Where To Go Snorkeling in Marsa Alam & Which Hotel To Choose
Marsa Alam is a hidden gem in Egypt that is popular among tourists who want to spend their time snorkeling and diving far away from the hustle and bustle of life. This developing region on the Red Sea Coast has some of the clearest waters and most pristine corals not only in the Middle East but all over the world. Moreover, the area provides visitors with the opportunity of swimming with huge sea turtles, playful dolphins and rare marine mammals, like the dugong. To learn where you find the most vibrant corals and which hotels are the best to choose, I prepared this Marsa Alam snorkeling tips article for you with the list of the most fantastic house reefs and recommended resorts to stay at.
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Where to go snorkeling in Marsa Alam?
Marsa Alam’s coastline is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Egypt but you should know that this is also the country’s most windiest region. Strong wind and high waves can make snorkeling dangerous, so in such conditions, hotels close their jetties and do not allow guests to enter the water.
Knowing that you are not able to go in the sea while on a snorkeling vacation is disappointing. Therefore, choosing your location wisely is essential so you will be able to enjoy Marsa Alam’s fantastic coral reefs and unique marine life.
Luckily, the coastline features some sheltered bays where snorkeling is possible no matter the weather (or restricted only when the conditions are extremely bad and dangerous) and these spots I showcase to you here now.
Best Marsa Alam Snorkeling Spots
The large sandy bay of Marsa Mubarak that lies just 8km far from the Marsa Alam International Airport is the best spot to visit if you want to see a dugong in Marsa Alam. This species lives in a small number in the Red Sea and can be found only in certain areas.
Lately, dugongs have been spotted only in a few sheltered bays near Marsa Alam where there are still extensive seagrass beds since this is what they feed on, and Marsa Mubarak is one of these few places so the chance to see one is very high.
Although this Marsa Alam snorkeling spot is most famous for its resident dugong, there is more to see here! The bay’s seagrass meadows attract not only dugongs but also huge Red Sea turtles into the bay; they can be found feeding or resting in the shallow sandy areas of the bay.
It is said that sometimes dolphin pods also swim into the bay, so you might spot dolphins too! Also, there is a small reef on the bay’s left side you can visit; it is not an extensive one, but good enough to observe the most common Red Sea fish and coral species.
How to access Marsa Mubarak
Staying at Iberotel Costa Mares
Iberotel Costa Mares is a recently opened 5-star resort that belongs to the well-known Jaz Group and is situated right in Marsa Mubarak. Staying here means that you will have easy shore access to the Marsa Mubarak snorkeling area and the highest chance to encounter the bay’s resident dugong!
Staying at Three Corners Fayrouz Plaza Beach Resort
You can stay in the nearby Three Corners Fayrouz Plaza Resort too which lies just 2km far from Marsa Mubarak. It is a highly-rated hotel just about 5 km from Marsa Alam Airport, next to Port Ghalib.
The bay is easily accessible from the Fayrouz Plaza by simple walking along the shore (approx. 10 minutes’ walk) The hotel, besides allowing access to Marsa Mubarak, has a fantastic house reef too that you can see photos about in my Three Corners Fayrouz article.
Joining a snorkel trip
When not staying in the nearby resorts, you can visit the Bay by signing up for a Marsa Mubarak snorkeling trip at your hotel’s tour agent or any Marsa Alam tour organizer. In most cases, this is a boat trip when you have approx. 2-3 hours to snorkel in the bay.
Abu Dabbab Bay
Abu Dabbab Bay, near Marsa Alam, is undoubtedly one of the best snorkeling spots in Marsa Alam thanks to the ideal conditions the bay offers for snorkelers and divers. Its soft sand and partially enclosed shape make it protected from high waves and allow safe water entry.
But not only the easy water access that makes Abu Dabbab one of the most renowned places for snorkeling in Marsa Alam; it also has a rich underwater life!
It is often referred to as ‘Turtle Bay’ since several huge sea turtles frequent the area that come to feed on the bay’s rich seagrass meadows. This means, swimming with turtles is almost guaranteed here!
The sandy bottom attracts ray species too; you can see eagle rays, leopard rays, and bottom-dwellers like guitarfish.
Abu Dabbab is also known as a spot where dugongs can be seen too, but sightings lately became rare here. This does not mean that it is impossible to see one here, but the chances are higher in Marsa Mubarak.
How to visit Abu Dabbab
Staying at Hilton Nubian Resort
The most obvious option to go snorkeling in Abu Dabbab is to stay at one of the on-site resorts and luckily, there are very good options you can choose from. The top Abu Dabbab resort is the Hilton Nubian, situated on the northern side of the bay.
