While the land of Saudi Arabia presents a myriad of diverse landscapes for exploration— black lava fields, white sand beaches, lush mountaintops, and bustling cities—the Red Sea is a destination in its own right. Off the coast of Umluj, Yanbu, and Jeddah are opportunities for fishing, island hopping, snorkeling, diving, and cruising. Don’t stop at the sand, the pristine waters of the Red Sea are spilling with adventure.
A coral island group that has hosted civilizations from the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, the Farasan Islands are rich in biodiversity. This marine sanctuary of mangrove forests hosts a legion of bird species such as osprey, sooty falcon, pink-backed pelican, red-billed tropic, white-eyed gull, Saunders tern, crab plover, and flamingos. Try your luck and you might spot an endangered Farasan island gazelle too. Under the water, explore systems of coral, parrot-fish, whale sharks, dugongs, manta rays, and sea turtles.
For a different experience at the opposite end of the country’s coastline, sample the stunning white-sand beaches of Al Wajh Lagoon on a boat tour. North of Umluj sits an archipelago of over 100 virgin islands. These undeveloped islands are the definition of serenity, perfect for sunbathing or admiring the marine life glide through crystal clear waters. Plan your day trip here, and in just a few years, you’ll be able to book an eco-friendly resort on one of these islands too.
All that island hopping is sure to make you hungry. Rent a motor boat and follow the seabirds where you’ll find a multitude of fish to bring back to a restaurant on the shore. Visit Sead Seafood Restaurant, or The Port Fish Restaurant in Umluj and enjoy a fresh-caught seafood meal after your trip.
The Red Sea’s remarkable clarity and comfortable temperatures provide unprecedented opportunities for snorkeling and diving. In the waters around Umluj, 300 species of hard coral grow—four times the number of species found in the Caribbean—along with green and hawksbill turtles, dolphins, dugong sea cows, and over 1,200 species of fish.
Visit Yanbu, “the Pearl of the Red Sea” and Saudi’s scuba diving capital to explore the infinitely colorful Seven Sisters coral reef chain, World War I and II shipwrecks, hammerhead sharks, and more alluring fish species.
Tour the top diving locations bordering Jeddah leaving from Sharm Obhur, Abu Tair, Abu Faramish, and Jebel Al Lith. Diving at Sharm Obhur begins right at the beach. Enter the water from the sand — instead of taking a boat — and greet turtles, clownfish (“Nemo fish”), lionfish, eels, and—if you’re lucky—a bull shark. Sharm Obhur offers an exciting dive for amateurs and experts alike.
Off the coast of Abu Tair, swim through the Staphonos, or the Cable wreck, which met the Red Sea floor in 1978 full of cargo like cables, chain fences, and steel beams. The ship sits on its side, illuminated by the sunlight on clear calm days. Explore the wreck alongside whitetip sharks, goatfish, and blue-spotted rays.
Dive along Abu Faramish to traverse a nearly 40 kilometer reef, and wander through the Ann Ann shipwreck. The Ann Ann sank in 1977 and stands upright 32 meters below the surface. The power supply room, captain’s quarter, cargo room, a toilet, and the propeller are all mostly intact. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera for some posed shots. Meet the wreck’s inhabitants of tuna, blue-spotted rays, whitetip sharks, and snappers during your dive too.
A farther but rewarding distance away is a popular diving site in Jebel Al Lith—preferred by divers for whale shark sightings. About 200 kilometers south of Jeddah, examine the Farasan Bank—a giant reef wall expanding south to the end of Saudi—alongside whale sharks most commonly seen in spring and early summer.
If you prefer a more luxurious trip along the Red Sea, book a Red Sea Cruise on which you’ll enjoy private dining, rooms overlooking the sea, large auditoriums for dance and theatre productions, markets with sundries and souvenirs—and on most of the ships—health and wellness facilities, swimming pools, and recreation areas. Stop along the ports of Saudi including Yanbu where immaculate family-friendly beaches and areas reserved exclusively for women provide the ultimate relaxation environment. Spot dolphins along the way, and look forward to future offerings of snorkeling excursions from the ship. Anticipate a delicious menu of halal food and, though there is no call to prayer on the ships, feel comfortable to pray on the ship just as you would on land. Become familiar with Saudi’s entire glassy, island-speckled Red Sea on one of these sleek, luxury liners while all your other needs are cared for.
The Red Sea can be experienced in a multitude of ways, such as on the waterfront in Jeddah. Choose your method of adventure and behold the diversity of these waters.
If you’re looking to visit Saudi Arabia, make sure you’ve got the latest information about Covid-19 travel precautions and restrictions for travelling to the kingdom.