Comfortable shallow sea of the Gulf welcomes you for relaxed recreational diving and snorkeling in the area of Aqaba all the year round. The underwater world here is famous for great opportunities for macro photography as well as thrilling night dives.
If you have not yet seen a tank, a cargo platform wreck or telecommunication cables under the water, you will be able to add them to your logbook after visiting Aqaba. Dive sites in deep waters together with several deep wrecks allow to study or practice technical diving.
Aqaba is the only Jordan gate to the Red Sea which is located at the very edge of the Gulf of Aqaba. It used to be and it still remains an important Jordanian port. Now the Jordanian coastline covers 26km (16mi); it starts from the border with Israel in the northwest and it goes up to Saudi Arabia in the south.
The most common way to get to Aqaba is to arrive in King Hussein International Airport. It is located within a 20-minute drive from the city. You can also use a ferry connection between Aqaba and Egyptian Taba or Nuweiba. However, ferry might not be operating in bad weather. You can also travel by land transportation from Israel. In this case, you need to be prepared for customs formalities which might take some time.
In order to move between Aqaba and other Jordan cities, you can take a daily bus. Public minibusses operate between the little towns, but they do not have a strict timetable. In this connection, it is recommended to take a taxi or to rent a car preferably with a driver to get around the country.
The larger part of Aqaba’s coastline is protected under the Aqaba Marine Park. It stretches for 7km (4mi) being divided into 5 zones. One of them is reserved; another is used for boats access; while the rest are devoted to diving, snorkeling, and beach areas.
Aqaba’s reef starts with a shallow coral plateau right from the shore which is often separated by a sand strip and sea lagoons, especially in low tide. This front part of the reef is often referred to as a fringing reef. The plateau then slopes down into the deeper areas breaking into small reefs, grass, and sandy areas, and drop offs. There are no standalone reefs coming from the deep in this area, and the dive sites can be explored not far from the shore. You could have reached all of them from the land, however, due to constructions and some restrictions you might need to take a boat to get to the furthest dive sites.
There are 3 areas offering about 25 dive sites between North Beach, Visitors or Central Beach where the main public beach is located, and South Beach. Dive clubs in Aqaba usually offer both shore and boat diving. If you go by boat, a daily diving package typically includes transportation to the boat and back, 2 dives, a lunch, and non-alcoholic beverages.
If you are a fan of wreck diving, you can find several artificial reefs, M24 Tank being one of them.
Technical diving is very popular in Aqaba due to the calm sea, good visibility and a number of wrecks lying in the deep. So you can find dive clubs who specialize in technical diving and courses with all the needed equipment and facilities. The record of 167m (547ft.), being the deepest technical dive in Aqaba, still seems to be unbeaten since 2011.
According to the rules of the Marine Park you always need to be accompanied by a dive guide registered with the Park even if you are an experienced diver. Also, all the divers are required to take passports aboard with them.
Best Dive Sites Overview
This dive site recommended to advanced divers is located in the North Beach. The entry is usually made from the shore. This is a beautiful wall dive and not a wreck as you might have thought because of its name. The name comes from the coastal power station built next to the site’s entry point. The coral reef gradually goes down to 20m (65ft.) with the following drop off to about 40m (131ft.). You can expect to meet Morays, Turtle, and Napoleon here. Occasional Whitetip Reef Sharks were spotted at this dive site.
Cedar Pride Wreck
This is one of the most famous local dive sites situated close to the Central Beach. Cedar Pride can be reached both from the boat and from the shore. She used to be an 80m (262ft.) long Lebanese freighter. She was badly damaged by the fire and at the request of the King of Jordan who used to be a devoted diver, it was sunk not far from the shore in 1985. Now the wreck stays on 2 small reefs starting from 7m (22ft.) with the lowest part at 26m (85ft.). There are several spots where qualified divers can penetrate the wreck.
The site is great for underwater photography as there are many hard and soft corals, including Anemones and Table Corals. Macro life is represented by Shrimps, Candy Crabs, and Spanish Dancer. The wreck is surrounded by schools of reef fish with Barracuda and Pipefish being often guests at the dive site. Some dive operators offer spectacular night dives here.
