Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Red Sea's "Blue Hole"

The Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is a very popular diving and snorkeling site about 10-15 minutes by jeep north of Dahab.  We had actually originally read about the Blue Hole a year or two before planning our visit to Egypt, and we were intrigued by it.  There are a few so-called "Blue Holes" in the world, one of which is in Belize, and another is in Australia.  When we found out that we had the opportunity to see the one in Egypt in person, we knew it was not to be missed.

Many tour agencies have specials in Dahab where they will take you out to the Blue Hole for a day and let you snorkel for as long as you want before returning.  Sadly, we waited towards the end of our stay in Dahab to do this and really wish we would have done it sooner, as we would have went back a couple times.

Right now, the special is 25 EGP per person for a trip by jeep to the Blue Hole, with snorkeling gear included.  We were not sure what to expect as far as changing rooms or restrooms, but thought a couple of hours at the Blue Hole would be good.  So we purchased a trip from King Safari Dahab, the same agency that booked our trip to Israel with.

It was about 10 am when we left by Jeep from Dahab.  The driver picked us up and took us north, through the town where herds of goats walked the streets, and further north where the sea meets the desert.  We drove along the rocky shores and saw many camels sitting and others carrying tourists towards the popular diving areas that line the coast.  Before reaching the Blue Hole, there is a diving area called "The Canyons" where there are some canyons made out of coral.  Just a bit further is the Blue Hole, which is surrounded by many small restaurants and shops.  In fact, it is worth noting that the area around the Blue Hole is like a small village of its own.  I don't believe that anyone lives there, but there is a lot going on, and the restaurant areas provide a nice open air place to sit and relax while not in the water.

We were brought to a place called Sinbad's.  The person who was running the shop was very nice, and gave us an area in which we could sit on some pillows and mattresses, as is the custom here, and he set us up with some snorkeling equipment and fins.  He told us a little about the Blue Hole and said that there was another site up north he would show us, called "The Bells."  We set our things aside and got our gear and went out into the water.

A short video of the Blue Hole:

The water was somewhat cold, but it was comfortable enough.  The Blue Hole itself is quite large, but not huge.  It is very deep, however, and other than at the sides, you can not see the bottom.  The area was quite busy with people, but there was enough room to be alone.  After about half an hour of snorkeling, we got out.  Our masks were not fitting quite right, so we decided to get replacements, which were both much better.  We rested and ate some fries, and then went back into the water.  We expected the prices to be much higher, but they were comparable to places in Dahab.

Sinbad's Restaurant

When we got back into the water, Beverly showed me an area that is to the south east, towards where the Blue Hole meets the sea.  Here there were hundreds of small fish and a few larger ones.  The coral here is also very pretty with many types of plant life.  We spent a while looking at it and enjoying the scenery before we went back to the restaurant area to enjoy the view and rest for a while.  Overall, we spent about five hours at the Blue Hole and are considering going back one more time before leaving.  I would recommend everyone who visits and who is interested to go to the Blue Hole as soon as possible when they get to Dahab.  It is a very nice place to spend a day, and there is nothing as refreshing as the cool water when the heat gets unbearable.

Also, worth mentioning: The same girls who sell bracelets all over town make their way to the Blue Hole and will try to sell them there as well.  They get around by jumping on the backs of trucks and jeeps and making their way from place to place.  I will probably write a post about these girls in the future, as they are everywhere here.

Also, it should be noted that The Blue Hole is notorious as being one of the most dangerous diving sites in the world.  According to Wikipedia:

The Blue Hole is notorious for the number of diving fatalities which have occurred there, earning it the sobriquet "World's Most Dangerous Dive Site" and the nickname "Diver's Cemetery". The site is signposted by a sign that says "Blue hole: Easy entry". Accidents are frequently caused when divers attempt to find the tunnel through the reef (known as "The Arch") connecting the Blue Hole and open water at about 52 m depth. This is beyond the PADI maximum advanced recreational diving limit of 40 metres and the effect of nitrogen narcosis is significant at this depth. Divers who miss the tunnel sometimes continue descending, hoping to find the tunnel farther down and become increasingly narcosed.

How do you get to the Blue Hole From Dahab?

To reach Egypt's Blue Hole from Dahab, travel north from Dahab along the coast.  You will pass by a couple of hotels along the water before the road becomes gravel.  There is a checkpoint on the way, so, if traveling on your own, bring your passport. 

You can also reach the Blue Hole via tour from Dahab or Sharm el sheikh.  Many tour companies in Dahab are currently offering cheap excursions to the Blue Hole.  Some can be found as little as 25 LE.  These often include snorkeling gear.  Many allow you spend as much time as you like at the Blue Hole.

Are there bathrooms and changing rooms at the Blue Hole in Dahab?

Yes.  There are bathrooms at the far north of the restaurants at the end of the road right in front of the Blue Hole.  There are also showers here as well.  The cost to use the restrooms is 2 LE.

Is the Blue Hole in Dahab worth visiting?

The Blue Hole is a very popular dive site and is considered one of the best areas to snorkel in around Dahab.  Even if you do not snorkel or dive, you can swim around the Blue Hole.  The hole itself is very deep, and if you are snorkeling, you will not be able to see the bottom.  I recommend visiting the area, as the swimming here is far better than in downtown Dahab. 

Can you rent a life jacket or wet suit at the Blue Hole in Dahab?

Yes, restaurants that rent snorkeling gear, such as Sinbads, right in front of the Blue Hole, rent life jackets and wetsuits.

How warm is the water near Dahab and the Blue Hole?

The water is not as warm as tropical areas of the world, but in the summer, the water is pleasant (sometimes a bit on the cool side).  With that being said, it will be a lot cooler in the winter and spring and you may need a wetsuit to swim.

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