Wednesday, June 16

Red Sea Marine Parks

Egypt’s offshore islands earned the status of Marine Protectorates in 1983. These include the Brothers (or Al Akhawein as it’s called locally), Daedalus (or Abu El Kizan) plus Zabargad and Rocky Islands..

Basicaally all the island in the red sea are protected areas but we have two kind of Marine Protectorates. The fee collecting areas and the non fee colleting areas. My wish is that one day the whole Hurghada area (preferrably the entire Red Sea) would be a big Protectorate and the fee would be $20 US a day for every singel diver and snorekeler. That way we would get rid of a lot of the cheap, crap dive centres who doesn’t care.

The Marine Parks in Egypt are under supervision of Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA). If you want to read more about this orginasition click here.

I’d like to direct a very special thanks for priceless help
regarding dates, fees and areas on this page to:
Dr. Moustafa Fouda – Director Nature Conservation Sector

Fee Collecting Marine Parks

Big Giftun Islands

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area:12.8 km2
Entry fee:20L.E / Person / Day

Small Giftun Islands

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area:3.8 km2
Entry fee:20L.E / Person / Day

In 2000 the government started to collect fees for the Giftun Islands as marine parks from the divers and snorkelers through the dive centres. This money goes to Egyptian Protectorates and is equally divided between national parks in need. Since then the restrictions as to how many boats are allowed in and an extra fee has been collected began to work a little bit better.

From April 1st 2008, new regulations are in place for visitors to the areas surrounding Small Giftun and Big Giftun Islands and all visitors should pay a 20LE service charge. The money is collected by the Red Sea Governorate and shared with the National Parks Authority to be spent on conservation initiatives. Famous dive sites are; Gorgonian Garden a.k.a. Police Station, Erg Somaya, Torfa Ben El Gebel, Banana Reef, Turtle Bay and El Fanous.

Since it was the Egyptian government that made the Giftun Islands an official Marine Protectorate there was a bit of a confusion when the same Egyptian government in 2005 wanted to sell the islands to developers to build hotels on… There was a huge protest manifestation from HEPCA together with the local dive centres and the plans were redrawn… There is already a “road house” for snorkelers on Big Giftun called Mahmya (right) and that’s more than enough.

Ras Mohammed

Marine Protectorate: 1983
Area: 850 km2
Entry fee: 5 US $ / Person / Day

The extreme located at the Southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, Ras Mohammed has always had huge strategic importance. Ancient Egyptians fought for to controlled trade on the Red Sea from this advantage point. The Arabs and later the Ottomans who ruled Egypt, always kept a strong military presence to secure the land and naval between Europe and the East, as well as the passage ways to Mecca.

The name Ras Mohammed allegedly comes from one of the cliffs (above) in the area which resembled the features of the Prophet Muhamed.

Ras Mohamed is important as a landmark for migratory soaring birds. The majority of the world populations of white stork pass through this area.

The Mangrove found in the Ras Mohammed National park (the only Marine Protectorate in Egypt with National Park Status) is the most notherly in the world and several tour operatore arrange bus trips to this rea.

Al Akhawein – The Brother Islands Marine Park

The Brothers Islands are two isolated, low lying, oval shaped, volcanic islands, easily missed if it wasn’t for the 32 meter high lighthouse. Only 1km apart, they are located south east of Safaga, some 200 kilometres south of Ras Mohammed and 67km east of El Quseir. The larger of the two, appropreatly named Big Brother, is just 100m wide and just under ½ km long. Little Brother is quite a bit smaller, as the name suggests.

The Brothers location, quite far from shore, together with the nature of wicked winds and swell, can make the diving conditions here demanding to say the least, especially in the winter, October-April. This suggests that you need qualification and experience beyond novice to safely pull this off, the rules of CWSD demands AOW or equivalent or at least 50 dives. However; for experienced divers this may prove to be one of the more rewarding dive destintions to be found.

The Islands were closed to divers in 1995 due to fearers of environmental damage but in 1998 the Red Sea Governorate of Egypt reopened the islands and has since controlled access through its guidelines for Egypt’s Red Sea liveaboard operators.

The islands’ harsh topside appearance gives no hint as to the explosion of life that resides just below the surface. The Brothers offer mostly wall dives with steep drop offs, frequently swept by strong currents. This water movement encourages an abundance of soft coral growth along with giantic gorgonians which turn into the current as it changes direction. In and around the reef groupers, butterflyfish and blue spotted rays dart behind clouds of orange anthias.

