Saudi Arabia has the longest area of coastline on the Red Sea and due to prior travel restrictions, has some of the last untouched and little dived reefs of the Red Sea. With 1830km of coastline on the Red Sea and over 500km of coastline on the Persian Gulf, there is plenty to dive. As tourist restrictions become slightly more relaxed, they have opened a huge portion of the Red Sea that hasn’t seen many divers in the past.
The Red Sea has always been one of the most popular places to dive with flourishing reefs of colorful fish, brightly colored corals and ancient wreck. In other places the popularity of the Red Sea has led to huge crowds of divers all sharing the same dive sites. This is not the case in Saudi Arabia. Divers will find reefs all to themselves that are pristine and haven’t been seen by many others. More and more dive shops are opening making it easy and convenient to dive Saudi Arabia.
If the Red Sea wasn’t enough, on the east side of Saudi Arabia is the Persian Gulf which also has warm waters that have rarely been dived. The Persian Gulf is quite shallow and has a comparatively high salinity making it a unique environment to dive. Visibility isn’t always as good as the Red Sea, but diving can still be interesting.
Saudi Arabia has four International Airports, including on in Jeddah (the most popular Red Sea diving launch point) and the capital of Riyadh. From Riyadh divers can take a short domestic flight to Jeddah.
Water temperatures are fairly warm throughout the year and diving occurs year round. The Red Sea averages around 30C in the summer and as cool as 24C in the winter. The Persian Gulf sees temperatures as warm as 32C in the summer and as cool as 24C in the winter. The country itself is very warm year round with desert conditions. In the summer air temperatures can be from 27-43C and 10-20C in the winter. There is very little rain, with only a slight change in the winter months.
Getting a visa for Saudi Arabia is becoming easier but still can be difficult. A visitor’s visa has to be sponsored by a Saudi national and tourist visas are only granted to travelers that are part of an organized tour (diving trips can be included in this.) Visas will only be granted for the duration of the organized tour and visitors may not explore the country on their own or diverge from the tour the visa was organized by. Visa application must be done at the Saudi embassy in the travelers own country.
The laws of Saudi Arabia must be followed including restrictions on alcohol, clothing, and public behavior. Women must wear head coverings and should wear abaya (some leniency to this is given at the beach and on dive boats.) Women and men can only travel together if they are married (with proper paperwork) or with part of an organized group. Women traveling alone may be hassled.
The Red Sea is always in the top ten dive destinations on Earth and this includes the Saudi Arabia coast. Even better, the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia is probably the most unspoiled of all the Red Sea. New dive sites are being found and those “found” have had far less divers than the neighboring Egyptian coast. Words such as “pristine” and “untouched” are commonly heard to describe it. When describing the Saudi Arabian coast, Jacques Cousteau said, “Life abounds in bank after bank of exuberant coral structures.”
By far the most recommended dive site in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea is the Boiler Wreck at Abu Madafi reef. The ship is thought to be over 100 years old and sits between 4 and 18 meters deep. Its wide range of depths makes it a great dive for both new and advanced divers. In the shallow area next to the wreck are many caves and caverns covered in coral for divers to swim though and at the deeper end of the wreck the reef drops off onto a steep wall.
There is great diving right outside of Jeddah including several shore dives. Yanbu, 200 miles north, is also popular for both boat and shore dive. To the south divers find the Farasan Bank, an archipelago of 84 islands only recently open to the public which includes the Farasan Island Marine Sanctuary. This area is known for having fantastic visibility and an abundance of marine life.
Wrecks are common ranging from hundreds of years old to fairly new. Some of the other popular wrecks include the Ann-Ann wreck on the Abu Faramish reef. The Miss Marie is also close to Jeddah and covered in coral. Many other wrecks are also found on the reefs.
Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea diving is similar to Egypt’s. Divers can expect warm waters, good visibility, lots of colorful coral and fish life, some caves and caverns to explore, and wrecks. Full 3mm wetsuits are recommended for the winter when the water temps drop, but a shorty or skin is all that is needed in the summer months. Recompression chambers are found at the Jubail Armed Forces hospital KANB and in Jeddah.
Currently, the most popular dive shops in Saudi Arabia tend to be the shops that have multiple locations across the country and have been around the longest. Blue Reef Divers has several locations throughout the country and are known for their dive training. Their headquarters are in Jeddah but also have shops in Jubail, Riyadh and Yanbu. Out of Jeddah they run several boats which allow them to take divers to multiple sites each day both for training or for pleasure diving.
Desert Sea Divers (out of Jeddah) is also a recommended shop that does both diving training and daily dive trips for those already certified. They have three boats and certify divers from beginners through divemaster, including many specialty courses. Dream Divers, out of Jeddah, Yanbu, and Al-lith has daily boat trips and two liveaboards. Most dive shops are able to arrange the necessary tourist visas, but be sure to make arrangements well in advance.
Liveaboards are always a great way to get away from the coast and see harder to reach dive sites. It’s no different in Saudi Arabia and the MY Suzanna I and the MY Miss Veena take divers offshore for several day diving trips. Both ships came from the Egyptian side of the Red Sea and are recommended for their staff’s service. The liveaboards can also arrange visas for the trips (although they cannot arrange visas for any other activities or time other than spent on the liveaboard.)
The easiest way for divers to get to Jeddah, which is the most popular diving city, is by flying into King Abdulaziz International Airport. Many international flights also fly into the capital city, Riyadh, which has King Khalid International Airport. It is possible to enter Saudi Arabia by ferry from Egypt or through land boarders by private vehicle (be sure to have all the proper documentation.)
As diving becomes more popular more dive shops are popping up. Currently it is very easy to get rental gear at most shops in Jeddah and not impossible in other places. Nitrox is fairly common, especially on the liveaboards.
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I went to S. Arabia for a business trip for about a month in June 2014. Always had a passion for underwater / scuba but never really had a chance to get myself a proper training and a diving certificate. Since I was here in Jeddah, I htought I'd give it shot since the RedSea was probably the best place to do and learn diving. I had done Discovery dives many times so I was familiar with the underwater experience but the coral life and different kinds of fishes attracted me a lot here. I did a...
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