Alone In The Red Sea? Scuba Diving In Eritrea

Moray Eel Dahlak Island Eritrea

Moray Eel Dahlak Island Eritrea

The waters of the Red Sea are warm and inviting. Coupled with small crowds and friendly people, the sites in Eritrea make Red Sea diving a pleasurable experience, and a rare one that will create stories for you to tell your other diving friends. Although most of Eritrea’s dive sites are more than 40 minutes by boat off the country’s main coast, divers seem to agree: the experience is worth the wait. Let’s take a closer look!


For those staying closer to shore, there is diving just off the coast Massawa where divers will be impressed by the amount of fish and other marine life. Diving trips in Massawa, however, are limited and should be booked in advance as the demand is high.

Eritreans known to be water-shy swimmers mostly choose water sports closer to dry land. There is a travel report written by an Eritrean visiting Massawa in 2009 which gives a good insight of what to expect. One section of the report describes it as follows;

…The next day after breakfast we arrived at the Red Sea Hotel. Two friendly employees took us to the diving and snorkel center for a little introduction in water sports. I was impressed to find such a well equipped center and professional staff in Massawa. Our Eritrean instructor was called Luciano, who had done this job million times before, as he displayed unbelievable routine in explaining us what to do. This comes as no surprise as thousands of Eritreans from all over the world  flock each year to Massawa to get their share of the red sea.

Meanwhile, we were given instructions on safety out at sea and on using diving fins, suits and snorkel equipment to enjoy our first under-water experience. To my surprise Luciano gave me a fishing rod and told me he will bring us to the island and pick us up after 11 hours. When I inquired about the fishing rod, Luciano told me it would be a great help in case I would like to catch fish for lunch. Somehow, I could hardly imagine myself catching a fish and I was proved right later on.

The weather was beautiful and when we set off starting the boat engines we could see the silhouette of Massawa behind us shrinking with each wave we hit. After he dropped us off at the island, Luciano returned back to the main land promising to pick us up again later in the evening. We were told that the best coral reef for snorkeling was close to the island, so it was easy for us to find the spots an make several dives that day. My first snorkeling session introduced me to a wonderful, unknown and completely new dimension of nature. The only fear I had was that sharks or other creatures could have me on their breakfast menu. Especially, after one of the instructors told us that his right big toe was bitten off by a large and fearsome Barracuda fish during a diving trip.

Floating on the water surface and scanning the water world beneath me, I realised that no single fish close by would scare away from us. This was proof of what I have heard many times before from diving reports. Fish around the waters of Eritrea are not used to humans and therefore do not shy away…..

Dahlak Islands

Many of Eritrea’s top dive sites are actually located within the Dahlak Archipelago, a group of islands scattered in the Red Sea near Massawa. There are two main, larger islands, and more than 100 smaller islands. Famous for pearl fisheries, there are actually only four islands that are inhabited; Dahlak Kebir is the most populated. The islands most popular inhabitants are the marine life and seabirds, of which several diverse species can be sighted.

Though still relatively unknown, the Dahlak Islands are beginning to draw more tourists each year. Their historical significance as one of the first sites in East Africa where tribes converted to Islam draws historians and theologians. The fact that the islands have been undeveloped largely, except for a tiny Italian prison in the early 1900s, brings ecologists and biologists. The isolation brings corporate types with a sense of adventure that truly want to get away. And, the waters draw advanced and expert scuba divers from around the world who’ve registered some of them as Eritrea’s top scuba diving sites.

The Dahlak Islands are without a doubt the country’s most famous dive zone, and they include at least 15 different named sites to check out, mostly with amazing island reefs and a few that make great night dives or shark dives. At sites near Dahlak Kabir, for example, divers will be able to witness an old dry dock, in addition to the soft corals and reef fishes that inhabit the waters. Visibility in the Dahlak Islands is reported as outstanding, and the uncrowded waters make for splendid dives in which divers seem alone with nature.

One of the top-rated dive sites in Eritrea is called Norah, a shallow lagoon dive where the marine life is outstanding. Although visibility averages between 5-10 meters, it’s still marked as a great site for underwater photography. Other shallow sites teeming with marine life that top the list include Madote and Dur Ghella. At these sites, not only can colorful fish and corals are seen, but also moray eels and turtles as well.

For advanced divers who want to head a little deeper down, Dessei Islands Sehil, Camel, and Northwest are 15-40 meters deep and some of the best places to watch groupers, reef sharks, barracudas, and even dolphins swim by. The underwater rock formations that lie in deep water at these three sites are an added bonus to the incredible marine life that swims its depths.

Scuba diving in Eritrea is truly an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The rare, unvisited waters make for excellent dives if you’re looking for a place in which you can feel at one with nature, miles away from civilization.

 Edited by Editorial Team // SDTN

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