You are swimming in nature’s lap among a schol of parrotfish; corals and sea anemones watch you benignly; the clear, placid water softly kisses your skin and the only audible sound is the gentle whoosh of your own breath.
All of this brought to you by a snorkelling session. Here are some serene destinations for snorkelling in the Middle East, what you’ll counter and how much it will cost you:
1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates:
The World is a man-made archipelago of small islands roughly in the shape of the world map, situated in the Arabian Gulf. It is about 10-15 minutes away from Atlantis, 4km off the coast of Dubai. Al Boom Diving, Dubai offers snorkelling sessions from speedboats and includes stops at two reef sites.
Come face to face with: Angelfish, hammour, clown fish, barracudas and even a glimpse of a turtle or two.
Cost per person: AED 250.
2. Fujairah, United Arab Emirates:
Snorkelling along the East Coast allows you to explore the best natural reefs that UAE can offer. Sites like Dibba Rock, Martini Rock, Sharm Rocks, and Shark Island are on the list of Al Boom Diving, Fujairah’s snorkelling options. Snoopy Island (yes, it’s named after the cartoon) makes a great weekend escape and is ideal for a bit of snorkelling.
Come face to face with: Turtles, baby sharks, starfish and schools of multi-coloured fish
Cost per person: AED 150, inclusive of all equipment, at any one location.
3. Ras Mohamed Marine National Park, Egypt:
Situated in the tourist region of the Red Sea, Ras Mohamed Park is a protectorate, home to more than hundreds of coral species and over a thousand varieties of fish. Sharmer’s Excursions offers a package deal that includes pick-and-drop to and from your hotel, two snorkelling sites, and a delicious seafood lunch (vegetarians, fear not, there’s food for you too.
Come face to face with: Starfish, sea urchins, and several kinds of sea turtles.
Cost per adult: 25 GBP (approximately AED 140).
4. Hurghada, Egypt:
Again in the Land of Pharaohs, the coastal city of Hurghada is famous for its snorkelling and sea-diving options thanks to the crystal clear waters that are teeming with marine life. While not as famous as resort destinations like Sharm-el-Sheikh or Dahab, Hurghada is definitely the better option since it is less crowded and cheaper while offering the same exciting underwater experience.
The warm water makes donning a wetsuit unnecessary, so all you need is a snorkel, a mask, and a zealous spirit. Get Your Guide offers details about a package deal that entails you to a pick-and-drop service, a boat ride on the enchanting waters of Red Sea, to the Giftun Island, a snorkelling session, and lunch.
Come face to face with: Hammerhead sharks, manta rays, green turtles, oceanic whitetip sharks, Eagle rays and more.
Cost per adult: Starting at US$ 38 (AED 140).
5. Aqaba, Jordan:
Recommended for first-time snorkelers, Aqaba boasts an excellent biodiversity. Wide fields of near-perfect corals stretch off into the startlingly clear blue water, and huge heads of stony corals grow literally as big as a house. Fish life is also thrillingly diverse, with endless species of small and large multicoloured creatures staring back at you with equal curiosity, from all sides. Some of the best sites for snorkelling include the Japanese Gardens, Aquarium, and the King Abdullah Reef.
Aqaba’s local environmental NGOs (principally the Royal Marine Conversation Society) ensure that the reefs remain unspoiled and that the diving and snorkelling does not cause any damage to the existing marine life. Sea Star Water Sports offers access to three beautiful snorkelling sites within a stone’s throw from their diving centre Club Murjan, along with complete equipment and an optional guide.
Come face to face with: Butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish and groupers are all common, as are shoals of damselfish, jewelfish and even moray eels.
Cost per person: 16 JD (AED 83).
6. Kaş, Turkey:
Pronounced as ‘cash’, Kaş is an unspoiled tourist town located in the Southern part of Turkey, between a wall of mountains and the gleaming Mediterranean. The beaches are small and pebbly but carry with them an undeniable old-world charm. For those longing for a long stretch of calmness, do consider driving to Patara Beach. Kaş, meanwhile, is also perfect for its coffeehouses and restaurants, as well as ancient archaeological sites like Demre, Xanthos, Letoön, Saklıkent and Tlos.
While its beaches may be a tad bit unruly, the waters of Kaş have earned it the reputation of being the ‘diving capital of the Med’. The shoreline’s curious underwater geological formations, varied collection of long-sunken ships and yawning caves, house an active underwater population. Since Kaş usually enjoys great visibility — up to 130 feet, on a calm day — a snorkeler is often able to see the same flora and fauna as a diver.
Check out Sun Diving to get offers on snorkelling. While their priority is scuba diving, they will arrange snorkelling sessions with prior queries.
Come face to face with: Barracudas, rays, octopi, eels and Bluefin in addition to the turtles and seals.
So, have you snorkelled before? Did you like it? Was it intimidating? Share your experiences and valuable insights with us in the comments below.