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Diving in Eritrea

Quick facts

  • All non-Eritreans must pay a tourist tax of approx US$20 (payable only in US$) when they leave Massawa.
  • You can only dive the Dahlak islands from boats which are licensed for going to the islands. So no fishing boats or privately owned boats can be used.
  • Be aware that if you are planning to travel up to Asmara (the capital city at 2600 meters above sea level), leave it a dayf or too or you risk decompression sickness!
  • Malaria precautions are essential in all areas below 2000m (except the capital Asmara) all year round. Check for up-to-date information before you travel.
  • BE AWARE: Lariam (mefloquine) is an anti-malarial drug used in regions of the world where chloroquine resistant falciparum malaria is prevalent. e.g. East Africa, South East Asia. Possible side effects of lariam such as dizziness, blurred vision and a disturbed sense of balance are common and could cause problems for divers. These effects can often imitate or even worsen the symptoms of DCI. There could also be confusion between the side effects of lariam and the symptoms of DCI or nitrogen narcosis resulting in a misleading diagnosis.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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What to see

Language:
Tigrinya, Arabic and Italian
Currency:
Nakfa
Time:
GMT +3
Climate:
Hot, dry desert (Red Sea coast)
Cooler and wetter (central highlands)
Semi arid (western hills and lowlands)
Natural hazards:
Frequent droughts, locust swarms
Diving season:
Year round
Water temperature:
27C-29C
Air temperature:
40-50C (June to Sept)
20-35C (Dec to Feb) (rainy season)

Calendar

For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Country

Eritrea (and where is that?) is situated in northern East Africa. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country have an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The main diving is at:

  • Massawa, which was built up on a fossil coral reef and is divided in three parts, the two islands Batwsa and Twalet (also known as Taolud) and the mainland. They are all connected by causeways.
  • The Dahlak Archipelago for spectacular marine life (dolphins, sharks, dugongs, turtle species, hermit crabs, fish, mollusks or shellfish), shipwrecks and pumice stones formed from submarine volcanoes.

Eritrea has a variety of climatic conditions and you can experience three seasons in just two hours! From the rugged mountain peaks of Emba Soira to the arid desert heat of the Danakil Depression (at 100 meters below sea level, it's one of the hottest places on earth) to the cool breezes of the Red Sea. November to March is the best time to visit the lowlands/coastal areas.

Getting there

  • Massawa - lots of fish but also lots of plankton. Local dive guides can only come from the Ministry of Marine Resources' Eritrea Dive Centre cost approx. US$60 per day (payable in Nakfa). They only have a limited number of boats and people make reservations well in advance.
  • Dahlak Archipelago - in the Red Sea off the coast of Eritrea. Outstanding visibility, teeming with fish and fabulous coral formations, and no crowds. Consider Dessei Island, Madote, Shomma (the insider tip in Eritrea; beautiful intact soft corals around the island, many fishes, morays, rays, doctor fishes and 3 amazing reefs), Enteara, Dur Gaam, Dur Ghella and Dohul Bahot.
  • Dahlak Kebir - an old Russian dry dock, from the surface down to 20 m, on deck an unforgettable crowd of soft corals, inside the dry dock you can see many spare parts like lamps and lifting platforms, full of small fishes.
  • Nocra Channel - in the channel of Dahlak Kebir you dive through a wonderful coral garden with caves, in which some big fishes try to hide. Very strong currents.
  • The Urania - an italian cargo ship, sunken at the end of the second world war in the bay of Dahlak Kebir, back on back with an unknown ferry.
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