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Red Sea

Giant stride into the Red Sea and everywhere you look, on every dive you make, is a mind-boggling concentration of marine life. Large numbers of reef fish amass in swirling schools and an astonishing variety of coral and sponge species plaster every reef. Big pelagics like dolphins and sharks patrol deep wrecks and walls. As European divers have long known, it's off-the-chart diving--one of the planet's richest marine ecosystems in a sea that's nearly landlocked by desert on every side.

Bordered by seven countries, the Red Sea is a cleft of deep blue water formed millions of years ago when the Arabian Peninsula split from North Africa and the Indian Ocean flooded the basin from a small opening at its southern end. It's relatively isolated and with little fresh water flowing in, the 1,200-mile-long sea is saltier than most other bodies of water and features eccentric and colorful twists on Indo-Pacific marine life.

Whether you go north or south in the Red Sea, you can dive a diverse range of habitats. A northern itinerary offers wrecks and deep walls, while a southern one boasts beautiful reefs and coral seamounts. The choice is yours.

The Red Sea is never going to attract divers from North America in as large numbers as it does from the UK and other European countries. But those American divers who do make the trip across the pond are going to be shouting about it once they get home. The diving is well worth the effort to get to Egypt. Add in the fun and adventure of the Middle Eastern experience--visiting the Pyramids, sampling shisha (fruit-flavored tobacco smoked through a water pipe) and taking a camel ride--the Red Sea has a lot to offer divers of all levels, whatever their nationality.

Weather: Temperatures can reach 100F or more during the day, but chill considerably at night.

Average Water Temp: Range from the low 70Fs in winter to the low 80Fs in summer.

Average Visibility: Consistently around 100 feet, except during localized plankton blooms.

Travel Savvy: You'll need a valid passport (one at least six months before expiration) and tourist visa to enter any of the countries surrounding the Red Sea. Dive shops and live-aboards tend to be hotel-based.

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