Diving in the Red Sea, Jordan

Red Sea Scuba Diving Jordan
One of my most interesting scuba adventures was actually diving in the Red Sea in Jordan. Never did I dream that I would be doing this, but it happened, and at a very ad hoc decision on the trip.

I was on a tourism trip around Jordan in 2015, when the itinerary was changed a little, letting the group do some snorkeling in the Red Sea. Well, since it was snorkeling, I casually requested if I could do a dive while the  others snorkeled.

Luck was on my side when Jordan Tourism agreed, and the next think I knew, two of the other media had also wanted to dive in the Red Sea. In total, there were three of us who were going on an dive adventure of a lifetime here in Jordan.

I did not have an underwater camera, therefore there are no photos of the dive. But lots of photos above the water here. Perhaps, if I re-visit Jordan for scuba diving, I will be more prepared.

Diving in Aqaba
Scuba diving in the Red Sea, Aqaba
Diving in the Red Sea, Jordan

The most popular place to dive in Jordan is at Aqaba, which is the resort city of Jordan. Aqaba is located in the north most point of the Red Sea or better known as the Gulf of Aqaba. The city is also rich with historical value as it has been around since 4000 B.C, and a thriving port city. 

Diving season in Aqaba is from May until July, but the waters here are clear throughout the year. The beauty about diving in the Red Sea of Jordan is that you will be doing it in the Aqaba Marine Park, which is a protected area on the coastline here. 

Most of the dive operators in Jordan are located in Aqaba and it takes about four hours drive from Amman to Aqaba. For Southeast Asians divers, there are direct flights to Amman, Jordan and then you travel overland to Aqaba. The journey here is an adventure by itself.

Scuba Diving in Jordan
The dive sites of Aqaba are located just next to the South Beach Highway
Once you reach the city of Aqaba, there are many hotels and resorts to choose. The city life is pretty exciting with lots of shops, malls, cafes and restaurants. Note that all the food here is Halal.

If you choose a budget package, then you need to book everything by yourself. Otherwise, you can just book an all in package from one of the tour operators here. 

Dives are usually boat dives, but you can also do shore dives. For boat dives, you will depart from one of the Aqaba jetties as dive operators have their boats at the local jetties here. The dive boats are pretty modern and full facility. This is not your regular 8 person small boat, but a 16-20 person dive boat. 

First thing that comes to mind is luxury diving. Yes, the boat helps increase your enthusiasm with positive feelings. Dive masters, guides and crew are all local Jordanian, and speak good English. This means, communication is not a problem here, unless you do not speak English.

Jetty in Aqaba
The jetty at the Fisherman's Harbor in Aqaba where dive boats pick you up
 Diving in Aqaba, Jordan

First things first, you should know that the Red Sea is not your ordinary sea as the salt content is much higher and the waters are much cooler. This means, when you dive in the Red Sea, you need to be well prepared for your dives.

There are a number of notable dive site in Aqaba which include the Yamanieh coral reef, the Cedar Pride Wreck at 26 meters and another wreck which is an anti-aircraft vehicle called 'The Tank', which is one of the most unique wrecks.

Dive Boat Red Sea Jordan
My dive boat in Aqaba, Jordan. Notice how nice the dive boat is? 
Dive Weights for Red Sea

Due to the higher salt content in the Red Sea, your body becomes more buoyant and harder to sink. Therefore, you will need double of the weights you usually use.

I normally use three one pound weights for normal dives, and here in the Red Sea, I needed to use six one pound weights in order to be neutral underwater.

So, if you normally use 4 weights, then you need to use around 8 here. Don't worry about having 8 pieces of weights around your belt, as they have 2 pound weight pieces, so you need only 4 of those. 

However, you should take note that once you pass the 10 meter depth, you tend to sink a little faster than usual, hence you need to compensate your buoyancy fast, otherwise you will hit the bottom fast too. So, keep your hand on that BCD inflater as you go down.

