Aqaba, with its clean sandy beaches and transparent warm waters, is the mecca for divers in Jordan. Famed for its preserved coral reefs and unique sea life, this Red Sea port city was in ancient times the main port for shipments from the Red Sea to the Far East.
In Aqaba you won’t see as many fish and big stuff as in Egypt, but of course you have all your common Red Sea fish. The thing you will notice about Aqaba is that all the corals are very alive and very colourful, it’s like being in a aquarium! It’s some of the most thriving and varied corals you’ll ever see and this is why it’s so special.
There are over 20 dive sites to choose from. For wrecks the Cedar Pride is the best in the area and great for advanced divers, who can swim under the wreck at 27 metres. Sunk in 1983 and lying on its side, the ship is now covered in soft and hard coral and home to a few seahorses that come out to say hello. There are a couple of other wrecks but they are too deep for recreational diving, but perfect for tech diving making this a great place to get your tech certification.
Gorgone 1 and 2 have huge gorgonian corals, pinnacles, cabbage corals and many reef fish and other cool critters. 7 Sisters is 7 pinnacles very shallow at 9 metres making this a great beginner’s dive as it’s so clear with so many beautiful coral and fish. At the end of the dive there’s a military tank which was sunk in 1999 and makes for an interesting stop before ascending.
Canyon dives include Oliver’s and Eel Canyons (named for its eel garden), Paradise 1 and 2 might be difficult to get to (and you can only get there at high tide because of the coral wall) so it’s recommended for experienced divers but it’s gorgeous and it’s teaming with reef fish and coloured corals. Cazar Reef is next to the marine park and well worth a look. You can occupy a good few days of diving around Aqaba so take your camera and enjoy this colourful underwater playground.
When people think of diving and snorkelling in the Red Sea, they usually think of Egypt but a secret gem of brilliant diving lies off the coast of Aqaba, Jordan. Due to the sheer volume of people visiting Egypt and the Blue Hole, the reef there is suffering from deterioration so you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how alive and colourful the corals are in Aqaba.
There are a few ways to get to there, none of them are entirely easy but it’s worth the journey. From Egypt you can catch a ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba, a journey that should only take just over an hour can sometimes take all day due to constant delays. You can go overland from Egypt, but you need to go through Israel and if you get this stamp you won’t be able to visit Syria or Lebanon in the future, until you get a new passport. The other way is to fly into the capital Amman and bus it down, a four hour journey with either JETT or Trust bus companies.
If you want to stay on the beach then head 15 minutes south of the city to some of the small hotels and resorts along the coast. There’s nothing really there other than hotels (usually with their own restaurant) but it’s really pretty so just take some supplies with you from town. You can find lovely hotels in the city centre, hostels as well, but Aqaba is a city so you won’t really get that holiday feel you might be after. There are a few dive centres dotted about the city and most have an affiliation with the hotels, but the resorts in the south are mostly dive resorts with their own centres.
All of the snorkelling is off the shore so it’s easy to hire a mask and snorkel and do it yourself, or there are boat trips if you prefer lunch and a trip on the ocean. There are frequent buses from the town to the southern beaches. All of the diving is off the shore as well so it’s pretty easy, hassle free and good for any certification level.
(By Kelly Luckman)