Nestled between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, the Red Sea is one of the world’s premier dive destinations. Its stunning underwater topography, exotic marine life, and easy access from nearby cities make it a diver’s paradise. But there is no better way to experience its true beauty than with a liveaboard cruise.
Many countries populate the Red Sea shores, with the most popular tourist destination being Egypt (check out our dedicated Egypt liveaboard guide). But we mustn’t forget Sudan and Saudi Arabia, which offer some incredible, untouched diving spots. No matter where you choose to visit, there are amazing things to experience and explore while liveaboard diving in the Red Sea.
In this ultimate guide to liveaboard diving in the Red Sea, we will discuss all the best options in Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia – including where to go, what to see, and the best liveaboards available.
At around 1,200 miles long and an average of 190 miles wide, the Red Sea is truly a unique diving destination. It is a macro diver’s paradise but also offers abundant coral gardens and reef walls for those seeking more traditional underwater adventures. As the Red Sea does not experience much rainfall and is sheltered by its surrounding countries, the salinities and temperatures remain very stable throughout the year.
Liveaboards are the most popular choice for divers exploring the Red Sea. On a liveaboard cruise, divers can spend days exploring the depths of the Red Sea from the comfort of their boat. Plus, it eliminates the need for lengthy transfers between dive sites which can take up a lot of time!
Let’s take a look at some more reasons why liveaboard diving in the Red Sea is so great:
Most liveaboards in the Red Sea focus on Egypt, but some options do travel the shores of Sudan and Saudi Arabia. When coming up with dream diving destinations, it is unlikely you would consider these two countries. But their remote and unexplored dive sites make them a thrilling experience for those seeking something different.
The scuba diving infrastructure in Sudan and Saudi Arabia is lacking compared to Egypt (which has strict diving regulations), so the best way to experience everything these countries offer is with a liveaboard cruise.
The Red Sea is home to incredible marine life; they are simply brimming with exotic fish, corals, nudibranchs, and other critters – there’s something for everyone! You can explore the depths of the Red Sea and come face to face with some of the most extraordinary creatures. From graceful manta rays to curious dolphins, you can experience it all on a liveaboard diving trip in the Red Sea.
Liveaboard diving trips in the Red Sea also offer a chance to see larger aquatic species, such as hammerheads and whale sharks.
Wreck-diving enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the Red Sea is home to an incredible array of sunken ships. Whether it’s cargo vessels or warships, there are plenty of wrecks to explore – and they can all be easily accessed on a liveaboard cruise. These wrecks offer fascinating insights into the region’s history and marine life, and there are options for divers of all levels.
If you want to explore wreck diving, one of the best options is the Wrecks & Reefs Itinerary in the Northern Red Sea (Egypt). Read more in our detailed guide on liveaboard diving in Egypt.
Whether you love macro photography or deep dives, the Red Sea offers something for everyone. It is possible to do almost any dive on a liveaboard cruise in the Red Sea, from drift dives and night dives to technical dives. Many liveaboards in the Red Sea also offer options for non-divers in your group, such as snorkeling. So while they may not be able to join you for the deep dives, they can still enjoy the beauty of the Red Sea!
The Red Sea is known for its crystal-clear water and consistent seasonal temperatures. In the height of summer, the water temperature can reach up to 86°F (30°C). Whereas in the winter, it is a little cooler, at 69°F(21°C). The visibility in the Red Sea is also remarkable, usually ranging from 20-40 meters.
The current in the Red Sea is unique, as it has what is known as a poleward-flowing current – which flows in the opposite direction to the rest of the world’s oceans! This is due to the region’s geographic position, and it ensures that surrounding countries, like Egypt and Sudan, have a unique underwater environment. In general, the currents are usually very mild, making excellent conditions for scuba divers of all levels.
The liveaboards in the Red Sea also offer excellent value for money. Many liveaboard locations worldwide (like the Maldives, Indonesia, or the Bahamas) charge a lot for a week’s worth of diving, but the Red Sea has affordability at its heart. While the price you pay does depend on the length of your trip and the type of boat, you can still find remarkable deals that won’t break the bank.
Egypt offers a wealth of dive resorts, with the majority located in Dahab and Sharm el Sheikh. Dive resorts in Sudan and Saudi Arabia are not as common, but some do exist. For the ultimate Red Sea experience, however, nothing quite beats a liveaboard cruise. These trips offer an intimate view of the region’s marine life and culture. Plus, the opportunity to explore remote dive sites that are not accessible by resort-based dives is unparalleled.
