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St. John’s, Zabargad & Rocky Island in southern Egypt wow divers with amazing biodiversity, pristine corals and crystal clear water. It’s well worth the effort to reach these remote destinations.

Diving in St Johns, Zabargad & Rocky

Quick facts

As the most southerly of Egypt’s Red Sea dive destinations, not many divers make it to St. John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island. Those who do, often iterate their belief that this is the best diving in the Red Sea. With abundant marine life, uncrowded dive sites and crystal clear visibility, it’s easy to understand why.

St. John’s is a healthy reef system lying 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Rocky Island and just east of Elba National Park. Habili Ali and Habili Gafaar are two reef dives known for their abundant soft corals and black corals as well as their schooling pelagic fish species. Lucky divers might even encounter schooling hammerhead sharks. St. John’s also hosts quite a few overhangs and tunnels as well as a plateau that makes a convenient safety stop. These easy tunnels represent a fantastic opportunity for beginner cave divers.

Zabargad Island is located approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Berenice. The island is surrounded by stunning coral-filled slopes and pinnacles perfect for drift dives. Zabargad is also home to the ‘Russian Wreck,’ which might be The Khanka, a 245-foot (75m) shipwreck at a depth of 79 feet (24 meters).

Rocky Island is just four nautical miles to the south of Zabargad and boasts shallow fringing reefs and walls covered in gorgonians, fans, soft corals and black coral trees. These walls drop into the vast deep that surrounds the island. If you love a wild ride provided by strong currents, Rocky Island is the place for you. These currents attract year-round pelagic visitors like reef sharks, hammerheads, dolphins, manta rays and turtles.

Diving in this part of the Red Sea is slightly warmer than the northern sites and visibility is fantastic throughout the year. However, St. John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island are, until now, best accessed by liveaboard. Although some resorts are being built in Berenice and Hamata that will offer day trips to Foul Bay and even house reefs of their own. Diving season is year-round, but there are two windy seasons that may affect liveaboard departures. Light winds are generally felt from May to September. Stronger winds that are more likely to prevent diving blow from October to April.

Lucky divers who have had the chance to visit St. John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island claim that the best Egyptian diving is found here. Until recently, it has been completely isolated and devoid of tourism. If you have the chance, visit the bountiful marine life, crystal clear water and colorful reefs before the rest of the world learns about this hidden gem.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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USD 984Per trip
USD 947Per trip
USD 886Per trip

What to see

With a wide variety of environments, St. John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island play host to a huge amount of marine life. Known to have the healthiest coral reefs and the best visibility in Egypt, it’s no wonder the fish love it here.

Schooling snappers, bannerfish, and surgeonfish as well as Blackspotted sweetlips and Arabian angelfish provide ample food for the reef and pelagic sharks found patrolling the reefs. Rabbitfish, crocodile fish, octopus, unicorn fish and Napoleon wrasse play among the 60 species of coral.

On the larger side of things, manta rays, whale sharks, dolphins and green and hawksbill turtles entertain those divers lucky enough to lay eyes on this remote paradise.

Calendar

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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Area

Off the coast of southerly Elba National Park in Egypt, St. John’s, Zabargad and Rocky represent the most isolated Egyptian dive destinations. These Red Sea islands sit just north of Egypt’s border with Sudan and the Tropic of Cancer. As part of the national park, St. John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island are protected marine environments and divers are only just beginning to realize the beauty they contain.

The formation of this group of islands, known as Foul Bay, is seemingly unique. Scientists believe these land masses were not formed by volcanos. Rather, they are a part of Earth’s upper mantle material that has been thrust up to the surface of the sea. Because of its geological formation, these three islands are rich in the gem stone peridot. For this reason, divers can often spot evidence of former mining colonies when exploring topside.

Today, St. Johns, Zabargad and Rocky are the most difficult dive sites to access in the Egyptian Red Sea but are also among the most rewarding. Almost all divers who arrive here come via liveaboard. However, the area’s tourism industry is just beginning to develop. Resorts are popping up in Hamata and Berenice both of which offer access to Foul Bay. Do yourself a favor and get to this diving paradise before the crowds do!

Other attractions

As most dive trips to St. John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island are completed by liveaboard, you probably won’t have much time to explore the area’s topside attractions. If you’re lucky, you’ll spend some time on one of the islands’ pristine white sand beaches. For those who are staying at one of the resorts in Hamata or Berenice, a one or two day trip to Luxor, a dolphin watching trip or a drive to El Quseir is sure to keep you entertained. You might also consider kitesurfing lessons, quad biking or a desert camel safari.

Getting there

Most diving to the deep south of Egypt is conducted by liveaboard. These boats depart from Hamata, Port Ghalib or Marsa Alam.

Divers can also stay in one of the resorts near Hamata or Berenice.

All of these cities are served by the Marsa Alam Airport. There are direct flights from many European capital cities, but connections are also available from Cairo.

From the airport, Hamata and Berenice are a two hour journey to the south by private transfer or boat.

UTC+02:00

Time zone

EGP

Currency

+20

Calling code

220 V

Electric volt

C, 

F

Plug type

RMF

Main airport
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