Tourism in West Asia is brimming – with monumental pyramids, mouth-watering desserts, and rocky terrains. However, nestled between the mountains and deserts are West Asia’s hidden diving gems. Read more to uncover the hidden dive destinations of West Asia!
Egypt connects the northeast of Africa with the Middle East, dubbed a tourist hub for many in west Asia. While it stands out impeccably for its age-old landscape and majestic structures, tourists flock to this sandy terrain for much more than that – the unexplored waters. The mysterious Egyptian waters are not a frequent tourist attraction but they hold so much potential to divers seeking a challenge.
The closest option is flying to Marsa Alam airport (RMF). Organise a transfer from your hotel which will pick you up from the airport. The ride from the airport to Hamata is approximately 2 and a half hours. We recommend that you book a stay with a liveaboard to truly experience the pristine waters of Hamata. Hamata is close to St. John’s reef, which is also an excellent starting point for liveaboards.
Hamata is a much less frequented region in comparison to the other regions of the Red Sea. More so, it is closer to the south. This results in warmer aquatic environments and a great diving site to witness the migration of fishes. Hamata archipelago includes islands such as Gota Soraya, Sha’ab Claudia, Abu Galawa Kebir, Shaab Maksur, Sha’ab Ruhr, Camilla & Farewell, Habili Coconut, El Bohar el Kebir, Sha’ab Mohammed, and the Qula’an Islands.
Hamata is one of the best-kept secrets of Egypt, with uncrowded, clear waters away from the tourist-ridden dive spots. Take a look at these remote yet remarkable dive destinations across Hamata.
Sha’ab Sataya (Satyah) is an extremely massive boomerang-shaped reef. The reef rises from depths of as low as 15 metres. Circling this gorgeous natural reef are huge pods of spinner dolphins. Don’t forget to capture these rare sights with your camera!
Maksur is a large and colourful reef with steep drop-offs and strong currents. The area is only visited by those on liveaboards, making it very exclusive and private. Sharks from the region are found lurking in these waters so keep an eye out!
Abu Ghusun is an interesting wreck dive in the region of Hamata. Located about 70 kilometres south of Marsa Alam, this 65-metre long wreck is the gem of Hamata. The shipwreck is accessible as it lies around 15 metres deep and is suitable for all levels of diving.
There are many theories that surround the history of this wreck. Some say that ship sank to its doom when it caught fire while others suggest that it struck an object in the sea. Whatever it may be, this intimate vessel that sits silently on the seafloor has been gathering a lot of avid wreck divers and underwater photographers recently.
The wreck is home to a colourful assortment of marine species such as the blue-spotted ray, crocodile fish, an abundance of vibrant hard and soft corals, and moray eels. If you’re lucky enough, you might even spot sea turtles on your dive.
Saudi Arabia remains one of the least dived areas of the Red Sea. Most of the reefs and coastline are unexplored and untouched. This leaves divers with a crushing urge to discover the many dive sites under these waters.
Take a direct flight to King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah and if you’ve opted for a liveaboard, which we highly recommend, a coach will transport you to and from the airport.
Known for its breathtaking beaches and coastline, diving in Jeddah’s waters transports you to another dimension. The underwater world and its marvelous marine life are unmatched. Divers can spot electric eels, rays, and schools of colorful reef fish circling these untouched waters.
Ann Ann wreck
This is noted as one of the biggest and most challenging wrecks of Jeddah. The wreck is firmly plowed into the reef, standing vertically at a depth of 32 metres. The vessel went down in 1977 and over time, has become the home for many aquatic species such as hard and soft corals as well as shellfishes. Advanced divers can cautiously swim through the cargo rooms and many other accessible parts of the wreck while marveling at this encrusted giant. Blue-striped snappers, blue-spotted stingrays, tunas, and, occasionally, white-tip sharks are encountered by divers around this wreck.