Liveaboards in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan also tend to be more cost-effective and help you avoid crowds in popular resort destinations. With a liveaboard in the Red Sea, the itinerary is also customized for you based on the conditions and wildlife sightings – something that is not usually achieved with a resort-based dive.
A Red Sea liveaboard diving trip is a great way to experience this region. But before you book any liveaboards in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, there are a few things to consider.
You must first decide which countries you want to visit. Most liveaboards in the Red Sea offer a variety of itineraries, visiting multiple locations with different dive sites each day. Make sure to research the various itineraries available and compare them with the dive sites that are most important to you.
As previously mentioned, most liveaboards in the Red Sea focus on Egypt and its adjacent waters. However, if you wish to visit Sudan or Saudi Arabia, you may be able to book a liveaboard that includes these countries as standard; otherwise, you will have to look for a specific liveaboard covering these areas.
No matter where you decide to visit, there are some must-see locations, such as:
We will start with the most popular location, which is Egypt. There are a wealth of coral reefs, walls, and wrecks to explore here. If Egypt is on your list of top places to dive, be sure to check out our dedicated guide to liveaboards in this area.
The most famous sites in Egypt include the following:
- The SS Thistlegorm: The SS Thistlegorm is a British freighter wreck located in the northern Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt. This shipwreck is home to a plethora of marine life, such as sea turtles, moray eels, and lionfish.
- The Brothers: The Brothers are two islands situated off the coast of Egypt. The waters around these islands offer excellent visibility and are home to several shark species.
- Straits Of Tiran: The Straits of Tiran are situated between the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia and offer some of the best diving in the region. Here you can find a variety of reef fish, rays, turtles, and even dolphins.
While it may not be the most popular destination for liveaboards, Sudan is home to some spectacular dive sites. Some of the must-see locations include:
- Sha’ab Rumi: This is an isolated reef off the coast of Sudan, and it’s one of the best places to spot sharks in the Red Sea. You can also find Cousteau’s Conshelf II here, made famous by scientist Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his expedition to live underwater in 1962.
- Angarosh Reef: If sharks are top of your list when checking out liveaboards in Sudan, then Angarosh Reef should be your first port of call. This reef is known for its large population of hammerhead sharks, sometimes seen in large schools.
- Sanganeb Atol: Aside from a spectacular coral reef, there is also a lighthouse at Sanganeb Atoll. Some liveaboards in Sudan make time for you to climb the lighthouse for a stunning view of the reef below.
In 2019, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia opened its doors to visitors from 49 countries with its new visa system. While this is great news for travelers, it has also made diving in the Red Sea even more accessible. Some of the top locations to visit include:
- Farasan Banks: This area of the Red Sea is often visited by liveaboards in Saudi Arabia. Farasan Banks is a large archipelago of islands that offer spectacular reefs and wild, untouched islands – with a volcanic origin.
- Yanbu: The coastal city of Yanbu is located just a few hours north of Jeddah and is home to dive sites such as the Seven Reefs and Five Sisters. Here you can find plenty of colorful coral and a vast array of marine life.
- Jeddah: Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia and is a well-developed dive area. There are several wonderful dive sites here, and you can find a mix of reefs, walls, and wrecks on this liveaboard diving Saudi Arabia vacation.
Most liveaboards in the red sea are wooden hull yachts, purposefully built for divers. They often feature a dive deck, air-con cabins, and various home comforts. Alternatively, some schooner-style liveaboards in Sudan offer a more traditional sailing experience.
Whichever boat you choose, your Red Sea liveaboard diving experience will be unforgettable.
Most Red Sea liveaboard diving trips will last for 8 days, regardless of the country you visit. There are some shorter and some more extended options varying between 4 and 15 days – depending on the boat and company.
Liveaboards in Sudan and Saudi Arabia tend to average 2 to 3 dives a day, whereas Egyptian liveaboards can feature up to 4. The number of daily dives can change based on the route and sea conditions. Always check the itinerary of the liveaboards in the Red Sea to ensure you get the number of dives you want.
Each liveaboard will have different requirements regarding diving experience. Liveaboards in Saudi Arabia tend to be beginner friendly, either requiring no logged dive hours or a very low amount.
