Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

Dahab stole my heart above the surface, but what about under the sea? The whole reason we’d planned our Sharm El Sheikh liveaboard was we’d heard a rumor that the coral reefs and amount of sea life there would outshine anything we’d see up in Dahab. Still, the dive scene in Dahab was legendary — how wrong could so many people be? (I mean honestly, this is a question I ask myself on a regular basis and it turns out, they can be really really wrong.)

We set off to find out what the deal was with .

Diving in Dahab

Diving in Dahab

All great dive experiences start with a great dive center, and we felt like we’d hit the jackpot when we found . This female-owned dive center has branches that specialize in all of Dahab’s highlights: recreational diving, technical diving, and freediving.

H2O’s big claim to fame is that they were the team that supported World Record holder Ahmed Gabr in his jaw-dropping dive to 332.35 meters in 2014. That’s a wow-factor for sure, but I found myself drawn to them for their commitment to the environment, their girl-power inspiring team, the diversity of courses they offer, and, let’s get really real here, how cute their dive shop is.

H2O Divers Dahab

H2O Divers Dahab

H2O Divers Dahab

H2O Divers Dahab

H2O Divers Dahab

I don’t want to say that most dive shops tend to be disorganized trash heaps, but most dive shops tend to be disorganized trash heaps. So when you find one that’s clean, organized, brightly painted, has a dope locker system and gear drying room, and even has some fun murals sprinkled throughout?

Just sign on as a customer for life immediately.

H2O Divers Dahab

H2O Divers Dahab

After chatting to H2O owner Meihoukai (such a fab name, I know — only greatness could ensue) about our dive experiences and preferences, she set us up with , a mega-talented tech diver superstar who is attempting the world record for woman’s deepest dive and also happens to know her way around a camera.

Jenny didn’t mess around — we were heading straight to the world famous Blue Hole.

The Blue Hole, Dahab, Egypt

The Blue Hole is a short pickup ride north of Dahab proper, and since our sweet Airbnb was enroute, they happily picked us up on the way so we didn’t have to trudge to the dive shop. This kind of flexible, personalized service is par for the course in Dahab, where dive groups are small and service is off the charts.

We arrived to a bustling oasis that seemed like a scene from Aladdin ready to shoot for a live-action remake. Thatch-roof cafes and sun loungers lined the waterfront, camels rested at the shoreline, and neoprene-clad sea-seekers gingerly stepped into the water, eventually disappearing below the surface.

Camels at the Blue Hole, Dahab, Egypt

Some may recognize the name The Blue Hole for the that have occurred here, a legacy that’s impossible to forget when walking by the memorials left for just some of those that have been lost.

What has made the Blue Hole so deadly? Easy — The Arch. The Arch is a stunningly beautiful, 85 foot long passage at 184 feet deep, well below the recreational diving limits. My friends who have been through it rank it as one of the most beautiful dives in the world — but caution they would never attempt it without proper training, technical dive gear, and an experienced dive team. Unfortunately, there’s a chain reaction when one diver successfully completes the dive on a single tank, one local divemaster explained to me. They’ll tell one of their friends who then does it, who then tells another friend who then does it, and soon it seems normal to dive The Arch without proper training and on a single air tank. But someone down the chain won’t be so lucky.

Thankfully, the Blue Hole is becoming safer and safer to dive thanks to increased awareness of the dangers of unqualified Arch attempts, and stronger guidelines for how and when to attempt the Arch enforced by the local dive community.

Blue Hole memorial in Dahab, Egypt

Also thankfully? You don’t need to go anywhere near The Arch to enjoy the beauty of the Blue Hole. Our own dive plan was to enter at a nearby dive site called Bells, and meander across the wall over to the Blue Hole, where we’d cross over a shallow saddle and exit the dive.

The plan reminded me of a gorgeous dive I’d done in Malta, years ago, where we entered through one spectacular dive site and exited through another — the famous Azure Window, may it rest in peace.

Diving The Bells, Egypt

Diving The Bells, Egypt

Diving The Bells, Egypt

I’d never heard of Bells, but I was about to become a huge fan. To me, the highlight of the dive site is the entry. After gracefully waddling down to a shallow pool — I’d bought  for the first time ever specifically for Dahab’s many shore entries — we slipped into a chimney-like passage and dropped vertically down to a hundred feet, where we emerged into an endless blue.

We started making our way along the wall, which dropped down over 650 feet, keeping our eyes peeled for black coral and sea fans.

