Marsa Alam, Egypt

Marsa Alam, Egypt. By Packing my Suitcase.

The first time I ever heard of Marsa Alam was from a marine biologist who worked at the hotel where I was staying in the Maldives. When discussing about diving, she told me this place is still unspoiled in Egypt, and that its coral reefs are amazing, not to mention the marine life diversity found there. Since then, I put Marsa Alam on my list of must dive places, and in this month of November I spent 10 days enjoying what this place in the middle of nowhere has to offer.

Marsa Alam is a remote location in Egypt, but this has been changing in the past few years since its International Airport was built in 2001. Located 735 Km from the capital of the country, Cairo, and having Hurghada (284 Km) and Luxor (237 Km) as the closest big cities, Marsa Alam lies between the Red Sea and the desert.

Marsa Alam map, Egypt. By Packing my Suitcase.

A quiet place to relax on paradisiac beaches, to do amazing diving and snorkeling, daily boat trips, be pampered on a spa, and to catch one of the famous Liveaboards/Safaris boats. In addition to all of that, it is a sunny all-year-long-place and a cheap destination, especially for Europeans.

Before you ask, no, there are no pyramids in Marsa Alam, but yes, there are camels – often seen on the beach and being transported on trucks on the highways. Throughout the coast of Marsa Alam, there are several resorts where you can choose upon, though the most common place to stay is in the Port Ghalib area, where there are restaurants, supermarkets, hospital, and of course, the port. The hotels far from the port are mostly on even more remote areas, and in order to catch a diving boat, you will need a transfer provided by your diving center, which will take you to Port Ghalib; some are as far as 1 hour by car, or even more.

Marsa Alam, Egypt. By Packing my Suitcase.

Marsa Alam is a real paradise for families, couples, divers and snorkelers, the water is clear and turquoise, with healthy corals and amazing marine life, where liofishes, schoolers, moray eels, eagle rays, dolphins, the rare dugongs, turtles and sharks can be spotted. However, this paradise needs to be taken care of in order to preserve its beauty, I honestly was very disappointed after seeing so much waste in the area; while diving I collected plastic bags and bottles underwater.

It would probably be a great idea to bring awareness to the local population and tourists, and maybe implement a Project Aware in the Red Sea, before this problem becomes more serious. I would gladly take part on that!

For all of you considering visiting Marsa Alam, especially for diving, here are a few tips that might help you make your decisions and organize your trip according to your needs:

Basic Information

Official Language: Arabic. However, the majority speaks English and German, and sometimes even Italian.

Official Currency: Egyptian Pounds, but Dollars and Euros are very welcome.

Visa: for Visa requirements for your nationality, you can find here. Me being a Brazilian and W a German citizen, we got our Visa at the arrival, for 25 dollars, no need to apply for one in advance. If this is your case, as soon as you arrive in Egypt, you will have to take the line to buy your Visa, then the immigration line, where they will stamp your Visa. I must say that this was all new to me, the system is kind of disorganized, and how can I say… funny? No, maybe it’s better to say… different.

Security: even with the current political problem in Egypt, Marsa Alam doesn’t pose any threat to your security related to protests and/or terrorism.

Visa Egypt, by Packing my Suitcase.

The arrival

I decided to fly from Munich to Hurghada as it was a direct flight of 4 hours and a half. So far, there are no direct flights from Munich to Marsa Alam, and a connecting flight would take mostly the entire day!

After arriving in Hurghada we had a transfer arranged by our diving center waiting for us. We drove a little more than 2 hours, and I must warn you that the Egyptian drivers have a peculiar system to drive, not my favorite though. We arrived well at the hotel!

Where I stayed

After months deciding where we wanted to stay, changing our minds all the time, we chose the resort Marina Lodge at Port Ghalib. The price seemed really fair for an all-inclusive option and the boats of our diving center left directly from the hotel’s door.

The room was spacious, clean, and quiet; the staff was very nice, one of the waiters suggested a tea that would make my sore throat get better, very much appreciated. Internet was a problem – but that is the same for all other resorts in the area – 7 dollars an hour, so of course I didn’t pay for that, instead I bought a local SIM card with a few gigs and it worked pretty well.

The food was just ok, not the best I had, and most people staying there would agree with me, but it seemed to me this is common in the region. However, I wasn’t looking for luxury, especially because we spent our entire days on the sea, or better saying, underwater.

