Not too long ago, this blossoming resort town was a quiet, sleepy fishing village but, when an airport was constructed close by, things started getting more interesting. Enjoying a history of excellent diving and snorkeling, Marsa Alam has been a hotspot for undersea explorers for quite some time now – and with very good reason. The white sand beaches that warm the feet, the stunningly bright and clear pale blue waters, a blazing sun that heats up early and stays hot until cooler night finally forces it down for a few hours, are all abundant draws; a lazy paradise that remains unspoiled for now, but has a bigger future ahead. However, it is the diving that really keeps this area king.
The southernmost resort beach area along the Red Sea Riviera, Marsa Alam boasts the rarest and most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Here, intrepid divers feel a thrill as they catch a glimpse of elusive shark species, endemic to the area and found nowhere else. Tropical fish display their vibrant colors in a mardi gras parade of showmanship, darting in and out among the reefs, flirting with underwater photographers and glinting in the filtered sunlight. Among these are also a good number of species that are native to the waters found here. A pod of spinner dolphins call this stretch their home and often invite themselves to scuba dives, swimming with their human counterparts or playing not too far away. Marine turtles also seem unafraid, continuing their ancient swim paths around Marsa Alam.
To visit the spinner dolphins, Samadai Reef, being given the moniker of Dolphin House, lies just a few hundred meters offshore and is home to over 100 spinner dolphins. Not as extroverted as their bottlenose cousins, spinners are still quite happy to swim and play with the divers who come calling. Dolphin House is a warm, shallow lagoon protected by a reef and is a fantastic place for snorkeling and scuba diving, where wild marine mammals keep permanent residence year-round.
Considered a premier diving site in the Red Sea, Elphinstone Reef is an amazing reef with walls plunging dramatically over 70 meters straight down and decorated with sponges and fans of vibrant pinks, browns, reds and ghostly whites. The entire offshore area of Marsa Alam is excellent for sub-surface adventure, with sunken ships, coral gardens and coral reef walls ready for exploration and discovery. As the town is still relatively unknown, the beaches and dive sites are uncrowded, unspoiled and healthy.
Marsa Alam is not very developed at the moment, but with plans announced in 2009 for a monstrously large development of five million square acres of oceanfront property, the community is abuzz with the inevitable building up of the land and the introduction of many more shops, boutiques, markets, restaurants, resorts and adventures. For now, the town is a little raw and a bit primitive, but well loved for it and very comfortable. There are camel treks available outside in the desert surrounding the town, as well as jeeps and quad bikes for further adventure. Wild animals abound in the sands, and guides can be hired for a fascinating day of hiking around the area. While not a massive resort town yet, it is charming, full of things to do and a great place for relaxation and recharging the soul.