Snorkeling in Sharm el-Sheikh

Raj and I took off to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for my birthday this past weekend. Unlike ALL of the other trips I’ve ever planned, this trip was booked through a travel agent–yes, they still have them here and to get any type of deal, you have to use one. We booked the trip a few weeks ago, shortly after I arrived, at a local travel agency in a nearby mall. Normally, I’m our travel agent, scouring through multiple travel guides, seeking out TripAdvisor ratings and points of interest, so this was all very new and scary to me–to leave our vacation in the hands of an agent–the only agent at the travel agency who spoke English. The agent handed us a leaflet of options, most of the writing was in Arabic, so all I could read were the names of the hotels, and with the exception of Marriott and Hilton, the rest were unfamiliar. We chose the Marriott, but they were booked. Next down the list was Sonesta. I’ve never heard of it, but it was similarly priced to the Marriott, so I figured it would be comparable. We paid for the trip: airfare, transfers, hotel, taxes, etc. in full and were told to come back to pick up the tickets three days before the trip. Fast forward to three days before the trip: Raj goes to pick up the tickets and is told to come back the day before the flight. Raj was busy working the day before the flight so I was the lucky one who got to go back and pick up the tickets. Much to our relief, we were given confirmation and were all set to go.

The flight was uneventful. We arrived on time and were directed by representatives of the travel agency to board a bus that would drop us off at the hotel (apparently, EVERYONE uses this same travel agency, so they all knew what to do). We arrived at the hotel and it looked nothing like the pictures. I’m sure my face said it all because the front desk clerk was very concerned that I was not happy. We were shown to our room, which was quite lovely, and then I got over it. We settled in, booked a couple of outings for snorkeling and St. Catherine’s monastery, and then relaxed by the pool.

We scheduled a snorkeling trip for Friday. We were picked up at our hotel by the tour company and whisked off to Naama Bay. We didn’t bring any of our equipment and had to rent it at the dock. As you can see in the pictures, this place was a mess. Throngs of people were waiting alongside of us to get onto their boat. It was a strange mix of people too: scantily clad Europeans next to fully covered women and children.

After waiting for about an hour in the extreme heat (it was at least 105 degrees F) and feeling unsure of what to expect, our guide corralled us through the security checkpoint and onto the boat. As we were boarding, I mentioned to Raj that this was definitely not the party boat. We were one of two western couples, the rest being Arab families FULLY clothed. All of the women and children went onto the upper level and we chose to lay out on the sun deck in the bow. We cruised out of the bay and up the shoreline for about an hour until we arrived at our first of two snorkeling sites. Our guide informed us that we would be ‘drift snorkeling,’ essentially just following his lead. The first site was on a coral reef that holds the remains of a huge ship (see below). There were about forty people on board, but only seven of us (Raj and myself included) got into the water (six men and me, the one infidel in the bikini–talk about making you feel awkward). Of the seven snorkelers, two of the men held onto an inner tube that the guide was pulling. The reef was beautiful, but there wasn’t as much sea life as I expected.

Shipwreck, our first stop snorkeling stop

We spent about thirty minutes in the water and then headed to our next site for lunch. We were served a typical Egyptian meal of tahini, rice, pita, fish, and falafel and were told we could swim a bit more before heading off to our last stop. We spent far too long waiting around after lunch and eventually made it to our final snorkeling stop and spent thirty more minutes in the water. This spot was the same. It was beautiful, but not teaming with sea life.

After an entire day on the water, we were exhausted (from doing little more than laying out and swimming). We were dropped back off at the hotel, ate dinner and crashed in anticipation of our next day’s adventures to the monastery of St. Catherine’s.

10 thoughts on “Snorkeling in Sharm el-Sheikh

  1. Your pictures are AMAZING! The water looks incredible! What a fun way to spend your birthday. Love the pictures of your fellow snorkelers, mostly because I can’t picture you among them. Did you really think that any of those women would have gone snorkeling? I’m not surprised you were the only woman. I wish you had a picture of the two men holding onto the inner tube. That’s definitely my favorite part. Glad you had a fun birthday weekend!!

    1. Raj made me cover up when a man on the boat next to us was taking pictures of me while his wife was in the FULL burka. I can’t imagine wearing that in 105 degrees.

      1. HAHAHAHA YOU LIE! You need to write a book. You can’t make this stuff up. Was the man at least trying to be subtle? Or was he asking to pose with you? Maybe he thought you were famous. You probably DO look like a movie star over there among all those burkas.

  2. The water looks great but what was the temp. of the water? At 105 degrees anything would have been a blessing. As usual the pictures and the story line is wonderful.. I hope all who read the blog are enjoying it as much as me.. If not, it is their loss.

  3. I want to see the bikini pictures. That might get you a few more followers. I agree with Maggie, it’s a shame that we couldn’t see pictures of the grown men with their “floaties” on.

    1. Sorry, no bikini shots. I wish we had taken pictures of the families and the “floaties,’ but we were too annoyed at watching the families throw trash from the upper deck into the water for the fish to attempt to eat. There is one photo of a man on the bow, he’s lounging in the very front of the boat. He’s one of the ‘floatie’ men. He and his family did hundreds of poses for us and then we had the pleasure of having him sit in front of us for most of the trip.

  4. Question: Is the main purpose of the outing to go snorkeling? I was curious that most of the passengers did not snorkel. I’d have been next to you! Even without a lot of sea life, I bet it was so pretty.

    1. Yeah, I know. That’s what we thought. I can’t imagine getting on a boat in 105 degree scorching sun only to sit on the upper deck. Very strange, but for hte few of us who went into the water, it was amazing. Too bad you weren’t there, female company would have been a welcome relief!!!

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