Deciding the diving center

Whenever you search for a diving center in Marsa Alam, you will always see Emperor Divers at the top. It also took us months to decide the diving center we would choose, but we ended up choosing Emperor Divers. They are not the cheapest, and I find that they lack a bit of that “family” atmosphere we divers normally find on smaller diving centers.

However, they are very good, and have great boats, nice and friendly staff and offer a great house reef. They have a base at the hotel we stayed in and this was very practical for us, taking the boat only a few steps away from where we had breakfast. There are also other great options in Marsa Alam when it comes to diving centers, I heard many people recommending Extra Divers. Truth is, you need to know the hotel you are staying, because some of them are very far from the diving centers and from where you take the boat.

I believe Marsa Alam is a must visit to all divers, mainly because of its dive sites, though it is more the kind of place where you will stay in an all-inclusive hotel basis, not really a good option for backpackers. I enjoyed very much my stay in Port Ghalib and the diving was heaven. You can see how is like to dive in Marsa Alam here and it’s top dive sites here.

Marsa Alam, Egypt. By Packing my Suitcase.

About Allane

A Brazilian living in Germany. Married to W. mommy to a baby girl and a Golden Retriever. Traveler, writer, aspiring photographer, diver, wine appreciator, Formula 1 fan, avid reader of historical and young adult fictions books. City girl, nature lover, believer of a better world, one little change at a time.

  • Awesome! Lucky you. The diving photos…? BTW, that pic of the Sun and the Sea… brilliant! 🙂

    • Diving photos are coming up on next post, which will only be about diving, otherwise the post would have been too long. 😀
      Ohh thaaank you, glad you liked the photo… it was an amazing moment 😀

  • Sounds a great place to dive in that area. Nice review. Thank you! How was the water temp there? I have heard that in the winter could be below 25 degree..

    • Its very nice Indah… on the next post I will write more details about the diving itself, and of course, pictures 😀
      Yes, they also told be in can be under 25C, during the months of Jan and Feb apparently… though I wouldnt mind, after diving in Croatia in June, I dont think it will be worse hahaha. But the thing with Marsa Alam is the wind, that place can be veeery windy!! I hope you go sometime, the diving is amazing, I heard many people there saying that they wouldnt change the Red Sea for the Carebbean!!

      • 😀 😀 looking forward to read the next post 😉
        Yes, I have read about the diving comparison of Caribbean vs Red Sea. Gosh those people…
        I always think every seas have its own characteristics but yeah, some divers have preference of course – well just like me – always looking for warm sea waters!! 😀 😀 😀

        • hahaha… I agree with you that each sea has its characteristic, it really depends on what you are expecting and looking for… I like diving either ways, and as you, looking for warm waters, please!! I met many divers in Marsa Alam that dive in the North Sea, with dry suit… I cant do that 🙁 I need good visibility and warm water!! 😀

  • I just love the picture of the camel :)) so cool! Looking forward to the next post!

    • Thank you dear, Im happy that you liked it 😀
      Yes, next post will have some nice underwater photography 😀

  • I have never heard of Marsa Alam. It looks like a stunning place to visit in Egypt as I love the country. Although I have already stayed in Taba and Sharm, so this will definitely be on my list – I like the fact it’s quieter and more unspoilt. Look forward to hearing more about it

    • And the funny thing is that I thought of you when I was there, because I knew you have been to Egypt before and liked it! No doubts Marsa Alam should be on your list… it is very quiet and with amazing beaches, and the sea is amazing for snorkeling!! Next post there will be some underwater photography 😀

  • I have been thinking about going to Marsa Alam for a few years now so I’m pleased I read your post! It looks like a beautiful place, did you get any lovely shots underwater?

    • Hi Madeline!
      Yes definitely go, you will love it!!
      Yes I did, next post will be all about diving and there will be lots of underwater photos 😀 this post was more to give some tips for those planning to go dive there, some tips that makes things easier 🙂

      • Cool I am really looking forward to it! I have a friend who goes there often for the diving, I might have to start thinking about a trip soon! I can’t wait to see your uw pictures 😀

        • Oh yes, you need to go there… I heard many people saying that diving in the Red Sea is one experience one must have! There is so much to see there, that you will always be busy 😀

          • I will definitely go there at some point in the future! My next destination however is hopefully Gozo! Have you ever been?