Scuba Diving Red Sea
Getting ready to descend with a boat jump into the Red Sea. Sharmsoul of Gaya Travel is on my right. 
Water Temperature at the Red Sea

The other thing about the Red Sea is that the waters are much colder compared to the tropical water that most Southeast Asians are used too. We Asian divers get comfortable at 28-30 Degrees Celsius, and yet, some divers still use a 5mm wet suit. 

The water temperature at the Red Sea ranges from 19-27 Degrees Celsius, from the winter to summer periods. This means a dive suit is highly recommended and minimum of 5mm thickness, whole those who dislike the cold, would require a 7mm thick suit. 

You may want to bring your gloves and hoodie along for diving in the Red Sea. A rash guard is also recommended as inner protection. Not to worry as the dive operators there have different types of wet suits available.

Scuba Diving in Red Sea Aqaba
That first leap into the Red Sea was an amazing moment.
Going Diving at the Red Sea, Jordan

Divers will be brought to the jetty where your dive boat awaits you. In my case, everything was pre-arranged for my group. The jetty is at the Fisherman's Harbor, where the Aqaba Museum and Aqaba Revolt Plaza is located at. 

When we boarded the modern dive boat, we simply picked out our sizes for wet suits, fins, regulators and BCD's, which was all ready. 

The dive boat will take you along the main coastline and most of the dive sites are just located next to the South Beach Highway, which is about 15 to 30 minutes boat ride. 

In total, there are over 30 dive sites in Aqaba and 20 of them are leisure dive sites by the coast. The other dive sites are for advanced, wreck or technical divers.

Aqaba Jordan Scuba Diving
Sharmsoul and me take a pose after our first dive in the Red Sea of Jordan
Japanese Garden Dive Site

Our first dive site was just 50 meters from the main highway and called Japanese Garden. Imagine my expression when the dive master told me that we are going down at that spot where cars and lorries were passing by the main South Beach Highway. 

Honestly, none of us had an underwater camera, but from my memory, the underwater landscape was beautiful. From the surface, the water was striking blue and as I did my descend, the water clarity was amazingly good.

I estimate around 15-20 meters visibility when I hit the bottom. The corals were lively, colorful and dominated with small coral fishes. We started to make our way along the reef, following the dive master who pointed out anything worth spotting.

Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
That's me taking the leap into the cold waters of Aqaba, Jordan
For small critters, this is macro galore, with so many things to look out for. Starting at a depth of around 12 meters, the reef gradually slopes down to around 24 meters. Expect mild currents in the mid waters. 

Coral life here is amazing as there are so many different types of corals, ranging from soft to hard. Table corals are massive while the unique black corals stand out with tons of reef fish in the area. For the shallow divers, there is a seagrass patch which is thriving with aquatic life. 

The Japanese Garden dive site is also a very popular place for snorkelers, so during the summer months, expect many snorkelers above the shallow coral areas. Overall, this dive site is very relaxing and easy with a depth of around 12-24 meters.

Aqaba Jordan Scuba Diving
What diving in Aqaba looks like. Image from www.diveaqaba.com
Gorgon 1 Dive Site

The second dive spot was equally close to the highway and just a short boat ride further down south. From the boat, you can hear the trucks passing by, and when you looking down into the waters, the beautiful blue is just calling you and inviting you to jump in. 

Gorgon 1 gets its name from the Gorgonian sea fan corals, which is abundance at this dive site. There are three main pinnacles found here and your dive will take you from one to the other. The majestic gorgonian fans will surely impress you along the way. 

Reef fish are a plenty along your dives and you will spot from small to large reef fishes. The occasional lionfish is also spotted at the third pinnacle. In general, this dive site is overflowing with rich marine life. Suitable for beginner divers.

Scuba Diving Photo Aqaba
I totally missed this. A WW2 Tank sunk as an artificial reef at 5m deep. Photo: Quora. 
Seven Sisters Dive Site

Our final dive was a nearby site, just minutes away from Gorgon 1, so you will have your surface interval and freshly prepared lunch on board the dive boat. Now, this is luxury. 

The dive operator had organised a mini barbecue with some healthy looking fish pieces, where we were coaxed into doing it ourselves. The dive master and his assistant prepared the fresh salads and Hummus, which was incredibly tasty. 