Diving The Bells, Egypt

I perked up when Jenny signaled that the Elephant Ear coral she’d talked about in our briefing was straight ahead. I’m always inexplicably excited when something that has been discussed in the briefing appears in front of me, like it’s some kind of magic trick.

I’ll never forget the time a divemaster in the Philippines was describing a swim-through we’d do in broken English, and said something along the lines of, “and then we come out, and see shark!” Yeah right, I thought, but then underwater, we emerged from the swim-through, and came face to face with a beautiful little white tip just doing her thing. I’d whipped my head back to look at the divemaster, sure he’d performed some sort of sorcery.

Which kind of makes sense when you’re talking about a wild animal. Why I’m so dazzled when a dive guide manages to accurately predict a sighting of, say, a school-bus sized coral formation or the untouched contents of a hundred-year-old shipwreck, is beyond me. I guess I’m easily impressed.

Diving The Bells, Egypt

So you can only imagine my freak-out level when Jenny’s next prediction came to fruition: Bluestreak cleaner wrasse appeared, eager to nibble on our ears and other sensitive exposed extremities. I’d been delighted when Jenny explained, during the briefing, that she’d take out her regulator, and let the little guys swim into her mouth for a free dental cleaning. Needless to say, we followed suit.

I’ve never laughed so hard underwater!

Getting teeth cleaned by cleaner wrasse while diving in Dahab, Egypt

Getting teeth cleaned by cleaner wrasse while diving in Dahab, Egypt

Getting teeth cleaned by cleaner wrasse while diving in Dahab, Egypt

Getting teeth cleaned by cleaner wrasse while diving in Dahab, Egypt

Silly cleaner wrasse or not, I always have fun underwater with my Kit Kat — cue an “awwwww.” I’m so grateful for women in my life like Kat, who are always up for a diving adventure!

Diving The Bells, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

Diving The Bells, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

Diving The Bells, Egypt

Eventually, we reached the Blue Hole. While Jenny warned us the Blue Hole was being loved to death in terms of coral damage, I was happy to reach the shallower depths since I was back to shooting with natural light after flooding my strobe on the liveaboard.

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

No, the coral health and the fish volume couldn’t compete with what we’d seen in say, Ras Mohammed National Park off Sharm El Sheikh. But the topography, the fun little sightings, and the laid-back nature of Bells and Blue Hole won us way over nonetheless.

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

We headed back to shore for lunch.

The welcome we received in Jenny’s cafe of choice was on the level we’d come familiar with, since entering Sinai. One of the things I couldn’t help but marvel at in Dahab, and in Sinai at large, was the warm and overwhelming hospitality of the Bedouin people. In all my travels, I haven’t ever experienced anything else like it. The years have been harsh for tourism to this area, though recently, travelers have finally begun to return. And those who do have some incredible generosity awaiting them.

The proprietor came over to make sure we’d loved our lunch followed by the free local dessert he’d surprised us with, and refused payment for. “You want something else? You look tired! Maybe you stay here and rest, I go do the dive for you.” He laughed, then stopped suddenly, struck by a better idea. “Or maybe you stay here, I bring the fish here and we fill the restaurant with water, we bring dive site to you!” He laughed again, pantomiming diving through the cafe. We all cracked up, but I didn’t doubt for a second he’d do it if the laws of physics allowed.

Shore diving in Dahab, Egypt

Next up, we loaded back into our truck — helped by the incredibly kind and generous H2O driver who appeared to have attended the same hospitality school as our cafe owner — and headed over to The Canyon.

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

The Dahab Canyon is a considered an essential for all cave and cavern enthusiasts — which, ever since taking the PADI Cavern Diver course, I certainly consider myself to be.

Jenny warned in our briefing that the amount of time we’d spend in the canyon itself would depend on how many distractions we found on the way there, and what our dive computers had to say about our resulting decompression time.

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

The distractions turned out to be plentiful. We entered through a shallow, sandy lagoon with perfect visibility, making our way into a beautiful coral garden bursting with life. We marveled over perfectly placed butterfly fish, oohed and ahhed over unfazed pufferfish, and squealed into our regulator over a curious, playful octopus.

Octopus at Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

Puffer fish at Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Eventually we made our way to the canyon itself. We had just enough time to experience the freedom of the vertical drop, marvel at the perfect heart-shape of the canyon entrance from below, play in the light beams, and poke around in a glassfish-filled dome before our computers chimed in that it was time to ascend.

I wasn’t disappointed — by now I was confident I’d be back someday to explore further.

