The Red Sea Riviera at Egypt’s Somabay is an unspoilt land of natural wonders.

Serrated ranges of mountains, so jagged they look like they have been sketched by an over-excited child, stretch as far as the eye can see among shimmering desert sand, while the clear blue waters lap gently at miles of crystalline white beach.

But while the scene above sea level is stunning, the views underwater are truly mindblowing.

Dip beneath the cooling water and one is confronted by a forest of coral – brightly coloured tendrils waving gently, among which unfamiliar fish – some solitary giants with gaping mouths and others shimmering in shoals – drift, oblivious to the occasional diver or snorkeller.

And they are occasional, because despite being an idyllic spot, this magical peninsula, less than 30 minutes drive from the international airport at Hurghada, has the air of a well-kept secret.

Somabay consists of a cluster of hotels draped along the loveliest part of the Red Sea Coast – on a 10 million square metre spit of land bathed by winds coming from the desert, which have made it famous as one of the world’s finest sailing and kitesurfing destinations.

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Each hotel is pitched at a slightly different audience, though guests are welcome to use each establishment’s facilities.

We checked into the Cascades Somabay – which boasts an 18-hole golf course designed by Gary Player, and the largest Thalasso spa in the whole of Africa, and, no surprise, it was popular with golfers and spa-lovers.

Along the coast, and linked by free shuttle minibuses driven by cheery local drivers, are the Sheraton Hotel Soma Bay and Robinson Club – popular with families – and the Kempinski Hotel, which caters more for smartly-dressed couples and lovers of high-end luxurious travel. The odd one out is the Breakers Diving and Surfing Lodge, a pueblo-style hangout for watersports enthusiasts – particularly weather-beaten kite-surfers and divers who gravitate to the neighbouring Orca Dive Club.

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While the big hotels see couples holding hands over dinner, or families splashing around in the pools, here hip water-lovers sip beers and share tales of exploits above and below the waves.

Diving is big business out here and the perfect place to do a PADI course. But you don’t have to strap tanks on your back to enjoy the splendours of one of Planet Earth’s finest coral reefs. All you need is a mask and snorkel.

Explore this living, breathing episode of Blue Planet by dropping off a boat or, uniquely, taking a stroll along the 4200m long jetty and taking a dip off the end – right in the middle of this surreal underwater world. No where else makes it so easy to come face to face with turtles, rays, squid and, we were told (but failed to see) dolphin – with practically no equipment and after just a short walk from the beach.

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Offshore are sandbanks and islands, which can be visited by boat – and the legendary Tubya Arbaa, known as the seven coral towers. There are also wrecks to explore, including that of the mysterious Salem Express.

We took a voyage under sail to explore, joining the crew in some nautical exertion as we set the sails, tacked and gybed over water of the deepest blue, eyes peeled for those illusive dolphin, and even more (thankfully) illusive sharks.

If you are staying long enough it is certainly worth taking an excursion three hours or so inland to the Nile Valley where the Temple of Karnak and treasures of Luxor’s Valley of the Kings offer a thrilling and illuminating insight into Egyptian history – and an unrivalled day trip.

Egypt may have had a rough few years, but it has bounced back, albeit with some tight security. This means that while it is safer than many popular European destinations, those who venture here are guaranteed acres of space on the beach or by the pool, and standards of luxury at prices so reasonable as to be unthinkable on the Med.

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Security is taken seriously too, with Somabay guarded by a security barrier and guards. Within, all is serene with the shimmering horizons disturbed only by the swoop of a heron or, if you are lucky, one of those dolphins.

Go quickly before the secret gets out!


  • Somabay is on the Red Sea coast of Egypt near Hurghada
  • Stay at The cascades, The Sheraton Soma Bay Resort, Kempinski, Robinsons Club or The Breakers Prices vary, from EUR 54 per person per night half board at Breakers to EUR 82.50 at Cascades and EUR 144 per room per night half board at the Kempinski.
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