The resort town of El Gouna, 20 kilometers north of Hurghada, was only opened in 1989 (my birth year!), but has managed to become one of the most fascinating places in Egypt – and the scuba diving around El Gouna is breathtaking.
It’s kind of like a mix between Venice and St. Tropez, there are more yachts than cars here and more water canals than streets.
If you’ve been nervous about coming to Egypt, El Gouna is a great start. It’s meticulously clean, quiet and hassle-free.
Besides 3 marinas, plenty of hotels, golf courses, boutiques, and delicious international cuisine, you can also enjoy an amazing time underwater.
Since El Gouna is purpose-built and consists of several artificial lagoons, there is no reef along the beaches of the town itself. By boat, you can reach some fantastic dive sites in the Northern Red Sea though.
El Gouna shares many sites to the south with its neighbor Hurghada including the beautiful horseshoe-shaped reef of Sha’ab El Erg with its spectacular coral gardens and Careless Reef.
From banks to first-class medical facilities, night clubs and restaurants to countless fun activities on land – everyone will find everything they need for a great vacation, whether you’re a diver or not.
That makes it especially easy when you as a diver go on vacation with non-divers, unlike in some other parts of the world. There’s plenty of stunning nature and diverse activities for everyone.
The good thing about diving in El Gouna is that no matter how much experience you have, there is a variety of dive sites suitable for all levels, from beginners to expert divers.
Note, however, that all sites are weather dependent, especially Abu Nuhas.
Ideally, you have a few days time to make sure you’re able to dive all the best dive sites here even when the weather conditions change some plans.
The dive centers usually pick you up from your hotel around 8 am, depending on how close the dive sites you’re going to explore are to the shore.
The boat trip generally includes lunch after the second dive, and some operators offer snacks like fruit or cake in between dives.
If there are non-divers with you, they can join and just snorkel (at least on most trips, please ask before) and enjoy their time on the sea.
Did you know that so far, more than 400 species of coral have been recorded? And that 20% of the fish population in the Red Sea can not be found anywhere else in the world?
In this guide, I will first give you an overview of the best dive sites in El Gouna. After, you’ll get some more helpful tips regarding the best time to go diving in El Gouna and my recommendation for a safe dive centre.
I have to say, I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality of the diving here. I’d just come back from many days of diving in Sharm El-Sheikh as well as a one-week liveaboard from Hurghada to Marsa Alam, covering all the best dive sites of the Red Sea.
Therefore, I wasn’t expecting too much, but I’m so happy I went and got to see dolphins and had lots of other stunning underwater encounters. El Gouna is a great place to go scuba diving!
Below, I’ve listed the 5 best dive sites around El Gouna, in no particular order. It always depends on what type of diving you prefer.
I’ve asked plenty of experienced and local divers and these names are the ones that always pop up.
The 5 Best Dive Sites in El Gouna
About 2 hours cruising time from El Gouna lies the reef of Abu Nuhas. The Arabic name means “the father of bad luck”, and stems from the no less than 7 ships that have hit this reef over the years.
It’s located to the north of Shaidwan Island, close to the Suez canal and usually partially submerged which makes it dangerous for shipping.
The two wrecks Carnatic and Ghiannis D. are the most interesting ones for divers:
- The Carnatic is a 90-meter (295 foot) steamer that sunk in 1869. It’s known as the “wine ship” because it carried port wine that you can still see today, sealed with corks. The wreck is broken in two pieces and lies between 16 and 24 meters (50 and 80 feet). Since currents can be strong and stirring up the sand causing low visibility, it’s best to dive the Carnatic in the morning.
- The Ghiannis D. is a large, modern freighter with its deepest point at 28 meters (90 feet). It’s very interesting to explore the inside of the stern with its command bridge, residential quarters and engine room. Groupers made the central part of this wreck their home and others, like eagle rays, snappers and sharks frequently pass by.
Siyul Kebira Island (Big Siyul)
Marked by a solar-powered lighthouse, this island can be reached from El Gouna in 1.5 hours and from Hurghada in 2 hours.
It’s one of the most beautiful and least crowded dives in this area and especially suitable for beginners.
You’ll find a lagoon off the southern side that is no deeper than 25 meters (80 feet) and has a reflective coral floor.