The Tank & the Seven Sisters
The Tank used to be an American M24 “Duster” tank owned by Jordanian Army. She was sunk in 1999 and now she makes a perfect wreck located very close to the beach. The Tank lies at the depth of 6m (19ft.) so even snorkelers can enjoy an artificial reef full of soft and hard corals. The wreck has become home for Nudibranch, Lionfish, and Grey Moray.
As the wreck stays close to another dive site called “The Seven Sisters” located in the area of the South Beach, you can combine both sites in one dive. The latter comprises of 7 pinnacles between 8-10m (26-32ft.). It’s a great place for underwater photography as you can encounter plenty of reef fish and such inhabitants as Turtle, Octopus, Moray, Scorpionfish, and Stingray.
This dive site has got its name after a similar landscape in Wadi Rum. It is located near the South Beach where the entry is made from the shore. First, you are to pass areas of sea grass and sand in order to get to the reef behind. It starts from 12m(39ft.) and drops off to 50m (164ft.). Here you have a chance to spot pelagic and even occasional Whitetip Reef Shark. Among the other residents of the area, you can enjoy Napoleon, Unicornfish, Turtle, and Rays.
The Reef got its name because of the seascape formations reminding a rainbow. The entry is usually made from the shore. The reef starts from 6m (19ft.) and goes down to 18m (59ft.). In the western part of the dive site, you can find telecommunication cables between Jordan and Egypt. The reef hosts beautiful Gorgonia, Anemones and other soft and hard corals. It is common to find Lionfish, Nudibranch, Spanish Dancer, Lobsters, Shrimps, Crabs, and Morays here. Rainbow Reef is often chosen for amazing night dives.
Taiyong Wreck & Japanese Garden
Taiyong was a platform where large vessels uploaded their cargo. She was damaged and after a while, she was sunk in the Gulf. This is a technical dive site as the upper part of an “A” shaped platform lies at the depth of 35m (114ft.) and the lower part stays at 57m (187ft). The wreck is covered with different corals including Black Coral. The site is located next to recreational Japanese Garden dive spot where it is common to see Turtle, Stonefish, Scorpionfish, Eagle Ray, Lionfish, and Morays.
Al Shorouk Wreck
This is another technical dive site located behind Eel Canyon in the area of the North Beach. Al Shorouk used to be a 74m (242ft.) long cargo vessel. It was decided to sink the boat in 2008 to make a recreational dive site. However, because of the big waves and bad weather she drifted deeper than it was planned. Now she makes a great technical dive.
The wreck reminds a bridge because it connects 2 reefs nearby and you can swim under it. The shallowest part of the wreck is located at 38m (124ft.) while the deepest point is 58m (190ft.). You can try to penetrate the wreck through several points including the engine room.
Best Dive Season
The best season to dive at Aqaba is between September and October. It becomes less hot outside and the water temperature is very comfortable. The visibility reaches about 30m (98ft.). The chances of seeing Turtles and Eagle Rays are very high in this period.
The area is well protected from the currents and waves so diving is possible whenever you wish to arrive. The average visibility is 30m (98ft.) with possible 40m (131ft.) during summer. It gets worse due to the winds between December-February and also because of the plankton in March-April. So you can have 15m (49ft.) visibility in such months.
The water temperature in the area of Aqaba ranges between 20-22°C (68-71°F) in January-March. During this period, local dive clubs recommend putting on 5mm wetsuit with gloves and a hood.
The warmest months are August and September when the sea warms up to 27°C (80°F). It might be a good idea to put on a 3mm wetsuit even during the summer period in order to have protection from possible cuts on the reef.
There are almost no strong currents in Aqaba. Most likely you can feel the current in the afternoon dives and only in few dive spots.
Aqaba Marine Park hosts about 160 species of fish and a great variety of hard and soft corals totaling up to 500 species. Beautiful Anemones, Gorgonia, Black Coral, Table Coral, and Brain Coral covered with Christmas Tree Worms allow making wonderful underwater pictures in shallow areas. Different types of Shrimps, Crabs, Seahorse, Lobster, Scorpionfish, Stonefish, and Morays call to explore the reefs closer.