This Nubian-style resort is located in a large area, a little bit further up from the beach, not directly on the shore, but there is a free shuttle service for those who do not walk to walk. I recommend this resort for people who want to spend their vacation actively while enjoying high-quality services.
Staying at Malikia Resort
Built directly at the beach of Abu Dabbab Bay on its southern side, diving or snorkeling enthusiasts will enjoy staying at the Malikia 5-star resort.
This Marsa Alam snorkeling hotel offers easy shore access to the same top-notch coral reef as the Hilton Nubian, but it is better for families because of its great animation team and water park.
Signing up for a snorkel tour
Non-hotel guests are also welcome in Abu Dabbab; there are snorkeling tours offered by almost all Marsa Alam tour organizers.
It can be either a boat trip when you will be taken to the bay by a boat so you can snorkel simply by jumping in the water from the boat, or a land trip when you will arrive from the land. Given the latter option, you snorkel from the shore and walk around in the bay.
The Coraya Bay Marsa Alam snorkeling site is popular among vacationers who are looking for a convenient area to stay as it lies just about 4 km away from the airport. This little resort town offers a wide range of accommodations in all price categories for guests who come to enjoy the Egyptian sun and explore the wonders of the Red Sea.
Due to the high amount of visitiors, it is said that the reef is not as vibrant as it was years ago when tourism in Egypt was not so intense, but there is still a lot to see here so you can observe the most common fish and coral species that found in the Red Sea.
When the sea is calm, you can explore both the northern and southern walls on the sides of the bay where visits of dolphins are often reported. If it is windy, you can snorkel on the protected, inner side only.
There are 3 jetties to access the Coraya Bay snorkeling areas. One is at the Jay Lamaya Resort, one is in front of the Steigenberger Resort Alaya and one is at Solymar Reef Resort. The shallow part of the bay (suitable for beginners) can be accessed through the sandy beach in the middle.
Best hotels to stay in Coraya Bay
To be able to go snorkeling in Coraya Bay, you need to stay at one of the area’s hotels. The best is to choose one of those hotels that lie directly at the beachfront with jetties access to the water, but tourists staying in those hotels that are not located directly near the bay are also allowed to use the jetties to enter/exit the water so you can technically choose any Coraya Bay hotel you like.
My recommendations are the following:
Solymar Reef Resort
Sitting on the beautiful Red Sea Riviera in the Marsa Alam resort area just about 18 km north of the city, Marsa Brayka is another fantastic location for snorkeling in Marsa Alam. You can access the sea through the slowly deepening sandy beach in front of the Brayka Reef Resort or from the wooden jetty of the Royal Brayka Resort.
An array of sea life awaits you on Brayka Bay’s house reef. Thousands of fish including common species like parrotfish, Red Sea clownfish, sergeant majors, butterfly and angelfish as well as napoleon fish, lionfish, crocodile fish, scorpion fish, moray eels and blue spotted rays can be seen on every dive. Additionally, turtles, reef sharks and eagle rays also visit the area.
If your dream is to swim with dolphins in Marsa Alam, Brayka is a top choice! It is one of those sheltered bays where you have a high chance to bump into a pod of playful bottlenoses or spinners as they often swim into the shallow, protected waters to rest.
Brayka Bay hotels
There are two hotels situated directly on Brayka Bay, Brayka Bay Reef Resort and its sister hotel, the Royal Brayka. Both are medium-level resorts with good house reefs and are excellent for any types of travelers including couples or families with kids. In my opinion, Brayka Reef Resort is slightly better in terms of quality.
Just about 20 km north of Marsa Alam, Marsa Shagra has one of the most beautiful house reefs in the area. Thanks to the strict environmental protection that is enforced in the bay, the corals and marine life are extremely vibrant here.
The extensive reef stretches over 2 km; it starts just meters from the shore and is accessed easily from a sandy beach. Depths range from 3-30 ft (1-10 meters) to 40ft (130ft) on the outside wall. On top of thousands of marine life species and a wide variety of Red Sea corals, sometimes even large marine animals, such as the rare dugong and whale shark pass along Marsa Shagra!
If you decide to visit this fantastic snorkeling spot in Marsa Alam, you can stay at the on-site Marsa Shagra Village. This Bedouin camp-style accommodation was opened more than 30 years ago. It is managed eco-consciously and attracts mainly divers due to its unlimited house reef diving concept, but it is an excellent choice for snorkelers too.
Situated in one of the few sandy bays of the Marsa Alam coast, Shoni Bay is a natural cove formed over hundreds of years by floods from the surrounding mountainous desert area. Its unique shape makes it sheltered by high wind and waves that allows easy and safe entrance from a sandy, gradually deepening beach.
