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Dive Site: Marsa Mubarak, Egypt

Hiding in the sea grass just offshore are this site's real attractions: the local population of green sea turtles and the resident dugong, nicknamed Dennis.

Marsa Mubarak isn’t necessarily the most impressive dive site you’ll ever see. A sandy beach leads to a gently sloping bottom, lined on one side by a reef wall with some coral growth and fish. In the middle is a patch of sea grass. But upon this sea grass are the site’s real attractions: the local population of green sea turtles and the resident dugong, nicknamed Dennis.

There are a few hotels in the area that use the beach, which ensures fairly good facilities in terms of showers and toilets, but it also means that there can be tourists nearby as you enter. This far south in Egypt, however, you’re unlikely to find the droves of sunbathers you can encounter further up north, or in Sharm el-Sheikh. Regardless, the turtles and the dugong have taken up residence far enough from the beach that the swimmers don’t seem to bother them.

As you enter the water, swim calmly out towards the open sea, keeping your eyes open for any movement. The turtles can usually be found munching on the sea grass, or on the surface when they head up for air. The dugong is a bit more unpredictable, and there’s an element of luck to seeing him. Some people dive here repeatedly and see him every time; others aren’t quite so lucky. Local guides can advise you on your chances and the best time to go, but generally both turtles and dugong are best spotted on morning dives rather than afternoon ones. End the dive along the reef to the south before heading back to the beach. For the adventurous, there are a few pillars with coral growth a fair distance from the beach.

The area is quite sheltered due to the reef lining the beach and has an easy approach and gently sloping bottom, so it’s a great spot for inexperienced divers. Because the bottom is composed of fairly loose sand, though, it gets kicked up fairly easily by excessive finning, which can easily ruin the visibility.

Please maintain a reasonable distance from the animals, as the dugong in particular is fairly shy. If you’re in any way unsure of how to behave in the presence of the animals, please take a guide from one of the local dive centers.