Marsa Alam Holidays
Marsa Alam Holidays – Spectacular diving and desert safaris
Situated on the Red Sea coast in south-eastern Egypt, the former fishing village of Marsa Alam is fast developing into one of Egypt’s most up-and-coming resorts. The holiday scene here is very much focused on the seafront, with a small harbour and quay bustling with bars, restaurants and shops, and the majority of hotels looking out across the sea. Marsa Alam has something of a tropical paradise feel – think palm trees swaying in warm sea breezes, tangled mangroves and coral reefs. The resort has a reputation of having some of the best dive sites in Egypt - Elphinstone Reef in particular is legendary amongst divers - with dolphins, dugongs and hammerhead sharks regularly spotted, as well as crocodilefish and octopi.
Accommodation here ranges from budget 3-star options to full blown 5-star all-inclusive luxury. The nightlife is an eclectic mix, ranging from frenetic Mexican disco to shisha pipes and oriental drinks in Bedouin tents on the beach. Popular activities include deep sea fishing, kite surfing at the Wadi Lahami lagoon, quad bike and jeep safaris that explore mountain valleys and Bedouin villages, and relaxing camel safaris to witness spectacular desert sunsets.
Marsa Alam is a great spot for those looking to enjoy watersports activities, diving, desert excursions or just lazing on the beach. For a more cultural experience exploring Egypt’s ancient monuments, try Luxor or Aswan.
For simply lying on the beach and enjoying the nightlife, September-March is the best period to visit, with comfortable temperatures in the 20’s to early 30’s and a lively bar scene. February-April and the Christmas/New Year period are the busiest months for ‘ordinary’ tourists and see peak prices, while the summer months of June-August are the busiest for scuba divers. Those interested in diving may want to avoid April-May, when there is a plankton boom and water visibility is reduced, and strong winds can make seas too rough to dive. Whale sharks can often be seen around late May-June. For windsurfers, April- May and November – December are the best months to visit due to the strong winds. Be aware that the peak summer months can get very hot indeed, so those who struggle with high temperatures should avoid these months.
While Marsa Alam does get very hot, the resort’s coastal location means it benefits from cooling sea breezes that take the edge off the heat. There are two ‘seasons’ – summer and winter. Summer stretches from May to the beginning of September and sees temperatures ranging from 33-36C on average, with highs well into the 40’s. Winter, between the end of September and April is generally cooler, with temperatures between 24-33C on average. There is plenty of sunshine all year round – even in December and January the resort sees 9 hours sunshine a day.
Unlike the larger, more touristy resorts in the north such as Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada, Marsa Alam does not see huge crowds even during the peak season months. It will, of course, get busier however, so if you’re planning on travelling over the Christmas period or between February-April, it’s wise to book your accommodation as early as possible. The best deals and offers will sell out first, so get in their quick to get the best bargains. The summer months will generally see lower prices, and some excellent late deals are to be had by booking in April-May for the summer period. Booking an all-inclusive holiday to Marsa Alam is a good way to reign in your holiday spending; while the initial price may be a little more expensive, you won’t have to worry about paying for food or drink for your entire trip.
Marsa Alam has its own sleek and modern airport, the Marsa Alam International Airport (RMF), located around 67km from the town centre. You can get flights to the airport from London Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham. The flight time between five to five and a half hours depending on where you depart from, and the time difference is GMT+2 (+3 between April and September).
The airport is small, with just one runway and one terminal. Despite this, there is a good range of facilities found here including an internet café, VIP lounge, bookshops, jewellers, a bazaar, duty-free shops and ATM machines. If you have not pre-arranged a visa, you can purchase one at the airport for around £15.
There is no public transport from the airport to the resort. The majority of holiday packages will include a transfer. If you do not have a transfer arranged, you can pre-book one through companies such as Airport Transfers. You have the option of taking either a shuttle bus, with the fare split between you and other holidaymakers, or booking a private taxi. A return fare for a shuttle bus will cost around £11 per person. A return fare for a taxi will cost around £66 for the vehicle. Transfer time is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.
Alternatively, you can arrange to hire a car for the duration of your holiday, to be picked up at the airport. Reputable companies such as Europcar provide this service.
It is also possible to reach Marsa Alam from Hurghada airport, however this is not really recommended at the transfer time will be around 4.5 hours (nearly as long as the flight itself!)
A mecca for scuba-divers, Marsa Alam offers some of the best diving in the Red Sea, with access to a host of first-class sites, such as Elphinstone Reef. With dives for both beginners and experts, the resort boasts fantastic coral reefs and gardens all along the coastline, and the chance to view exceptional marine life such as hammerhead sharks, dolphins and turtles.
An ideal way for non-divers to experience the beauty of the waters, snorkelling is also widely available here, with recommended spots throughout the resort, such as Dolphin House. There's plenty to see in the shallow offshore reefs, as well as boat trips out to nearby islands, with snorkelling excursions including lunch and drinks, and offering for a fun and rewarding day out.
Sun-worshippers can make the most of the wonderful sandy beaches that run along the coast, which boast azure blue seas and secluded spots shaded by palm trees. Peaceful and uncrowded, beach holidays are perfect for switching off and soaking up the idyllic atmosphere in Marsa Alam.
If not content with sunbathing, guests looking for activities to take part in can indulge in banana boat rides, jet skiing, pedalos, water skiing, windsurfing, kite surfing and sailing, and even join organised trips to swim with dolphins. On land, there are plenty of sports facilities in the hotels, and the chance for activities such as tennis, volleyball and horse riding.
Venture out and experience life in the desert, with trips to the sand dunes on horseback, camel, jeep or quad bike to explore the rugged and peaceful terrain. Join an expedition to a Bedouin village and gain an insight into their traditional life and customs whilst joining them in a cup of Arabian tea, before enjoying an authentic dinner under the stars.
Away from the beach and the water, The Emerald Mines, the National Park at Wadi Gimal, the Temple of Seti I at Kanais and a ferry crossing to Jordan make for interesting side trips, whilst Luxor and Cairo are within reach for longer day trips in Egypt.