Besides healthy corals, fish and crustaceans, there is a possibility of encountering dolphin pods that often visit the bay. Occasional dugong sightings are also reported here, but not as common as in Marsa Mubarak or in Abu Dabbab.
If you want to stay in Shoni Bay, make a reservation at Paradise Club Shoni Bay as this is the only resort situated in this bay.
Zerib Kebir Bay
The fairly sheltered bay of Zerib Kebir is one of the most famous snorkeling sites in Marsa Alam, about 10km south of El Quseir.
The bay is suitable for all levels of snorkelers and divers. with a magnificent house reef. There is a wide variety of marine life to find on the house reef including plenty of hard and soft corals, as well as fish species like parrotfish, surgeonfish, angelfish, puffers, lionfish and scorpion fish, but you can see octopus, nudibranchs and with little luck, turtles, leopards rays and dolphins too.
Entering the sea, you will start snorkeling in a shallow bay. On the north, there is a beautiful coral garden with large coral pinnacles. The southern side features tunnels, caves and canyons.
Where to stay near Zerib Kebir Bay
The Rohanou Beach Resort And Ecolodge is a smaller-sized hotel complex on the edge of Zerib Kebir Bay. Its location and setting make it a good option for people who seek peace and quiet and want to focus on exploring the underwater wonders of the Red Sea at the house reef situated directly in front of the hotel.
If you want, you can also go diving not only snorkeling as the resort has an on-site diving center.
Sharm El Luli
Also known as Ras Hankorab Beach, Sharm el Luli is one of the most beautiful beaches in Egypt with Maldivian-like white sand and crystal clear waters.
Typically, guests of those hotels that do not have a sheltered bay sign up for Sharm El Luli snorkel tours when they are not able to snorkel at their hotels’ house reefs due to strong winds because this is one of those places to go snorkeling in Marsa Alam that is swimmable almost all the time.
The water can be a bit cloudy in the shallow when it is windy, but it clears up as it deepens towards the reef wall.
After entering the water, you can snorkel around the small reef patches in the shallow water and also along the main reef on the left side. Note that this is a wild, undeveloped beach with no facilities, restaurants or hotels around.
Lahami Bay, in the southernmost region of the Egyptian Red Sea coast, is a popular choice among those travelers who really want to unwind and relax while spending their vacation in a paradise location far away from the noisy and stressful ordinary days.
The bay offers reefs for snorkelers at all levels; there is a smaller reef close to the shore for beginners, while a banana-shaped bigger reef (called Banana Reef) for the advanced where you can spend hours observing a variety of corals and beautiful Red Sea fish species without getting bored.
There is a chance to see turtles and dugongs too! I think that a week is too short to explore all the reefs around, so make sure to come for a longer stay!
What’s more, this is the best bay to spend your Marsa Alam snorkeling vacation if you want to visit the famous Sataya Reef (home to a big population of spinner dolphins) since Hamata Port (where Sataya tours depart from) is just about 10 mins-drive from Lahami Bay.
Where to stay to access Lahami Bay
To enjoy daily snorkeling in this fantastic bay, choose to stay in Lahami Bay Resort. This 4-star hotel is situated in a calm, relaxing environment and offers easy shore access through a gently sloping sandy beach to one of Marsa Alam’s best house reefs.
Other Marsa Alam snorkeling hotel recommendations
The below hotels are not situated in protected bays but given good conditions (smooth seas and low wind), snorkeling is excellent at their house reefs, so it is worth checking these options too:
Concorde Moreen Beach Resort
Although it is not a fancy hotel complex, Concorde Moreen Beach Resort is a beloved hotel in Marsa Alam as it is not so far from the airport, has good snorkeling and is visited by dolphins on a regular basis!
I loved staying in this resort and was lucky enough to see its vibrant house reefs and swim with dolphins. Note that entering the sea through the jetty and going snorkeling is only possible when the water is calm.
Blend Elphistone Resort
The Blend Elphistone Resort is another hotel that is excellent in terms of snorkeling when the sea is calm. Its lively house reef (accessible through a long jetty) is teeming with life; you can swim along lots of fishes and sea turtles while snorkeling here. Again, be prepared as this location can be very windy at times.
Novotel Marsa Alam
This member of the famous chain is a quiet, Novotel Marsa Alam (located in El Quseir Waterfront, about 1-hour drive from RMF airport) is a family-friendly hotel with various activities for kids. As its coastline is open, it can get pretty windy, but those who are lucky to stay here when entering the water is safe will be rewarded with the possibility of discovering a vivid and colorful reef and maybe swimming with turtles and dolphins.
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