by Helen Ellis
Since Mubarak resigned from the Presidency in 2011, Egypt has been in the news for various reasons and as a result tourism in the country has suffered greatly. While the northern cities of Cairo and Alexandria have seen demonstrations calling for greater democracy and North Sinai has been linked to ISIS, the southern parts of the country hundreds of miles away have continued to be stable and welcoming to tourists. Throughout the last few years of turmoil, red sea holidays have been safe and the resort areas unaffected by politics.
Since the sad loss of a Russian airliner to terrorism, the airport in Sharm El Sheikh on the southern tip of the Sinai has boosted security and many countries now deem it safe to fly in and out of the resort. Tourism is returning slowly and those who are taking the decision to visit this beautiful resort are enjoying the amazing scuba diving on near empty reefs. For many divers this is the perfect time to visit.
Visitors to Sharm during the boom years prior to 2011 might recall queuing to get onto dive boats and arriving at sites to find them already overcrowded. The jetties now are free of queues and the sites are blissfully empty. While divers used to compete with dozens of snorkel boats, reefs like Gordon and Thomas are now almost empty and divers have the clear waters to themselves.
The famous wreck of SS Thistlegorm has always been extremely popular with divers and previously many have complained that it was so busy their dive was spoilt. To enjoy Thistlegorm at its best divers needed to take a liveaboard boat and dive it as soon as the sun rose. Those on daily boats would need to leave at 4am to get to the wreck before the crowds.
At present it is possible to leave the jetty at a respectable hour and enjoy the trip out to the site of this WWII ship without worrying about crowds. Normally yours will be the only boat at the location and if by chance another group is there it is easy enough to wait until they have surfaced before jumping. The whole wreck can now be enjoyed with just the fishes getting in the way.
The flora and fauna are also enjoying the respite from thousands of curious snorkelers to breed undisturbed. White tips, rays, turtles and dolphins are in abundance bringing great joy to those working in the industry. Guests can be given a near certain guarantee of spotting something incredible wherever they jump in the water.
For those who might still be nervous about travelling to Sharm, the mainland coast is an attractive alternative. Hurghada and Marsa Alam remain popular along with El Gouna and Safaga as these resorts can easily be reached by flying into Hurghada. Many of the dive centers in these areas operate both daily boats and liveaboards so there are plenty of ways to get into the water.
There has never been a better time to visit the beautiful waters of the Red Sea. Marine life is abundant and the reefs are not crowded. Summer is the time for hammerheads so do not miss out on seeing these incredible creatures.
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