          • Ohh really?? I’ve never been there, but its on my list for sure… we wanted to go this year, but we ended up going to Turkey and Egypt instead… I hope next year it will work out!! I hope you go and let me know how it was 😀

          • I’m hoping to go next summer! Will let you know how it is 😀 I’ve heard there’s a really wide range of dive sites from wrecks to caves to reef dives and the island itself looks amazing! There are also some great instructors there for technical diving! 😀 I’m hoping to do a sidemount course with my friend… 😉

          • That sounds really exciting!!! Ohh you make me miss diving already!! I heard great things about diving there and also about the island itself… Im guessing you will have lots of fun 😀
            Wow are you going to do technical diving? Thats awesome!!

  • For some reason I cannot click “like”!
    Anyways, just wanted to say that you had another great holiday it seems 🙂 More underwater photos to come?

    • Oh no, really? Sometimes wordpress is a bit slow and it takes a while until the like button appears, kind of weird!
      Yesss, next post will be full of underwater photos 😉

      • WordPress has been acting a bit funny lately.. anyways, waiting for the photos 🙂

        • I know, I thought it was only with me… I guess they must be doing something new!!
          Tomorrow or Tuesday the new post will be ready 😀

          • Really, you too? I sometimes see that I have x-number of views, and then the next moment the number decreases… Do you have the same prob?

          • Yess!! Same with me regarding the number of views!!! And also sometimes it says that I am not following someone, which Im sure I am because I comment on this blog very often… kind of weird, so I have to follow again! Some weird small things going on!

          • Sounds similar!! Hopefully they sort things out soon, whatever they are doing….

          • True, that is what I hope too!

  • Very interesting! I will have to add this place to my wish list for the future!

    • Glad you like it!! Its a really nice place to relax away from everything 😀

  • Diving over there must be fabulous ! I love the camel on the bed 😀 It’s made of blankets ???? 😀

    • Yes it was amazing… next post will only be about diving there 😀
      hahaha cute right? Yes he was made with blankets and pillows… one of the days we arrived at the room and there he was, it scared me but then I just had to make a pic of him, so cool!! 😀

      • When we were in Galapagos, in a hostel, they made a boobie with the towels as well and that was so cute !

        • hahaha oh my really? So cute!! I love the boobies… I think it must have been hard to make one of them with towels, pretty cool!! 🙂

  • It looks SO awesome, I love the picture with the camels, haha 😀 But what I am most interested in is seeing your beautiful diving shots! 😀 Quick question: what can you do in Marsa Alam if you are not a diver?

    • Thank you Vlad 😀 the camel is so cute, I wanted to take him back home with me hahaha
      The next post will only be about diving, so there will be lots of underwater photos 😀
      If you are not a diver (lots of people there aren’t) you can spend your time on the beach or snorkeling (you will see amazing things), enjoy the resort you are staying in, make boat trips (in one of them you get the chance to see dolphins), go to a spa and just relax 😀

  • Amazing picture, must have been a great experience, seems so many things to do but time the challenge…loved the place, added to my travel agenda!!!

    • Thank you dear Nihar, Im happy that you like it…there is more coming up this week!
      It is an amazing place, very different than many I have been to so far… I would definitely visit Egypt again! 🙂

  • Haha, I notice that you like visiting places beside the sea and ocean! You certainly love diving and water a lot 😀 If we were to go on a holiday together, I will not join you in the water because I don’t like swimming! I will be the sad one taking photos…

    Like some of the above commentors, I’ve never hear of Marsa Alam, thanks for sharing this gem of a place with us. Wow, the people there are very friendly, recommending tea for your sore throat. And what is that thing made out of blankets on the hotel bed? I’m thinking it was already there when you got there? 😀

    “I love Egypt”. I hear you – you wrote it so big in the sand <3

    • hahaha yes I do love the sea, I grew up by the sea, so it has always been a part of me. But I also love discovering new cities, and I have my favorite ones 😉

      Sad that you dont like swimming, but dont worry you wouldnt be the sad one taking pictures, Im sure you would find things to do around and meet new people…besides, taking pictures isnt sad, is cool 😀

      The thing made out of blanket is a camel hahaha… one of the days they made our room and when we arrived he was there! 😀 pretty funny!

      • I like the sea too. More like the fresh sea breeze and the coconuts dropping from the trees on the beach 😀 I like taking photos, so I don’t think I will be too sad watching everyone splash in the water from the sides. Besides, I will be the first one to eat the food served as everyone gets dry from the water 😀

        I thought it was a camel, but you can never be sure! I hope it didn’t come alive and bothered you too much. Maybe you didn’t even want to touch it 😀

        • Ohhh yes…. I miss coconut water from Brazil!!! You are smart… thinking of being the first to eat the food hahaha

          Hahahaha no I wasnt afraid to touch him, I actually felt sorry that I had to tear him apart, I needed the blankets to sleep with ahahaha

          • Coconut water….that is one of my favourite drinks! So when we go to a restaurant by the beach we will order the same drinks 😀

          • Yes we will 😀
            Do you have coconut water in Australia? Here in Germany there is, but in packages… and once in a while there are some coconuts to sell at the supermarket, but they seem to be very dry haha so I never bought one to try!