This area is not characterized by many pelagic and big creatures; however, you still have a chance to spot some of them. You can expect to see Turtles, Rays, Napoleons, Jacks, and Barracuda.
September and October are the best months to see Turtles and Eagle Rays. There were a few cases when Whale Sharks were seen in the northern part of the Marine Park in the months of June and July.
There are no liveaboards servicing the area of Aqaba. Thus, you can choose from land accommodation which is rather diverse. You can find a few 5-star PADI Resorts. Some of the dive clubs partner with hotels by offering special packages for divers. Such packages usually include accommodation in 4 or 5-star hotel, daily diving, a lunch, and beverages.
Arab Divers Resort
This is a 5-star PADI Resort located on the South Beach. It has gained a Green Star from PADI for its environmental programs. You can stay in one of 27 Rooms which are divided into Single, Double, Triple, and Family connected Rooms. Each room features a bathroom, air-conditioning, and a refrigerator. There are 2 pools on the territory of the hotel. Breakfast is usually included in the price of the room.
Red Sea Hotel & Dive Center
This accommodation is located in the South Beach and it is integrated with the Dive Center. There are 13 rooms for Single, Double, Triple or Family occupancy. All of the rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, a bar, and a refrigerator. For the convenience of the guests, the Hotel offers a restaurant, a swimming pool, and a kid’s pool on the territory of the hotel.
Mövenpick Resort & Residences Aqaba
Mövenpick is a luxury 5-star resort which has a private access to the Central Beach. It offers different types of Rooms, Suites, and Residences. Some of the Residences have 3 and 4 bedrooms occupying the area of 200m² (2152ft²). This is the first Hotel in the Middle East which has got the International FEE Green Eco-Label. The facilities of the Resort include 4 swimming pools, 8 restaurants, and bars, a Health Club, a Kid’s Club, and a tennis court. Besides diving and snorkeling services, the Resort provides different types of water sports.
Kempinski Hotel Aqaba
Kempinski is a beachfront 5-star resort in Aqaba. There are various types of Rooms, Suites, and a Royal Suite. The latter can host 4 adults and 2 children on the are of 240m² (2583ft²). The Resort features a multi-layered pool, a fitness center, Spa, 6 restaurants, bars, and lounges. There is a water sports center on site.
InterContinental is another luxury 5-star resort located on the beach of the Gulf of Aqaba. You can stay in Classic Rooms, Executive Rooms or one of 17 Suites. The guests of the Suites have an extra bathroom, a wide living area with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a separate kitchen. In order to relax after diving, the Resort offers Spa, a wellness center, a fitness center, and a restaurant on the territory.
Other activities for non-divers
Snorkeling is as popular in Aqaba as diving. Snorkelers can enjoy most of the dive sites only from the surface. Aqaba Marine Park features special areas for snorkeling, and there are spots surrounded with buoys so the boats cannot pass through them. Among the best areas for snorkeling, there is the North Beach, the Tank wreck, and Japanese Gardens. If you wish you can join a full day or a half-day boat trip offered by one of the dive operators.
Often referred to as the Lost City or the Rose City, Petra is one of the most famous archeological and historical sites featured in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. It was included in the list of 7 new wonders of the world and it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Petra is located within a 2-hour drive from Aqaba, so you can take an opportunity to explore this rock-carved masterpiece. Some of the tombs were made using a special carving technique starting from the top and going down. The access to the site is made through a spectacular narrow canyon.
Wadi Rum is a protected area in the desert featuring incredible landscapes with canyons, mountains of fossilized sand, and valleys. The place became famous after being used as the main Martian background in such popular movies as “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, “The Martian”, and “Red Planet”.
You can find ancient graffiti and rock paintings there. Zalabia Bedouin still live in this area. Besides natural formations, you can enjoy birds watching as Wadi Rum is located on the route of birds that migrate between Eastern Europe and Africa. Among the birds of prey, you can see Buzzards and Eagles.
It will take you about 1 hour to get to Wadi Rum from Aqaba. You can explore it as a trekker; on a Jeep safari; through a hot air balloon trip; and by spending an overnight in a camp.