Jabal Al Lith
Jabal Al Lith Island is an absolutely breathtaking island off the coast of Jeddah. From its shallow clear waters to its bright coloured corals, this remote island is an ideal destination for divers looking to explore and uncover secrets of the waters. You may spot large fishes as well as whale sharks snorkeling by.
Originally known as the Staphonos, Cable Wreck is a large vessel carrying construction materials when it sank to the depths of the Jeddah waters in 1978. The bottom of the ship relaxes at a 24 metre depth and with great natural sunlight hitting from the surface, it naturally lights up the cargo and lets divers navigate through with ease. An intimidating Guitar Shark wanders the familiar waters as well as the bow and white tip sharks, which are a common occurrence out along the ledge. In addition, a large school of Goatfish and Blue striped Snappers are spotted around the mast of the vessel.
The Boiler Wreck is considered a particularly thrilling dive of Jeddah and is located in Abu Madafi reef. Over the centuries, Boiler wreck has become one of these sites with overgrown corals that cover the structure, but you still can see some part of the vessel.
Once in the waters, you will see large sea fans swaying in the currents, large black coral bushes home to smaller species, and soft corals of pink and scarlet red hues. Consider yourself lucky if you spot sharks, manta rays, and large carnivorous fish like bonito, blue-fin jacks, and kingfish passing by the walls. This wreck has resident moray eels and other marine animals around the ship.
Close to the wreck, less than 3 metres in fact, you’ll find a complex system of caverns and gullies that cut through the reef. It takes you in a tunnel to an open pool that is 5 metres deep. The light seeping in through the small openings from the top probably holds the title for ‘the most photogenic site off Jeddah’, perfect if you’re an underwater photographer or videographer.
Miss Marie Wreck
Miss Marie is a coaster that sank stern first, leaving the bows. The first thing that strikes you as you arrive is the fact that it is not just one wreck, but three, two with their bows protruding out of the water. It is an extremely difficult wreck to explore, given that it is completely untouched. The reef surrounding the wreck is full of life, has a thriving garden of corals and a wealth of interesting gullies. Turtles, rays, and occasionally-spotted moray swim alongside the brightly-colored fish that inhabit the waters. Rarely visited by sharks passing by, including hammerhead, lemon, reef, and tiger sharks. The combination of wreck and reef make a varied and interesting dive site and excites divers and photographers alike.
Qatar is increasingly becoming one of the world’s most exciting places to visit! A young country with an unhinged growing economy, it is home to something most unexpected – scuba diving! Qatar is strategically located on the Northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and is adjacent to the warmer waters of the Persian Gulf. The unexplored waters of Qatar make it a worthy candidate for interesting diving destinations in West Asia. Come explore its capital Doha as well as the hidden gems under the surface.
Halool Island, Doha
You can fly to Doha’s airport, Hamad International Airport (DOH), from any international city. Interestingly, Doha’s airport is situated on the coast. This makes travel from the airport to your resort or dive centre convenient and quick.
As far as scuba diving in Qatar goes, most of the dive centers are located in the capital city of Doha, which is home to a few reefs and lots of wrecks. Rebreather, Sidemount, and Technical diving are popular here and many dive centers offer greatly advanced dives.
MO Wreck is a 25-metre deep exciting wreck dive of a sunken shipwreck. The impact upon submerging split the ship into two, opening up many areas for safe penetration. As you explore the wreck deeper, you’ll encounter darker locations about the ship. We highly recommend you carry a torch during this dive.
The wreck is engulfed with picture-perfect hard and soft corals. Many species of resident fishes can be found here including Arabian Blue Angelfish, Sergeant Major, Grouper, Batfish, Barracuda, Spangled Emperor, Towbar seabream, Snapper, needlefish jellyfish, clownfish, and even cuttlefish! Larger fishes like several species of rays and nursing sharks are a rare but possible occurrence.