          • Sadly a lot of the coconut water is packaged in Australia too. Fresh coconuts are accessible too but so expensive and I don’t buy them.

            Didn’t know they can be dry, hahaha! I thought they were always filled with water – and either are too sweet or not-to-sweet 😀

          • hahaha noo I meant on the outside, totally dried out and brown… sorry I didnt explain well. In Brazil we have green coconuts, then you make a little hole on them and drink the water with straw 😀 we dont peel them ahaha

  • What a beautiful place, enjoy!

  • Pingback: Top Dive Sites in Marsa Alam, Egypt()

  • As I said before on one of your diving posts Allane I really admire anyone who can dive because the thought would really scare me! It must be an amazing experience under the water though. It’s good that you are highlighting the importance of preserving the environment too – it looks such an idyllic place and sad to think it is not always being looked after with respect to rubbish etc What a magnificent looking camel – he looks very regal! Beautiful photos – the sunset looks so beautiful 🙂

    • Yes, diving is a passion, but I know that it’s had for many people. My mom is also scared about it.

      About the environment, I am very worried about it and always cared a lot, so it makes me sad when I see such a beautiful place not being taken care of!

      And thank you, happy that you liked the photos 😀

      • I agree with you about the environment – it’s so sad when people don’t respect it and very important to raise awareness of the need for preservation. Although I don’t dive myself I can enjoy looking at your photos! 🙂

        • Yes it is! If everyone cared things would be very different. It’s very sad that not everyone cares like we do.
          I’m happy you enjoy my diving photos 😀

  • That’s lovely!!
    I love camels, they are such cute creatures. In Egypt they are everywhere! 😀

  • Yes, it’s a great place for divers!! I would definitely return to Marsa Alam for more diving 😀
    The camel is cute isn’t it? hahaah

  • That’s awful Christine. But I don’t think thing changed much… at least by the beach you can see a lot of debris and I was very disappointed with that 🙁

  • Hi Megan! I have also been to Sharm and I found Marsa Alam way better. Maybe next time you can try there, it’s very different than Sharm, quieter mostly, and less touristy.

  • Thank you so much Jenny 😀
    Ohhh I hope you do dive someday, it’s one of the best things I have ever done… it’s so much fun! 😀

  • That’s amazing Cathy, I didn’t know you dived too 😀
    I still haven’t been to Hurghada exactly because people tell me it’s pretty damaged now 🙁
    This year I went to Sharm and dived in Ras Mohammend and it was amazing!

  • It is no doubt an amazing place for relaxing and diving 😀
    You can see the post about diving here: http://www.packingmysuitcase.com/2014/11/17/diving-in-marsa-alam/

  • Yes, it’s pretty sad 🙁
    And in Marsa Alam isn’t even that bad compared to other towns in Egypt. It’s a shame.

  • Yes, it’s pretty sad 🙁 I also do hope people start to care more before it’s too late!!

  • Hi Sarah!! Yes it is pretty sad!
    I do hope people start caring more about the environment in the area 🙁

  • Thank you Natasha 😀

  • Thank you so much for the comment Kana 😀 Happy you liked the post and the camel picture. I hope you visit Egypt sometime! 😀

  • hahahaha at moment I wish I was there too 😀

  • Oh really? That’s so cool! I am sure your kids would love spending some time exploring Egypt 😀 I still want to visit the cities, like Cairo and Luxor one day.

  • hahaha for the weather is great! Sun and warm water during the entire year 😀

  • So far I have only been to the beach towns, and hope to visit the big cities sometime. But I can tell that the beach there is awesome, not packed with people and clear water 😀

  • hahaha yes, there are much more than the pyramids in Egypt 😀 the Red Sea is amazing for those who love the ocean 😀

  • Yess, diving in Egypt is amazing! I hope you get the chance to do it someday, it is certainly a great place to learn 😀
    And thank you, I’m happy to know that you liked the photos!

  • Marsa Alam is very different from Sharm, way less touristy. And yes, it’s less than 400km to Luxor! 😀