I’m a proud PADI AmbassaDiver + this post is brought to you by PADI.
I think every travel writer has had that moment where they stumble upon a place they are just obsessed with, a place so perfect they can barely wait to share it with the world… until that next moment where they think, what if I just kept it to myself?
I had that feeling at Ras Abu Gallum, the beautiful Bedouin settlement ten miles north of Dahab, tucked away in a secret corner of the Sinai Peninsula.
For the two days we were there scuba diving, snorkeling, and soaking up the pristine desert vibes, we essentially did have it to ourselves. The handful of local families welcomed us warmly, and while we saw a few stoned hippies scattered around, we were the only scuba divers there for the duration of our trip.I marveled when I heard how rare it was for divers to make the relatively quick and overwhelmingly scenic journey here from Dahab. But I certainly wasn’t complaining — Ras Abu Gallum remaining firmly in the hidden gem category means the reefs are still pristine.
Kat and I visited Ras Abu Gallum with H2O Divers Dahab, a shop known to specialize in this excursion thanks to their longstanding relationship with one of the Bedouin families in the protectorate.
Not long after settling into our camp, our dive guide Jenny led us to one of the area’s star dive sites: The Rocks.
The Rocks is a calm drift dive famous for healthy soft and hard corals home to clownfish, triggerfish, lionfish, moray eels, pufferfish, and blue spotted rays.
Between Jenny’s crazy camera rig, my Canon G7X and Waterproof Housing, and Kat using my GoPro, we were more than ready to document this adventure. This is what I loved about diving around Dahab — small, private dive groups are the norm, so you don’t have to be shy about saying, hey, I want to dive slow and play around with my camera rather than turbo-fin around the dive site.
And this is also what I loved about diving with H2O Divers — they have such a diverse team with so many talents, when I expressed a strong interest in underwater photography, they matched us up straight away with Jenny, their own snap happy instructor.
I will say that diving with Jenny reminded me how hard it can be to pose for an underwater photographer. First, you need to have incredible non-verbal communication skills and be able to glean what the photographer wants you to do and where they want you to go from just a few facial expressions or flicks of the hand.
Second, you need to keep your body controlled and your buoyancy sharp and avoid any and all flailing to get into the perfect position. Next, you need to time your exhales so your face isn’t full of bubbles when the shutter goes off. Finally, you need to be able to smile without actually being able to smile, since your mouth is busy, you know, holding a regulator.
Often I feel I succeed quite impressively at these feats, other times I look like I could not possibly be less impressed with the sighting of a gorgeous moray eel I’m sharing the frame with.
After our dive, we returned to our beautiful camp for the usual routine of drying out in the sun, sipping refreshing Bedouin tea, and discussing our favorite moments from our dive.
When it was time to blow bubbles again we loaded back into a pickup truck — we decided to give the camels a break for these quick shuffles — and drove a few moments away to what seemed like an indistinguishable spot along the coast, our next dive site. “How does the driver know where to stop?,” I marveled to Jenny, who replied simply, “from the rocks.”
Good thing we weren’t left to our own devices. They all looked the same to me.
Our next dive site was called Abu Ouda. In general, the dive sites around Ras Abu Gallum have nice and easy conditions, with depths of 18-50m. That said, the best stuff here is all very shallow, making it a very friendly destination to all levels of divers (and snorkelers, too, but come on — do that Open Water!)
After flooding my strobe on my Sharm El Sheikh liveaboard (sob) I was more than happy with staying shallow and close to the natural light.
As I mentioned in my previous Ras Abu Gallum post, most divers who come for an overnight dive safari here tally up at least four dives. Due to Kat’s travel schedule we could only get in two before her no-fly time started, which initially I thought would be more than enough. How much could there be to see in this one little place, right?
Wrong! It turns out Ras Abu Gallum offers about six different dive sites, each with its own flair — some are great for drift diving, some are wonderful for night dives, others are great for getting deep as part of a course.
But that’s okay. We have plenty to come back for.
I didn’t think Abu Ouda could top The Rocks, but turns out it was a strong competitor. We marveled at the technicolor coral, swam joyously with countless schools of fish, and stopped to truly marvel when we came upon a bloom of hundreds of jellyfish, a sight so special I put my camera down to just get lost in the moment.
I wrote in my post about diving in Dahab that while I felt Sharm El Sheikh had more healthy reefs and plentiful sea life, Dahab offered up an overall more pleasant travel experience with still-excellent Red Sea diving.
While Ras Abu Gallum doesn’t have the amazing topography of some of Dahab’s closer dive sites, the reefs were the healthiest and most vibrant we saw with H2O. For me, it’s unmissable.
After answering a million comments about this after this photo went viral on Instagram — no, I’m not touching the coral, it’s an optical illusion. Look closer, I’m way above and in front of it. I promise, I don’t touch delicate coral!
Small, personalized, craft-cider-service-on-a-Stella-budget is what makes H2O Divers so special — I couldn’t have been happier diving with them and supporting a female owned and managed business. It doesn’t hurt that they are one of the few Dahab dive shops that truly specializes in this particular trip.
Which, for me, will go down in the books as one of my greatest dive adventures. Camel transport to the dive site? Five star reefs? Waterfront camping? Friendly local hosts? A pristine piece of desert few are lucky enough to explore?
How could it not?
I can’t think of a more perfect note to leave Egypt on — sandy and salty, full of hope and adventure, and already eager to return.
Onward to diving in Israel!
This content was brought to you by PADI, the world’s leading dive organization. Many thanks to PADI dive shop H2O Divers for hosting me in Dahab and Ras Abu Gallum.