Reclining at a depth of 35 metres, the Pericle Wreck is an offshore wreck dive for divers looking for something ‘off the beaten track’. This wreck is a rather large cargo ship so it’s recommended that you allocate a couple of hours for this majestic dive. The propellers are still intact and easily recognisable. The history behind this sunken cargo ship is a blur to many but that doesn’t stop curious divers from exploring this hidden gem.
The usual resident fishes of Qatar’s waters are the Arabian Blue, Angelfish, Groupers, Jellyfishes, and many other exotic marine species. Nursing sharks and large manta rays can be observed gliding just below the water’s surface. If you’re lucky, you may even come across friendly fleeting dolphins on your boat journey to the dive spot.
Jordan, a small Arab nation on the east bank of the Jordan River, is popularly defined by its ancient monuments, nature reserves and beautiful seaside resorts. However, for what it lacks in landmass, it makes up for it with its abundance of underwater biodiversity. Divers can explore these untouched waters and enjoy a wide variety of corals as well as a myriad of reef fish.
Aqaba is the only coastal city of Jordan, but it also houses an airport, King Hussein International Airport (AQJ), that connects the city to other parts of West Asia. You can get around Aqaba by booking a private hire taxi or a bus.
At Aqaba, you can experience some of the best snorkeling and diving experiences in the world. The mild climate in the region makes it an ideal location all year round, with water temperatures around 26°C during the summer, dropping to 20°C in the winter.
From graceful Hawksbill turtles to fluorescent Nudibranchs, divers will be greeted with over 1,200 species of marine animals. Each dive site varies heavily in topography and vibrant marine ecosystems. It is a paradise for photographers and sea critter lovers alike. Look no further for your next diving adventure!
Cedar Pride Wreck
Cedar Pride is a notable wreck in the waters of Jordan. Located at the bottom of the Red Sea, this wreck is easily accessible from the shore. This dive is relatively easier and is suitable for all levels of diving, though you might require a higher level of diving skills if you were to dive to the deeper parts of the wreck such as the stern, which sits at 16 metres.
Much of the wreck is left untouched, with a veil of corals growing over the exterior and interior walls. It is truly a remarkable sight swimming through the corridors of this vessel that are easy to penetrate.
A rich assortment of corals has encrusted themselves on this wreck over a span of more than 3 decades. Reef fishes are commonly spotted circling around and through the ships. During a night dive, expect to see octopi and morays out for their hunt.
Lying at the bottom of Aqaba for over 15 years now, The Tank dive site is exactly what its title denotes. This tank sits at the sandy bottom around 5 to 7 metres deep. The waters are extremely clear and pristine and you can spot more than just the silhouette of the tank. This lifeless piece of metal has been a source of life for the diverse marine species that have called it home. Soft corals and sponges have marked their territory over this wreck, complemented with the reef fishes that scurry past divers.
Close to the Absheron Peninsula, at the east and south of Baku, you’ll find a small archipelago of islands most of which are rocky and compact with an average depth near 5 to 12 metres. The waters surrounding them are filled with a small variety of different fish; among the big sea species, you may see Caspian seals. Also, in some resort areas, you may see an interesting type of black turtle.
You can head to the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, by flying to its airport – Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD). From the port city of Baku, you can hop onto a speedboat to take you out to explore the Caspian Sea.
Located on the southwest coast of Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea is the world’s biggest inland body of water. It may not be a popular destination for avid divers and photographers, but it holds many hidden treasures under its unexplored waters.
Diving in the deep blues of the Caspian Sea is one of the most exciting and breathtaking experiences. The mysterious, undiscovered underwater world has attracted divers to explore its waters and grace their eyes with the gorgeous seascapes. Diving deeper into the waters of the Caspian is bound to reveal fascinating encounters and bring you back over and over again.
For more travel advisories in West Asia, get your copy of Asian Diver Magazine Issue 4/2021 Collector’s Edition available online at Asian Geo.