Snorkeling site selection: How to plan where to go snorkeling?
Here I will tell you how I select the hotel for our next vacation to the Red Sea. I prefer to stay at a hotel directly at the beach – and with a coral reef right at the door step, that has some nice snorkeling. And there is actually quite a lot of the planning you can do behind the desk using your computer. – even before booking the trip.
Before we select where to go to in Egypt I try to see what hotels the travel agents are offering. Most of the travel websites have a map showing where the hotel i situated. But if not, you can usually find it in Google Maps, Google Earth or similar map service.
First of all – if the hotel is not directly at the beach, then it is out. If you have to take a shuttle from the hotel or walk long distances, the time and effort needed to get in the water increases significantly.
The next thing is to look at the satellite images, to learn what the reef near the hotel is like. – Some hotels especially in the center of Sharm or on the coast of Hurghada are on sandy beaches with no nice reefs nearby. You will be very disappointed if you snorkel there.
On the image you are looking for areas where the water turns dark blue very rapidly. This indicates that you cannot see the bottom, and thus that it is a very steep coral wall. Of course you cannot guarantee that the wall would be full of thriving corals but it definitely is a promising sign.
Secondly, I note the direction of the coastline. if it is northerly, then the sun will mostly hit the top of the reef whereas the deeper parts will be in the shade. The chances of a blooming coral reef is less likely. The southerly reefs are much more likely to have many colorful corals growing at depth (20+ meters).
Easterly or westerly positioned reefs are ok – especially if they are sloping gently – or are slightly southerly.
A hotel that is situated at a coastline that is bright blue with some darker brown/grey patches can also be quite interesting. The bright blue indicates sandy areas whereas the brown/grey indicates the coral heads or reef. – sometimes – as the image below there is also sand from the coast and out to the reef
The most brownish areas are the areas where the corals grow up to about half a meters depth, whereas the darker brown areas are indication of reef formations where the top of the corals are 2-5 meters down. Depending on the quality of the image, you can see the corals down to about 10-15 meters and sandy areas that are at 15-20 meters depth.
The Smooth cornet often hovers over the corals hunting… Here it is on the edge of the reef, where the corals reaches up to just 1 meter below the surface.
A sandy area between coral heads can be a fine place to see some of the fish. Here is a Broomtail wrasse at about 4 meters depth.
A Titan triggerfish breaking off branches from corals on a coral head at about 10 meters depth the sandy bottom is sloping down in the background.
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