Liveaboards in Sudan are best for seasoned divers, as 50+ logged dive hours and advanced open water certification are requirements. For liveaboards in Egypt, the requirements vary depending on the route and itinerary. There is a good mix of beginner and advanced trips available, so it’s always best to check the details before booking.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan are all predominantly Muslim countries, so you should educate yourself on the local laws and customs – and be respectful of them during your liveaboard trip. Each country also has different local laws and regulations. For example, diving in Egypt is heavily regulated by the Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS), which has set rulings regarding diving.
Always check the regulations of the country you are visiting and those of your liveaboard before embarking.
It is recommended to purchase dive insurance before embarking on a Red Sea liveaboard trip. You may be able to buy insurance with your liveaboard, or you can find independent policies online. It is essential to keep in mind the coverage required for any medical and repatriation expenses that may arise during your trip.
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Nitrox is often available on liveaboards in the Red Sea. Always check for availability before you book your trip, as some boats will provide it upon request – but may charge a supplement fee. Bring your nitrox certification with you if you wish to use this enriched air.
Most liveaboards in the Red Sea will provide gear rentals, meaning you do not need to bring your own equipment with you. If you wish to bring your gear, check the requirements and restrictions of the liveaboard before packing.
Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia liveaboards usually operate throughout the year, thanks to the warm climate and calm seas. The best season for liveaboards in the Red Sea is either between March and May or September and November. During these months, the water temperature is often 73-78°F (22-26°C), and visibility will be excellent.
You can find some liveaboards in the Red Sea operating outside of these months, either in the cooler winter season or during the hot summer months. Just be sure to check the forecasts and temperatures before booking a trip if the weather is a priority for you.
Whether you travel to Egypt, Sudan, or Saudi Arabia for your Red Sea liveaboard trip, you can find a range of itineraries to suit your skill level and interests. The best itineraries for Red Sea liveaboards will entirely depend on where you are going and the length of your trip. However, most liveaboards will focus on a mix of sites, with several dives around world-famous wrecks and coral reefs for both snorkellers and divers.
Here are some of the best itineraries for Red Sea liveaboards in Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia:
Full of world-class reefs and wrecks, Egypt’s itineraries often include the Brothers, Daedalus, and Elphinstone routes – full of coral walls and the opportunity to swim with sharks! Another is the Wrecks and Reefs itinerary, where you’ll see the SS Thistlegorm amongst many other wrecks, which are all teeming with colorful marine life. These fabulous itineraries last for 8 days and 7 nights on average.
This stunning country offers a range of sites, from massive coral walls and small caves to hidden wrecks. Liveaboard diving Saudi Arabia itineraries often start at the port of Al Lith and focus on the Farasan Banks area of the Red Sea.
Here you can spot families of whale, hammerhead, and tiger sharks while enjoying the various dive sites, including the Dohra, Jadir, and Malathu islands. Liveaboards in Saudi Arabia that take this route often last for 8 days and 7 nights.
Liveaboard diving in Sudan is often part of a broader, Egypt-focused itinerary. This great literary starts at Port Ghalib and includes Elba Reef, part of which is in Sudanese water. There are routes solely focused on Sudan, but they can be harder to come across.
Liveaboards in Sudan, which do not include Egypt, start at Port Sudan. This route visits some breathtaking locations, including Merlo East, Sha’ab Rumi, and Angarosh. These trips usually last for 8 days and 7 nights, with some longer options to visit more locations over 15 days.
For an 8-day and 7-night liveaboard in the Red Sea, you can expect to pay around $1500 per person. This price includes all your accommodation, meals, and dives – making it great value for money compared to other diving holiday destinations. The budget for a 15-day trip is usually around double this amount; however, this will depend on the type of boat, itinerary, and amenities you opt for.
You may need to pay entrance fees if visiting any national parks, which many Egypt liveaboards in the Red Sea visit. If you want to rent gear, use nitrox or provide gratuities to the onboard staff, you’ll need to factor those costs into your budget too.
Most Red Sea liveaboards offer similar features, but the quality of experience can differ significantly from boat to boat. To make sure you get the most out of your liveaboard diving in the Red Sea, you should research your options carefully.
