Since ancient times Egypt’s beaches have attracted sun-seekers drawn to their perfect golden sands, as well as the clean, warm waters of the Red Sea.
But, while many people’s idea of perfect cheap Egypt holidays for couples might be lying back on the beach for a whole afternoon before heading back to one of the many excellent hotels dotted along this portion of the Red Sea coastline, this type of holiday misses out on the natural wonders on offer in the region.
For underneath the water’s surface, the Red Sea offers some of the most colourful and diverse marine life that you’ll see anywhere in the world, with everyone from novice snorkelers right through to veteran scuba divers able to enjoy one of the greatest natural shows on earth.
Indeed, for many, spending even just a few minutes in the company of one of the Red Sea’s underwater residents will be a true highlight of their trip to Egypt – even up there with taking in the world-famous pyramids of Giza.
Throughout the year, tourists diving just offshore have an excellent chance to spot one – or several – of the species of turtle that reside in the Red Sea’s warm waters.
As well as the relatively-common green turtle, the Red Sea is also home to the iconic hawksbill turtle, a critically-endangered species that tends to be found swimming around shallow lagoons and coral reefs.
Aside from its flattened body, this special species can be distinguished from other, more common types of turtle by its distinctive curved beak, and also by its rugged shell, which can occasionally change colour according to the temperature of the water.
The Red Sea is also a great place to spot a wide range of marine mammals, including the peculiar-looking dugong. Unlike the dolphins that can be regularly spotted in these waters, including from the shoreline, the dugong has no real dorsal fins, but instead propels itself through the water using its distinctive paddle-like forelimbs.
As with turtles and dolphins, dugongs can be relatively easily-spotted just a short distance from the coast, with their favoured sea grasses located just a few minutes by boat from many of Egypt’s most popular Red Sea holiday resorts.
But while the bigger beasts may get the lion’s share of the attention, it is the numerous species of fish that make the waters of the Red Sea so colourful and fascinating to explore.
Literally hundreds of types of coral and marine fish can be spotted either underwater or from the surface with a mask and a snorkel. One of the best spots for gaining a true appreciation of the biodiversity located along Egypt’s coastline is the Ras Mohammed National Park, a protected offshore area that attracts divers of all abilities.
Making the waters here even more attractive to nature-loving tourists is the fact that, generally speaking, the marine life of the Red Sea is completely harmless to humans. Even tiger sharks and grey reef sharks tend to steer clear of divers and are rarely seen close to reefs during daylight hours, though some less ferocious-looking animals are capable of inflicting annoying stings and bites if sufficiently troubled.