Divers often overlook the beautiful walls as they become overwhelmed by the sheer number of pelagic species. schools of trevally, dogtooth tuna and barracuda hang in the blue occasionally turning to avoid the local apex predators, sharks. grey, silky, thresher, silvertip and oceanic whitetip as well as mantas find their way to the Brothers. I have even seen a mola mola here.

Big Brother Island

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area: 0.05 km2
Entry fee 5 US$ / Person / Day

The Aida was carrying supply to the light house in 1957 when she hit the ref at the jety on Big Brother. Her stern section with the superstructure now clings on to the reef wall with the top of the wreck on 25m and the deepest point around 65m.

The island’s west and east sides are both shear walls with overhangs and ravines running along and down them. In still waters these walls are great to investigate, when the current is running they’re exhilarating drift dives. On the South West wall the old jetty adds interest and is also a marker that you are not far from the Big Brother’s southern plateau. Here the wall flattens gently shelving to 40m before it continues its descent into the abyss.

On the Northern most tip is a second wreck. The Numidia (right) also rests on the reef in a mind boggeling angle, starting with debris from the bowat around 8m and her stern and propeller down at around 85m.

The two wrecks are located close to each other and can be combined in a single dive but that would leave little time to examine the rich reef, or to watch out in the blue for whatever may be passing.

Little Brother Island

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area: 0.021 km2
Entry fee 5 US$ / Person / Day

Little Brother is a slightly smaller island, hence a smaller surrounding reef but with marine life more spectacular and beautiful than anywhere else.

Here you will drift along walls of colourful soft corals and delicate gorgonian forests, particularly on the south east wall.

On the west side in the shallow part of the reef you find overhangs, small caves and swim throuhgs to explore. Here you can find excellent photo angles.

At the north end a small plateau extends out into the blue. In fact the deeper ridge is stretching all the way to the larger island but at great depth. On 40m there is a small bump and here we find the cleaning station where the action is going on.

The north end is a good spot to hang out waiting for the cruising sharks. Normally you find grey reef shark and thresher shark (right) coming up here for a brush up at the local cleaning station. Some times also hammer heads pass by.

Abu Kizan – Daedalus Reef Marine Park

Marine Protectorate since: 1986
Area:0.418 km2
Entry fee: 5 US$ / Person / Day

In the middle of the sea, some 180Km south from the Brothers and 96Km south west of Marsa Alam a big reef reaches for the surface frommore than 1.000m depth. Its location is only given away by a lighthouse with a long causeway.

The almost circular reef is around 800m across and the steep walls of hard corals are almost always punished by wicked currents and patrolled by several species of shark.

The big congregations of female Scalloped Hammerheads in May to July have made the reef famous world wide but also Threshers, Longimanus, Silkies and Grey Reef Sharks are regular visitors. There’s a chance of the randome Manta or Whaleshark as well.

On the north east corner you find a large concentration of colourful anemones with resident anemonefish creatively enough called Anemone City. This starts on about 10m and goes all the way down to around 30m.

On the north east corner there are two huge canyons in the reef wall and in the first one you’ll find the perfect backdrop for a wide angle photo in the shape of a gigantic Mountain Coral that cascades down the wall like a waterfall from 5m to about 25m.

This is a huge reef and there is almost always one sheltered side giving an option to dive whatever conditions you have. Although, it is in the middle of the sea so even here dives can be cancelled for safety reasons.

Zabargad Island Marine Park

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area: 4.976 km2
Entry fee: 5 US$ / Person / Day

Now uninhabited, this island was in the past exploited by ancient Pharaohs, Romans and, more recently, the Egyptians who mined its precious green olivine mineral. Situated 46km south east of the Ras Banas peninsular and 20km due east of St John´s well known reef system, Zabargad is a large island encircled by reef and with several lagoons that offer Liveaboards well protected moorings.

This is a well known breeding site for Green Turtles and on the sandy beaches of this Island over 2.000 nests have been reported. This is an extremely important and fragile process which could easily be destroyed. It’s a good thing that this island is located far from shore and likely to escape tourist developments which has destroyed many of the breading beaches along the coast line.

There are also a couple of wrecks including the Russian “Spy Ship” Khanka (left & right).