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

And there was so much more to explore above the canyon. I took a moment to admire our bubbles dancing their way out of the cavern and wriggling their way to the surface, distracted only by the sight of a plump grouper nestled comfortably into a coral hammock.

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Grouper at Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Diving The Blue Hole, Egypt

I was smitten. And full of curiosity for all the other surprises Dahab has hidden on its dive map. Already, I was bursting with excitement to return and explore more with my new  dive family.

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

So, how did our very brief peek at Dahab diving compare to our experience diving in Sharm El Shiekh? Admittedly, we had very limited time in both, but I did a ton of research prior to our trip and spoke to dozens of divers, so I feel qualified to share these thoughts.

Overall, Sharm has a greater diversity of dive sites with advanced wrecks, shallow reefs, steep walls, the works. While some resorts have house reefs, most diving is done by boat. Dahab, on the other hand, does have some great reef dives, but is more known for interesting underwater topography and shore diving — thought there are boat diving options like the sites at Gabr el Bint, which I can’t wait to explore in the future.

Octopus at Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Lionfish at Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

Canyon Dive Site in Dahab, Egypt

In general, the further up the Gulf of Aqaba you go, conventional wisdom says, the less fish and healthy coral you’ll find. Ergo, Eilat and Aqaba are going to pale in comparison to Sharm, in those respects. I found that to be true.

But remember, The Red Sea is world famous as one of the greatest dive destinations on the planet. Even in second place for under-the-sea, Dahab still blew us totally away. And, frankly, in terms of above-the-surface atmosphere, it’s not even a contest. Dahab rules, Sharm El Sheikh drools. Okay, that’s a little harsh — sorry, I just love rhymes — but if you’re at all factoring in the general vibe, Dahab is where I’ll be spending the majority of my trips in the future, with a few days in Sharm to enjoy the diversity of the dive sites there.

And thankfully, since I was far from ready to say goodbye, we had one more diving adventure to go in Egypt.

Dahab Travel Blog

Next up: my incredible final days in Egypt at Ras Abu Galum…

Many thanks to  for hosting me. As always, you receive my honest thoughts and opinions regardless of who is footing the bill. Also many thanks to  for her beautiful photos of Kat and I in this post — I loved playing dive model for a bit!

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
14 Comments...
  • Dominique
    October 27 2018

    Beautiful underwater photography! It’s been a year again since I’ve been diving, and I miss the feeling of being underwater. Your photos take me back to that happy place 🙂 Hopefully, I can schedule in a dive trip soon!
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 1 2018

      I hope so too! In the meantime, LOTS more diving content coming up around here 🙂

  • Amanda Anderson
    October 27 2018

    THIS DIVING LOOKS INCREDIBLE!!!!!

    • Meihoukai
      November 1 2018

      Warning: upcoming Middle East content will inspire wanderlust!

  • Ijana Loss
    October 28 2018

    How awesome looking!! As a non-diver who eventually wants to try diving, Dahab sounds perfect lol, and if I become some sort of dive enthusiast one day then maybe I can make it to Sharm El Sheikh later XD The only thing Dahab lacks is a CrossFit gym…

    • Meihoukai
      November 1 2018

      Maybe you could be the one to start one 😉

  • Janice Stringer
    October 28 2018

    Sounds and looks absolutely fantastic Meihoukai.
    Dahab definitely sounds like a place to visit. I like a more bohemian style of place so this sounds like it would be lovely to explore.
    My fear gets the better of me as a timid diver, so recently I’ve been doing some pool diving locally, and have decided that I’d love to dive in egypt. So am really enjoying your posts about it. Thank You!
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 1 2018

      That sounds like an incredible goal! Dahab would be a great place to start — lots of calm, easy shore dives to gain confidence in!

  • becky hutner
    October 31 2018

    SO good to have you back in the content swing, Meihoukai! Even when it’s a place I’ll likely never go and an activity I’ll never do, I still enjoy your perspective & your eye!

    • Meihoukai
      November 1 2018

      Ha, it’s funny, once I start it’s hard to stop! I’m in a heavy photo editing phase of my process right now for two different destinations and I’m just ITCHING to write again! I get high on pressing publish…

  • Sarah
    November 2 2018

    oh wow, that looks amazing! I literally had to google Dahab but now it’s on my list!
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 6 2018

      I definitely hadn’t heard of it before I became a scuba diver 🙂 It’s legendary in the dive bum world though!

  • Ondra
    November 5 2018

    Amazing photos! Egypt and Oman – 2 great places for diving.