Some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling is packed along the 20km or so of coastline between Aqaba and the Saudi border.
If you’ve never been snorkelling before Aqaba is an easier, and more instantly attractive, place to start than nearby Eilat (Israel) or Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt), with the reef shelving gently directly from the beach, cutting out the need for boat entries.
The major advantages of snorkelling here are the condition of the coral, especially below the 6m line, and the excellent biodiversity.
Aqaba was a relatively slow and careful starter in dive tourism, and so has managed to avoid severe deterioration of the reefs.
It’s also quiet: compared to the Sinai’s two million annual dives, and Eilat’s 750,000, Aqaba sees fewer than 20,000 dives a year.
Work by local environmental NGOs – principally the Royal Marine Conservation Society – is raising awareness of conservation issues.
Almost 9km of Aqaba’s south coast is protected as the Aqaba Marine Park, which extends 350m offshore and 50m inland.
What to expect
Wherever you choose to dive or snorkel, wide fields of near-perfect soft corals stretch off into the startlingly clear blue water, huge heads of stony corals growing literally as big as a house.
Fish life is also thrillingly diverse, with endless species of small and large multicoloured swimmers goggling back at you from all sides.
Butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish and groupers are all common, as are shoals of damselfish, jewelfish and even moray eels