Thanks to a lot of light, the corals are very healthy and attract a huge variety of fish: angelfish, red anthias, butterflyfish and lots of others find shelter under the magnificent acropora formations.
Turtles, giant pufferfish, lionfish, giant morays and huge schools of glass fish can often be seen here. Frequently, you’ll also spot sharks dwelling on the bottom.
Shaab El Erg (Dolphin House)
The more than 5 kilometer long reef of Shaab El Erg is horseshoe shaped and lies directly east of El Gouna.
It’s become famous because large numbers of bottlenose dolphins use this location as a shelter and most of the time you will meet them.
Besides Marsa Alam, here is actually your best chance in the Red Sea to see them in the wild. I did see them the day I went, it was amazing!
At Shaab El Erg you can also often spot turtles, crocodile fish, rays, scorpion fish, napoleons and large schools of goat fish. The corals are very colorful, too.
I was pleasantly surprised to find not only dolphins, but also so many cute tiny sea creatures like nudibranchs, and, my new favorites: christmas trees. Those are worms that come in lots of different colors and just look incredibly beautiful.
Dolphin House is just one of about 7 common dives here, but understandably the most popular one. Poseidon Garden is another option, here you’ll find lots of clams of all sorts in the huge table and brain corals.
A big number of pufferfish likes it here, too, as well as schools of butterfly fish and bannerfish.
When it’s manta season, your best chance to see them is at Manta Point. You may also get lucky and spot a reef shark. Moray Eels and turtles are common inhabitants here.
Umm Gamar Island
Umm Gamar is one of the most popular dive sites in the Hurghada archipelago. It translates to “The Mother of the Moon” because this small island is crescent-shaped when you view it from above.
The sea bed can be up to 100 meters down. Dives are made on a slope that gently drops from 15 meters (50 feet) to 75 meters (250 feet).
At this dive site you have a good chance to spot free-swimming moray eels during daytime. You may also encounter large tunas, great barracudas and sometimes an eagle ray.
Umm Gamar is also the kingdom of poisonous fish like scorpionfish, lionfish, turkeyfish and stonefish.
Always pay attention to your surroundings, try not to brush up against anything and maybe even wear gloves.
Just 5 minutes from here lies Shabrur Umm Gamar which is a great dive site for beginners.
Careless Reef is the most famous coral reef in the area and the furthest dive site south of El Gouna.
It lies unprotected in the open sea which means that, especially during bad weather conditions, it can be a challenging dive and not necessarily suitable for beginners.
Careless Reef is made up of 2 large pinnacles standing on a plateau that drops off on all sides. While the seabed is no deeper than 15 – 16 meters (50 – 55 feet) between the two coral towers where your boat moors, it suddenly drops 60 meters (230 feet) to the east.
This wall is full of caverns which are the home of lionfish and glassfish. You will see all sorts of marine life at Careless Reef.
Plenty of small coral fish like angelfish and grunts swim between multicolored soft corals, red fire corals, and umbrella acropora.
If you’re lucky, you may even spot a gray shark or whitetip reef shark close to the deep cliff.
What you will definitely see are moray eels swimming fully extended around the reef, the huge creatures are one of the main attractions of the Careless Reef dive site.
Best Season For Diving in El Gouna
The climate in El Gouna is cool in winter (20°C / 68°F) and hot in summer (40°C / 104°F). Water temperatures reach up to 30°C in summer and go down to 20°C in winter.
Below you’ll find a table with air and water temperatures for every month:
WATER AND AIR TEMPERATURES
|MONTH||AIR TEMPERATURE IN °C||SEA TEMPERATURE IN °C|
Generally, I’d say that May to October is the best time to go diving in El Gouna. There’s usually more marine life in summer, including big animals.
A 5mm wetsuit with a hood is best from the middle of November to the end of March. For the rest of the year, a 3mm wetsuit is sufficient.
Recommendations for Dive Centres
I usually travel solo and I’ve made a few bad experiences, so I know how important it is to find a trustworthy dive center where you do not have to deal with security concerns and, as a woman, harassment.
Unfortunately, though it’s not dangerous, sexual harassment is quite common in Egypt and can be really frustrating.
El Gouna is probably the place in Egypt where harassment occurs the least, it’s a bit like a European town and very relaxed.
