Diving in the Red Sea

The Red Sea is home to the best diving in the world. For those working in Jeddah, the opportunity to enjoy this bounty is right on your doorsteps.

After diving and "working" in Thailand for about a year, I decided I needed a change of scenery. A roundabout trip from Thailand to Canada brought me to Dahab, Egypt, a small diving destination on the western coast of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. It was definitely a change of scenery! I went from a verdant tropical island to a small desert town. The surrounding landscape was stark and coloured primarily with variations of brown, brown, and brown. Until you descended into the sparkling blue waters of the Red Sea.

Topside may have been a monochromatic palate of browns, but the undersea landscape was a profusion of colour. There were red, yellow, and purple soft corals, playful orange and white clown fish, multicoloured parrot fish, elegant lion fish with bright orange and red fluttery "manes", quick-to- hide octopi, yellow butterfly fish, vivid blue surgeon fish, tiny Christmas tree worms (they really look like miniature Christmas trees) and pearly grey dolphins.

But even the dive sites that weren't overly colourful amazed. There were all sorts of weird and wonderful things to see. Black-and-white banded sea snakes that are hugely poisonous but have such tiny mouths that the only place they can bite you is on the webbings between your fingers. Pale sand-coloured garden eels live in holes that go straight down into the sand; they extend out of their homes and move gently with the movement of the water (picture a field of wheat on a breezy day), but drop quickly down into their hole when something (e.g. a diver) comes swimming along. And the fascinatingly deadly stonefish: it lays perfectly still and blends completely into its surroundings (like a stone) until something tasty unknowingly swims by and - whoosh! - it gets sucked into the stone fish's mouth.

I have about 600 dives in my logbook. I've dived in the Gulf of Thailand, the Andaman Sea, the South Pacific, the Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. But my dives in the Red Sea … those are the ones I remember the most.

So if you go to Saudi Arabia, be sure to get take advantage of your proximity to the Red Sea.

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