The reefs on the south side are relatively shallow walls with coral pinnacles rising from the gentle slopes creating overhangs and swim throughs that add interest to the dive. The shelf next to the walls progressivly plunge down into deeper water. Most liveaboards only use this dive site for night dives but it’s actually really pretty and is worth a dive daytime as well.

Rocky Island Marine Park

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area:0.176 km2
Entry fee: 5 US$ / Person / Day

Just, over 5km south east of Zabargad, Rocky is another low lying reef with steep walls falling away into the abyss. More exposed that Zabargad Liveaboards tend not to overnight here. The north face takes the brunt of the prevailing weather and currents so the corals fare less well but the flip side is the presence of numerous pelagic species notably hammerheads, aswell as large groupers and Napoleon Wrasse. The coral growth is best on the east side with coral blocks and open plateau. Rocky is also the location of the wreck of the Maiden, very much a deep wreck for tech divers only.


Qeisum Island

Marine Protectorate since: 1986
Area: 9.7 km2

Tawila Island

Marine Protectorate since: 2006
Area: 19.2 km2

This area is not used much for diving but some aqua-centres go here for snorkelling. There is an old jetty on the south end of the island where some safari boats stop for a stroll on the island and a BBQ in the evening.

Big Siyoul Island

Marine Protectorate since:2006
Area:0.14 km2

This island has a somewhat interesting topography with huge pot holes with seawater. There are two main dive sites at Big Siyoul: To the east, right at the end of the reef you find Ras Siyoul which is famous for it’s more or less resident zebra shark. On the south side the dive site Siyoul Gilwa extends almost the entire length of the reef.

Small Siyoul Islands

Marine Protectorate snce:2006
Area: 0.01 km2

Um Gammar Island

Marine Protectorate since:2006
Area: 0.03 km2

The name means Mother of the Moon and when you see the shape of the island it’s easy to see why. The area offers plenty of different dives, the most common being the south east corner with the cave at 30m. The north plateau dive is exceptional.

El Fanadeer

Marine Protectorate since: 2006
Area: 3.6 km2

This is the longest reef in the Hurghada area that is not attached to an island or the main land. It’s not a very dramatic underwater landscape but a rather boring shallow wall and a 10-20m wide shelf that ends at a drop off. No surprises. However, this is one of the best dive sites in the area because of the extremely rich and exiting marine life.

Abu Ramada Island

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area:0.25 km2

This is a long slender island with a spectacular plateau to the north, a terraced sloping south end, a sheer wall to the east and the classic Red Sea shelf to the west. It could not be a more typical island by design.

Abu Minkar Island

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area: 1.44 km2

This is the westerly extension of the Giftun Islands. Not much diving is going on here. Some glass boats and snorkelers comes here. On the picture to the left you see the vegetation on the flat island. This mainly consists of thorny rough bushes. In the background you can see the Big Giftun Island and in the foreground a small fishing boat called Felouka.

Magawish Islands

Marine Protectorate since: 1986
Area:0.81 km2

There are two Magawish islands; Big Magawish and Small Magawish. Mainly glass boats and snorkelers comes here.

Small Magawish Island with “Magawish Resort” as back drop. Magawish Resort was the first big hotel complex built in Hurghada and was mainly used by Club Med back then. Since 1999 it’s the Scandinavians dominating the resort’s 1.5km long beach. This is the longest unbroken beach in town.

Sahl Hashish Island

Marine Protectorate since:1986
Area: 0.05 km2

At the most southerly end of the daily diving area in Hurghada this island is surrounded with a long reef system including several dive sites.

Liveaboard often use this as the last dive on the way back into Hurghada from the south. Or as the check dive on the way out.

The drift dive on the east side is quite cool and is finished of through a shallow channel into the lagoon. The dive on the south end is a series of ergs and pinnacles with a lush marine life and some sea grass that gave the reef it’s name. It’s got nothing to do with contraband…

Tobia Island

Marine Protectorate since: 1986
Area:0.15 km2

Tobia Island is not big but around it is an area with many popular dive sites and snorkel sites such as the classic night dive on Tobia Arba. The island is located just south of Abu Soba and is often used as a stop by snorkel boats.

Wadi Gamal Island

Marine Protectorate since: 2003
Area:2.3 km2


We will be updating this page with pictures as soon as they are available 🙂