead sharks off the northern tip, with the chance of thresher, oceanic whitetip and grey reef sharks as well. Turtles, barracuda, trevallies and other ocean-going predators also cruise the deep waters around Daedalus.

The sheer walls which drop into the depths are covered in a variety of hard and soft corals, so even if the ‘big boys’ don’t put in an appearance, you are guaranteed some awesome dives looking at the reef itself and the marine life living on it.
Gorgonian seafans adorn the wall of Small BrotherThe Brothers

The Brother Islands (El Akhawein in Arabic) lie some 60 miles offshore in the middle of the Red Sea and offer some of the most-exciting and challenging diving in Egypt. Lying several hundred metres apart, Big Brother (which boats a Victorianbuilt lighthouse) and Small Brother rise up from the depths and are swept by sometimes strong currents, which means prolific coral growth and serious shark action, including oceanic whitetips, threshers and silkies, as well as grey reef and hammerheads. Plus you have two awesome wrecks on the larger island, the Aida and the bigger Numidia. The latter is impossibly clinging vertically to the north wall and drops to over 80m, well beyond recreational limits but metal heaven for technical divers. It is absolutely dripping in soft coral and sponges and makes for an unforgettable sight.
St John’s has dramatic cavernsSt John’s Reef

Just 20km southwest of Zabargad and Rocky Island - in an area known as the Deep South - you find St John’s Reef, which is the name given to 14 square miles of diverse coral atolls and offshore reefs sitting just several kilometres north of the Sudanese border. This extensive reef system has over a dozen known dive sites, including drop-offs, coral gardens and sloping reefs, and more are being discovered all the time. Coral growth is prolific and pristine, and you can expect huge shoals of reef fish congregating on the reefs. Also look out for the impressive, metre-long bumphead parrotfish, which are typical to the St Johns area. Other ‘big stuff’ includes turtles, Napoleon wrasse, barracuda, trevally, tuna and various sharks, including grey reef, whitetip reef, hammerheads and silvertips.

While not necessarily considered offshore marine parks, as they are now accessible via dayboats and mini-safaris as well as fullon liveaboard trips, the below dive sites certainly sit well above other rank-and-file dive locations, and are deservedly included with the likes of the Brothers, Daedalous and Rocky Island/Zabargad on week-long excursions.

Elphinstone Reef

Located 12km off the coastline, some 25km north of Marsa Alam, Elphinstone Reef is a spectacular dive for experienced divers. The reef is 300 metres long, and its walls drop to depths of more than 100m. The strong currents make it a perfect destination for drift diving, and the reef is covered with soft corals and sponges. Common sightings include barracuda, angelfish, grouper and morays, as well as the star attractions in the winter months - oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks.
Oceanic whitetip sharkRocky Island

Some 150km south of Marsa Alam and lying out in the middle of the Red Sea, Rocky Island is very similar to Small Brother, in that is it is a relatively small island completely surrounded by fringing reef which drops sheer into the deep, with the odd overhang and plateau thrown in for good measure. Constantly buffeted by sometimes-strong currents, Rocky Island boasts walls that are absolutely covered with some of the most-beautiful soft corals, as well as gorgonians, fans, sponges and black coral. Pelagic life seems to flock to Rocky Island, so expect to see grey reef and whitetip reef sharks patrolling the walls, and perhaps silvertips and silky sharks out in the blue, along with occasional manta rays, dolphins and even whalesharks.

Zabargad

Close by Rocky Island, some 5km to the north, you find Zabargad, also known as St John’s Island, or Topazios. This island is considered to be geologically unique, as it is uplifted mantle, which rose above sea level after the African and Asiatic continental plates converged, causing rocks in the lower crust to be uplifted. Zabargad has been extensively mined since ancient times, in particular for the gemstone peridot. In fact, it is believed to be the first discovered source of peridot, which was called topazios in ancient times, hence the Greek name for the island, Topazios.

The island, which rises to a high point of 235 metres, serves as a breeding ground for at least nine known species of birds. The most-recent discovery was that of 150 pairs of sooty falcons in October 1994.

Around Zabargad you can find stunning coral gardens in the shallows, as well as drop-offs falling into deep water. Around the north side of Zabargad you can dive on a 70-metre-long wreck that lies upside down in 24m. The whole stern section is nearly intact, complete with stairs, davits, railings and the bridge.
Giant moray eelsFury Shoals

Fury Shoals comprises of several reefs in the Egyptian Red Sea, south of Marsa Alam and north of Ras Banas, which have some of the most-pristine coral growth in the country. Dive sites range from shallow coral gardens to sheer drop-offs, and everything in-between, including the odd coralcovered shipwreck.

The variety of marine life on display is also spectacular, with all the usual reef fishes of the Red Sea and various species of shark, including whitetip reef, grey reef and even oceanic whitetips.

One of the most-famous dive sites in Fury Shoals is called Sha’ab Sataya, which means Dolphin Reef. A pod of spinner dolphins calls this reef home, and so if you are lucky, you are able to snorkel with them.
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