DIVE | Aqaba
Bountiful reefs, curious wrecks and an exotic mixture of marine life mirror the diversity of the attractions found topside, making a visit to Jordan the perfect blend of culture and adventure
With a coastline of approximately 17 miles in length, Jordan is what could be described as a small but perfectly formed diving destination. All the diving action takes place in the south of the country in the Gulf of Aqaba, at the northern tip of the Red Sea. Here there is a wealth of dive centres and diving choices, from gentle reefs for beginners to deep technical dives for the experienced.
The area is well known for several pristine wrecks which have been well colonised with soft corals and are particularly popular with photographers The creation of the five-mile long Aqaba Marine Park to the south of the city has also helped preserve the high aggregations of fish and strong coral growth. Aqaba is characterised by fringing reefs which have more than 120 species of hard corals and 160 species of fish, as well as seagrass beds that play host to all sorts of invertebrates. While the area is not famous for large pelagic visitors, there is still a good chance you'll see species such as barracuda and jacks, and you may be one of the lucky ones who is in the water when a whale shark makes one of its infrequent stops. Hawksbill turtles are often seen munching on the beautiful soft corals which make Aqaba's reefs such a popular destination with divers.
With more than 30 dive sites easily accessed from shore to a variety of depths, Aqaba takes the grief out of reef – expect pinnacles, canyons and drop-offs in excellent visibility, with quality topside facilities. Shore dives offer easy access to the shallow reefs, but there are a few boat dives available.
So it's Red Sea diving but without the crowds. The vibe is laid-back and relaxed, much like the diving which is largely current free and easy. Jordan's programme of artificial reefs and the creation of a marine park, were largely at the instigation of ruling monarch King Abdullah II, a keen diver who has championed the sport in the country. As a result, you can expect well-buoyed sites that are served by professional diving centres.
Visibility is excellent and water temperatures are typical of the Red Sea, between 20 and 30ºC depending on the time of year. A 3mm shorty is ample in the summer months.
Aqaba itself is a bustling port town with a good selection of quality hotels and restaurants, as well as markets and shops. The port can be busy as this is Jordan's only stretch of coastline, but the beaches are clean and well looked after with plenty of shade-providing palm trees.
Visitors to Jordan can combine adventure with relaxation, and culture with luxury – from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, there's something for everyone both above and below the water.