Nevertheless, finding a good dive center isn’t always easy.
To do my research for this Diving Guide to El Gouna, the team of Emperor Divers sponsored my dives for this trip.
I’ve heard good things about Emperor Divers before and now that I’ve been diving with them myself, I can honestly confirm that everything is super organized, professional and safe.
If you’re coming to El Gouna and want to explore the underwater world, you’ll be in good hands with them!⠀
If you’re a scuba diver, these articles of mine might be interesting for you as well:
- Liveaboard Diving – Ultimate Guide for First-Timers
- Best Dive Computers for Beginners
- Scuba Diving Guide to Dahab, Egypt
- Scuba Diving Guide to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
- Scuba Diving Guide to El Gouna, Egypt
Coral Reef Guide - Red Sea
This is a great book if you want to know what you looked at after your dive in the Red Sea.
It's one single guide that covers all forms of marine life, including coral. Each species is illustrated with an underwater color photograph along with biological and physical descriptions.
Kraken Universal Smart Phone Underwater Housing
My go-to underwater housing that fits pretty much every smartphone and is safe to use for up to 80 meters. If you have a good quality phone camera, your photos will turn out great.
Dive+ : Free photo editing app with amazing color correction
This app is a lifesaver when it comes to editing underwater photos and videos. In just one click, it turns your blue, boring photo into a colorful image that looks like in real life.
If you get the free version, your photos will be watermarked with your username. If you pay for a subscription, there are no watermarks and you can batch edit your photos and videos - big timesaver!
Sun Bum Reef-Safe Sunscreen
It is absolutely essential to have reef-safe sunscreen because regular sunscreens have a very harmful effect on corals. With SunBum, you won't contribute to the death of our coral reefs, and it is totally worth investing some extra money.
This sunscreen is hypoallergenic & made with reef friendly, vegan ingredients that are designed to protect against UVA rays, prevent premature aging, and moisturize skin.
It is water-resistant for 80 minutes, so a quick round snorkeling won't compromise your protection.
Personalized Waterproof 3M Sticker Labels for Scuba Diving gear
If you bring your own dive equipment on trips, you've probably had the problem of mixing up your stuff with someone else's before. Especially on a liveaboard, similar-looking gear can easily be confused, and let's be honest - most scuba equipment looks the same.
No more problem with these super cool stickers that are individualized with your name and waterproof. Instead of using your real name, you could even come up with a cool diving nickname for yourself.
Also a great gift for any scuba diving friends and family!
Quick Spit Antifog Spray
Nothing is more annoying than a foggy mask during a dive. It can easily ruin your experience, we've all had this problem before. And let's be honest, most of us aren't big fans of clearing our masks. I know I'm not.
To avoid the foggy mask problem, you should apply an antifog spray before your mask touches the water. This one contains all-natural ingredients and works on glass and plastic masks.
Kraken Mesh Gear Bag
A mesh bag often comes in handy underwater to collect any trash you might find.
Mares Smart Dive Computer
I really like my Mares Smart dive computer, it's perfect for beginner and intermediate divers. I have it in white/purple, so for the girls who like to be stylish but don't want to spend a fortune on the white Suunto D4i, this is a great budget alternative.
The different color options also make it easy to differentiate your computer from others, which can be very helpful at times, especially on a liveaboard.
El Gouna Scuba Diving Guide – Pin for later:
If you’re traveling to Egypt, be sure you make the most of your trip by reading my other articles. I’ve been based here for 3 years and learned a lot that will help you 🙂
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- 10 Reasons Everyone Should Visit Egypt At Least Once
- Pyramids of Giza, Egypt – Why You Need To Visit NOW
- 5 Must-See Places in Cairo, Egypt
- 5 Mind-Blowing Secret Beaches in Egypt
- Sharm El-Sheikh: Diving Guide For Scuba Lovers
- 45+ Fun Things To Do In Hurghada, Egypt
- Scuba Diving Guide to El Gouna
- Ultimate Guide to St. Catherine, Sinai
- Climbing Mount Sinai – 8 Things You Need To Know Before
- 89 Things To Do in Dahab, Egypt
- Scuba Diving in Dahab – The Ultimate Guide
- Sandboarding in Sinai
- Photo Gallery: Best Street Art in Dahab
- Traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan? Here’s what you need to know!