Here are some of the best liveaboards in the Red Sea:
Length: 39m Width: 8.6m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 12 Maximum capacity: 24 guests Rental Gear: Yes
The Royal Evolution offers eight-day explorations of Egypt and Sudan’s border. This liveaboard is best suited for advanced divers with at least 50 hours logged. With a dedicated dive deck and rebreather support, you’ll be able to explore the Red Sea in luxury.
Let’s not forget the onboard amenities: all cabins have air conditioning, free internet to stay connected, and a sun deck to soak up some rays. Finally, no adventure would be complete without succulent food experiences – enjoy regular complimentary wine with dinner and various food options throughout the voyage.
Length: 38m Width: 8m Nitrox: Yes (free) Cabins: 14 Maximum capacity: 26 guests Rental Gear: Yes
The Emperor Elite offers everything a diver could possibly need. With its 8-day, 7-night routes, including the Famous Five from Hurghada to Marsa Ghalib, it’s easy to see why this vessel won best liveaboard in 2020! Custom-built for dive excursions, you know you’re in safe hands when aboard the Emperor Elite.
This liveaboard has all the amenities needed for your underwater adventures – dedicated dive decks, free nitrox, and (for those wanting something extra) tenders for diving. Not to mention the cabins provide stunning views of the Red Sea, perfect for relaxation and recovery after a long day of diving.
Length: 34m Width: 7.8m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 10 Maximum capacity: 20 guests Rental Gear: Yes
If your dream is to explore the world-class dive sites of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Explorer is a perfect choice. This custom-built liveaboard caters to the needs of the avid diver with its DIN adaptors and nitrox availability.
A dedicated crew is on board to ensure you have an experience of a lifetime, with trips lasting 8 to 13 days. The Saudi Explorer offers daily housekeeping, sea-view cabins, and plenty of food options – making it a great way to explore the waters of Saudi Arabia.
Length: 29m Width: 7m Nitrox: Yes (free) Cabins: 6 Maximum capacity: 12 guests Rental Gear: Yes
The Snefro Pearl is the ideal choice for small groups looking to explore the Egyptian Red Sea. With a range of itineraries from 4-8 days, this impressive vessel features free nitrox for certified divers, en suite bathrooms, and snorkeling equipment for non-divers.
The full board option provides delicious meals and snacks throughout the day – while chartering the ship allows you to embark on a custom-designed journey of discovery. Explore coral gardens rife with biodiversity, drift dives alongside majestic sharks, and soak up an experience unlike any other in an area renowned for its proud culture and ancient history.
Length: 40m Width: 7.5m Nitrox: Yes (free) Cabins: 13 Maximum capacity: 26 guests Rental Gear: Yes
The Sea Serpent Glory offers an incredible 8-day liveaboard adventure that takes you through some of the Red Sea’s most remarkable dive spots. On your journey, you’ll get to explore and experience a range of sights, such as Fury Shoal and St. Johns. Plus, if it’s the sharks you’re after, you’ll love the chance to spot some of these majestic creatures!
There are onboard scuba diving and nitrox courses available, plus the option to hire a private dive guide. Not to mention land excursions, hotel transfers, and extra dives – the Sea Serpent Glory is an incredible option.
There isn’t always much space onboard a liveaboard, so it is essential to pack smart – but don’t forget you need a visa! Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia require a visa to enter the country, so check your visa requirements before you arrive.
Here are some ideas on what to bring for a Red Sea liveaboard trip:
- In-date passport and required travel documentation
- Clothing suitable for the season – a few changes are enough
- Towels (while most liveaboards will provide you with towels, bringing an extra one can pay off)
- Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
- Medication – if you require
- Dive certification information (including nitrox, if owned)
- Dive log book
- Scuba equipment – unless renting
- Credit card or local currency – check for rulings regarding a maximum amount
- Dive insurance
- Surface marker buoy (SMB or DSMB) – if you need to bring your own
- Photography and videography equipment
- Entertainment for between dives
- Electronics (charger, phone, headphones, etc.)
- Dry bag
- Water bottle
Exploring the Red Sea on a liveaboard is an unforgettable experience, with some of the world’s most diverse and vibrant marine life living in the warm waters. Whether it’s Egypt, Sudan, or Saudi Arabia – there are plenty of incredible dive sites to choose from.
Just remember to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of your liveaboard diving trip in the Red Sea – no one wants to miss out on the adventure due to a silly mistake! Be sure to pack the essentials and make sure you have all your diving equipment ready. Then get ready for an unforgettable journey of discovery.