The Official Dive Guide to Hurghada and Safaga by Pete Harrison
The Official Dive Guide to Hurghada and Safaga by Pete Harrison

Any diver who has visited the Red Sea regularly over the past 10 years - 20 in my case - will have noticed the damage to popular reefs brought about by the expansion of diving tourism.
This was inevitable given the popularity of the sport and the accessibility of the Egyptian Red Sea, but sadly it has taken years for the authorities to realise that measures must be taken to arrest damage and provide protection.
The problem is not caused solely by divers but by careless or indiscriminate anchoring by diving charter boats and the tendency to congregate too many boats on popular sites.
Hurghada, with some of the hardest-hit reefs, has been the first to tackle the problem with the establishment of the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association, or HEPCA. The core of this protection system is the installation of 250 permanent mooring buoys around the most popular sites offshore from Hurghada and Safaga further south.
HEPCA is funded by donations from USAID, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency and Ministry of Tourism and local businesses and diving operators.
Now it has produced its own diving guide to the area, and proceeds from sales will help to maintain and expand the mooring system and fund training schemes for charter-boat skippers and crews.
The handbook comes in a useful wirebound format that will fit easily into a dive bag, but the heavy paper pages are not waterproof, so keep it in a plastic bag.
It provides background to the HEPCA project and an overview of the code of behaviour for both diving operators and visiting divers, before going on to cover individual dive sites. Hurghada, Shaab Abu Nuhas and Safaga each get their own introductions and maps.
Included too is a four-page guide to the most common fish types, with small photographs and common names.
The dive sites are illustrated and described by Pete Harrison, who is well qualified to comment. He has worked in the area as a dive guide and has a degree in marine biology in addition to his artistic skills.
Readers of Diver will be familiar with his bold illustrative style, which produces clear and easy-to-follow coloured diagrams. Having dived many of these sites myself I can vouch for their accuracy, and the presentation will please both novice and old campaigner alike.
Information for each site is concise and covers location, likely sea conditions and prevailing currents, a suggested dive plan and a short marine life guide with mention of any rare species you might encounter.
Most of these sites have permanent moorings established, identified by red dots. The most popular show several moorings but this does not necessarily identify them as being badly damaged, as many moorings are preventative rather than recuperative.
Having the basic facts on each site in this guide will aid dive-planning and log-completion, while the drawings can be transcribed to logbooks for future reference. They are a better representation than many of the more optimistic diagrams in other guides to the area.
I hope HEPCAs efforts will be mirrored at the popular dive sites accessible from Sharm El Sheikh, which have suffered just as much. Permanent moorings are a success story in other locations, particularly the Caribbean, and there is still time to preserve the Red Seas most popular sites with the right effort and education.

The Official Dive Guide to Hurghada and Safaga by Pete Harrison, HEPCA, 002065 445035, e-mail hepca@intouch.com. Softback £10.99.

Divernet