People often ask how it is to dive in Thailand as opposed to dive in Egypt. As any diver knows, any day diving is better than a day at the surface! It’s hard to compare apples to oranges but nonetheless, comparisons can be made.
I have dived extensively in both Egypt and Thailand with liveaboards, safaris, daytrips and 4-day-pick-up-from-your-hotel-specials. So, what do we have going for diving in Thailand and what does Egypt have to offer?
As you know, the Red Sea has an ecosystem evolved for the hottest sea temperatures on the planet. Egyptian coral strives in temperatures of 30c! They are even trying to transplant the coral worldwide to see if the Red Sea coral can adapt to new environments and help protect the reefs from the effects of global warming.
This means that in general, Egyptian coral is lush, rich and offers a large variety of colors. On the other hand, Thailand has a lot more soft coral, gorgonians, etc. I have routinely seen more fish even on routine dives in Thailand, but seeing healthy striving coral is easier achieved in Egypt.
Some say you see more in Egypt, as the visibility is often excellent, up to 30 meters. But what is it exactly that you see if it is only coral? It is again useless to compare diving with “better” visibility. In murkier waters I often have better luck approaching critters close. The visibility is certainly adequate enough to enjoy Thailand, and yes, the Similans are put by many on the top 10 dive lists in the world.
Conditions Thailand often has stronger currents, which takes a couple of dives to get used to. It is by no means anywhere near close to the ripping currents of Komodo or Cocos Island, and an experience guide has no problem showing the customers around.
For some bizarre reason the turtles I meet in Thailand are fearless – they routinely let me come up close to snap a picture of them. The ones I met in Egypt both in Tondoba bay and Abu Dabab (premiere Marsa Alam divesites )were much more shy and would swim away as soon as we approached.
My first dive on Racha Yai this season, a site which is less than an hour away from Phuket, and is the go-to-site, with sometimes quite a number of divers, showed an astounding variety of critters. Banded Sea Snake, Titan Trigger Fish, Three Giant Groupers caught in a territorial dispute, the biggest puffer fish I have seen in 8 years diving (busy chatting about something with a huge purple moray) and about 5 different morays. A turtle waved hello from the distance but he felt like staying in the deep that morning.
Of course, other dives on the same dive site bring less excitement, but overall, I was blown away by the variety of life on this “average” site as compared to Egypt. On the other hand, having just come back from a diving safari in Egypt, I was not impressed by the state of the coral. Fishing vessels routinely anchor in the area, and the warmer sea is not too god for the Thai coral either.
If you have to pick between Thailand and Egypt for diving alone, I would definitely say do both, as each one is unique!
If you want the whole package, Thailand is clearly the winner in my book, with cheaper and better food, drinks, (you can buy liquor at the 7/11 in Thailand, try that in Egypt!), laid back locals that enjoy socializing with tourists, and overall a much better infrastructure to support tourism.
Once again, this is just one diver’s observations – what you get from your dives depends not only on the dive sites. A lot, like the ability to pick the right site, the right time, and the right operator to go with is up to you. Or, if you did indeed pick the right operator, most of these will be taken care of for you.
This is why on our dive trips we keep the ratio of the divers small, stay away from large groups, and aim to find something that the diver is interested in, be it a challenge, a relaxing dive, or a photo opportunity.