|KEY : Marine Life Wrecks Dive sites or centres
Malaria The entire length of the Red Sea coast is currently free of malaria. If you intend to travel inland in the Sudan, Yemen or Eritrea, take precautions.
Marsa Alam This port, about five hours drive south from Hurghada Airport, is very undeveloped and has a harbour suitable for entry only by vessels with a shallow draught. It is being used by some liveaboards as a point of embarkation for trips to southern Egypt and beyond.
Manta ray This giant, plankton-eating relative of the shark makes a spectacular visitor to the reef. Similar smaller animals without the forward-facing feeding lobes are called mobular.
Massawa The Red Sea port to the emerging nation of Eritrea suffered 19 years of bombing during the civil war with Ethiopia and every building of this beautiful Italian-built city was extensively damaged. The Eritreans have only just begun reconstruction but Massawa promises to be a good base in the future for dive trips to the reefs off the southern coast of Sudan.
Medical facilities An excellent state-of-the-art hyperbaric centre operates at Sharm el Sheikh. Israel also has first-class facilities for injured divers, and there is a small recompression chamber at Hurghada. Make sure your insurance covers your risk.
Money Israel uses shekels, Egypt uses Egyptian pounds, Yemen uses rial and Eritrea uses Ethiopian bier. Many countries of the Middle East do not have international currency so you cannot exchange it when you return. However, major credit cards and the US dollar are accepted everywhere.
Moray eel A nocturnal predator which can be seen with its head protruding from its hiding place during the day. There are several species, which vary from the little yellowmouth moray seen in Eilat to the common giant brown-spotted moray.
Moses Rock Probably the most famous dive site in Eilat, this is a pinnacle of rock that nearly breaks the surface from around 8m at the seabed. It is home to a complete microcosm of Red Sea life, including yellowmouth morays, scorpionfish, lionfish, sergeant-major fish and glassfish.
Naama Bay A modern purpose-built holiday resort built in the southern part of the Sinai near to Sharm el Sheikh. Naama Bay boasts an endless number of dive centres, air-conditioned hotels, shops, night clubs and all the facilities you would expect. Ras Nasrani (Sharm el Sheikh) International Airport is nearby, with regular flights from Europe.
Napoleon wrasse Often called the humphead wrasse, these fish start life as males, later become females, and when a vacancy occurs on the reef, one of the females becomes a super-male, a large fish with a distinctive humphead. Humpheads are the biggest of the wrasses and weighing up to 200kg are distinctive fish.
Night diving Visiting a coral reef after dark gives the diver a chance to see the animals in their nightclothes. Colours are revealed vividly by underwater lamps and many fish are mesmerised and allow close inspection. Many invertebrates, crustaceans, octopuses and eels come out to feed at night. Night diving is prohibited within the area of the Ras Moham-med National Marine Park.
Northern Red Sea That area including the coastline of Egypt and the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez, where most diving activity occurs. Most of the eastern Red Sea is bordered by Saudi Arabia and as such is not available to tourist divers. The central area is bordered by Sudan and the southern Red Sea by Eritrea, Djibouti and the Yemen.
Nudibranch Literally translated as naked gill, this sea-slug carries its feathery gills on its back and warns potential predators of its poisons by dressing in bright colours. Large ones grow up to 30cm in length (see Seven Brothers) and are known as Spanish dancers. They tend to gyrate through open water once lifted away from the reef surface.
Nuweiba Once a windy dust-bowl in the desert, Nuweiba, a Sinai ferry port, now boasts the impressive Coral Hilton holiday resort and a dive centre.
Panorama Reef A large pristine reef east of Safaga, within easy reach by liveaboard boat of the Egyptian mainland.
Parrotfish Usually seen browsing on the coral, it is often said that all the sand a diver sees has passed through the bowels of one of these colourful creatures. Humphead parrotfish are seen in shoals in the southern Red Sea.
Pelagic marine life These are the animals of the open sea. Because the reef walls of Egypt and Sudan rear up unexpectedly from the depths, they are good places to encounter both reef animals and those that come in from out of the blue.
ss Perra Alma This and the nearby Porcelain Wreck are two favourite wreck dives in the Hanish Islands. No porcelain of high value has yet been discovered.
Petra An ancient hidden city built into the red rock, it was made famous when featured in Spielbergs film Raiders of the Lost Ark. It can be conveniently visited while staying at Aqaba.
Pfeiffer Reef Discovered by Jan Ellingsen, the skipper of a liveaboard, this reef is so beautiful he named it after movie star Michelle!
Photography The normally clear water and abundant marine life combine to make the Red Sea the underwater photographers most favoured location.
Pinnacles, The A dive-site close to the Egyptian border at Eilat. It is about 18m deep and a good place to photograph lionfish and glassfish.
Plankton blooms Although the Red Sea is known for its clear water and excellent visibility, there are blooms of plankton at times, usually in mid-summer. The tiny animals that make up the planktonic soup can reduce visibility to English Channel levels. No one can anticipate when or where this will happen. If you find yourself in a plankton bloom, do not despair. Watch out for plankton-feeders like whale sharks and manta rays.
Poisons Many tropical marine animals use poisons for hunting and defence. These can range from the small amounts of venom released by corals to the sometimes fatal stings of stonefish. Animals that are passive and show no inclination to flee should never be touched. Dive with your eyes, not your hands!
Politics The Middle East is rife with politics, especially at a local level. Areas can be closed off to tourism at the whim of local officials and the military. For this reason, UK booking-agents are unable to guarantee that a liveaboard vessel will be sure to visit a certain area. For example, at the time of writing, much of Egypt south of Marsa Alam had been closed to tourism, but that might well have changed by the time you read this! Divers must understand that they are not going to Benidorm! Port Sudan The Red Sea port for Sudan would be an ideal staging post for those wishing to dive in Sudanese waters, but it seems an inordinately difficult place to get in and out of, certainly using the national airline.
Pufferfish Popular with divers, who are now to be discouraged from making them inflate, which they readily do when captured. Puffers vary from the small masked globefish to the larger black-spotted puffer and yellow-spotted burrfish.
Quoin Rock A solitary rock marking a spectacular dive site at the outer limits of Yemeni waters. It is frequently visited by pelagic species, including vast schools of tuna, which hang in the water like giant clockwork fish.
Quseir El Quseir is the home of the floating divers hotel, the Pensee, about 90km south of Hurghada on the Egyptian mainland.
Ras is the Arabic word for headland. Because currents are generated around headlands these make good places to encounter marine life.
Ras Mohammed Mohammeds Headland is probably the most famous dive site in the world. At the most southerly point of the Sinai, where the Gulf of Suez and Gulf of Aqaba meet, there are strong currents to feed burgeoning coral growth, deep walls and masses of pelagic life.
Ras Mumlak A headland near Nuweiba where a local Bedouin boy befriended a solitary wild dolphin.
Ras Nasrani A headland north of Naama Bay and also the site of the international airport serving Sharm el Sheikh and Naama Bay.
Ras um Sid A favourite headland close to Naama Bay that is easily dived from the shore and often by boat.
Reef sharks Small whitetip reef sharks are still common in the northern parts of the Red Sea. Larger grey reef sharks, often confused with even larger short-nosed black-tipped sharks, are plentiful around those reefs that see less diver traffic.
Rift Valley The northern Red Sea is an underwater extension of the African Rift. This goes some way to explaining its great depth.
Rocky Island A triangular-shaped island that marks the most south-erly point of Egyptian territory. Because of its remoteness it also promises virgin diving. Currents bring in hammerheads, grey reef sharks and mantas.
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