After the surface interval, we geared up and got into the water to explore the Seven Sisters dive site, which is around 30 meters from the shore line. The depth here is maxed out at 16 meters, so as the final dive, we mostly dived at around 12-14 meters. 

Diving here lets you encounter the best of Red Sea diving, where the combination of small, medium and large can all be seen at one small area. Turtles, moray eels, barracudas and many other fish are present, which makes this an overall great dive site.

If you are diving here, ask your dive master about The Tank, a WW2 American tank sunk in 1999 as an artificial reef and at an amazing depth of 5 meters only. 

If you are an underwater photographer, the Seven Sisters dive site is probably the best spot to take underwater photos in Jordan. Colorful corals, reef fish and beautiful underwater landscapes make the entire setting simply amazing.

Jordan Diving
Sharmsoul takes a moment to admire the highway next to the dive site in Aqaba
How Much To Dive In Aqaba?

The golden question. From my last experience here, the price was around USD 70.00 or 50.00 JD for two dives per person, which includes all diving equipment, guide, food and the works. Below is the standard rates for diving in Aqaba 2017.

One Dive - 30 JD (Full equipment)
Two Dives - 50 JD (Full Equipment)
Night Dive - 50 JD (Full Equipment)

Some dive centers may offer a slightly cheaper package for walk-in divers, therefore it is best to shop around online. You can also do window shopping when you are there.

However, you need to make sure that the dive operator is a certified and professional one. Never dive with freelancers without a dive center.

Also, make sure you have your scuba diving insurance coverage, as it highly important when you travel around the world to dive. I think overall, it is best to just get a yearly insurance coverage for scuba diving.

Food in Aqaba
Our Jordanian lunch served on board the dive boat during surface interval
Aqaba dive operator boat
Various photos showing my Jordanian food and the dive boat facilities
Aqaba Dive Packages for 2017

Note that the below is a rough estimate for the Aqaba dive prices for 2017. Some dive centers may be cheaper, while others may be a little more expensive.

If you are staying at one of the luxury resorts, the price will be much higher than below. The prices are taken from popular dive operators around Aqaba.

  • 2 Day Aqaba Dive Package - US$100-200 per person. Includes 2 dives per day with equipment, food, port fees, transfer and guide. Total 4 Dives.
  • 3 Day Aqaba Dive Package - US$240-280 per person. Includes 2 dives per day with equipment, food, port fees, transfer and guide. Total 6 Dives.
  • 5 Day Aqaba Dive Package - US$400-430 per person. Includes 2 dives per day with equipment, food, port fees, transfer and guide. Total 10 Dives. 
Aqaba Scuba Diving
On board the dive boat in Aqaba with the dive master and guide
Best Time to Dive in Aqaba, Jordan

The best time or the peak times for diving in Aqaba is from May to July. However, you can still dive during other months as the waters are still clear, but a little colder. 

December and January are the coldest months where the water temperature can go as low as 19 Degrees Celsius. You may require a 7mm wet suit during these months. 

If you are planning to do some diving in Egypt, you can also read about my good friends experience of Blue Hole Diving in Dahab, as this is one of the places which I would love to dive at. Perhaps in the near future, I will make a dive trip to Dahab, Egypt.

Distance from Amman to Aqaba
Amman to Aqaba takes about 4 hours drive. Note Aqaba is in the south most part of Jordan.
During my trip to Jordan, I visited numerous places including the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash and the capital Amman. In general, when you visit Jordan, I highly recommend you take at least a week to dive and explore this beautiful destination.

My trip was provided by the Jordan Tourism Board to create online awareness for the Asian and Southeast Asian markets. It covers an overall perspective of Jordan, the historical sites, the local cuisine, bird watching, scuba diving and the local cultures. 

I also wrote an article for places to visit in Jordan for Malaysia, if you are planning to go there. Overall, Jordan has so much to offer, it should be on everyone's bucket list. And if you are a scuba diver, then a must do is no doubt diving at the Red Sea in Jordan.

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