Red Sea diving: Alternatives to Sharm el-Sheikh
Nuweiba-Taba coastline: The get-away-from-it-all retreat
For an even simpler approach to beachside bliss, south Sinai's best beaches are spread along the coast between the port town of Nuweiba and the border town of Taba. These lonely, picturesque sweeps of sand, particularly the Mahash and Ras Burgaa areas, have, for the most part, been left alone by the resorts, making them perfect for travellers seeking a tranquil beach break. Here is where you will find authentic Egyptian beach camps strung out along the shoreline where travellers sleep in basic huts made of bamboo and palm leaf thatch.
With huts situated on a prime stretch of white sand, Sawa Camp is a little oasis of simple beach perfection. Diving can be organised through the camp and there is an excellent snorkelling reef just offshore. Further north, Basata Camp is an experiment in ecological living with an organic garden and a recycling program. There are mud-brick bungalows for families set back from the beach and smaller huts on the sand itself.
With no nightlife or amenities nearby (each camp has its own restaurants), time moves slowly, punctuated only by the course of the sun as it creeps across the sky, and the evening entertainment is watching the moon slink over Saudi Arabia's cliffs and rise into the star-studded sky.
Diving can be organised through the camps (excursions are usually shore dives and involve driving along the coast to the location) but this holiday is really about complete relaxation. If you fancy days spent swinging from a hammock outside your beach hut before heading out for a swim, these camps offer a slice of Sinai as of yet untouched by the tourism boom, with sublime sandy vistas in abundance.
Nuweiba and Taba dives sites
MFO Pipeline (Nuweiba): This unique dive site is centred around a set of pipeline that runs offshore from an old Israeli desalination site in Nuweiba. There is plenty of soft coral growth on the pipes to examine, but the highlight is the wealth of marine life found here.
The Sinker (Nuweiba): The Sinker is an old Israeli buoy which was mistakenly sunk and now sits 8m below sea level. Over the years the buoy's chains have attracted an immense amount of coral growth, and there are usually plenty of lionfish in residence.
Ras Shaitan (15km north of Nuweiba): Do not let the scary name – which translates to “Satan's Head” – put you off. This gorgeous dive with coral pinnacles and stunning table corals also offers excellent marine life spotting, with both rays and sharks frequenting the area.
Ras Amira (Taba): Turtles, eagle rays and shoals of tuna are often spotted on this easy, boat-accessed dive, and there is even a chance of a dolphin sighting.