Resident instructor Daniel Stokes updates us on the current situation and how to get to Sharm this year
For the UK diver that loves the world-class diving of Sharm El Sheikh, the non-availability of direct flights remains a frustration. For over a year now Brits have had to either miss out or visit the popular Red Sea destination via indirect routes. While many other nationalities are able to visit directly, visitor numbers are well down across the resort and it is fair to say that there has been a more or less total pause in British divers apart from a few, very gratefully received regulars that were the lifeblood of many dive centres and hotels in the past.
At present, the three main UK tour operators have all cancelled plans for Sharm for the summer of 2017.
Thomson states that it has had to implement a ‘cancellation of all outbound flights up to and including 30 September 2017’, but are currently offering flights and packages for sale after this date.
Thomas Cook advises that it has 'sadly decided we won’t be able to offer any trips from the UK to Sharm next summer,’ with a restart of sales on its site beginning in November 2017.
Monarch follows a gloomy outlook with no proposed restart as it is ‘cancelling all flight and holiday bookings to Sharm El Sheikh for the foreseeable future,’
EasyJet appears to have erased all references to Sharm from its website and British Airways simply states that ‘all British Airways flights to/from Sharm El Sheikh have been indefinitely suspended.’
This current lack of direct flights to Sharm for British divers is a result of the FCO’s travel advisory restricting the use of Sharm El Sheikh airport 'essential travel only'. It must be noted that there is no travel warning associated with the resort itself, only the airport.
The governments of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine have lifted any travel restrictions to Sharm and direct flights from these countries has resumed. The timing of their decisions gave the airlines and tour operators an opportunity to put together packages with sufficient notice to inform potential holidaymakers, and visitor numbers from these countries are beginning to grow again as a result.
From a purely diving perspective, the unprecedented downturn in business has led to a visible recovery in the health of the reef and encounters with larger species have definitely increased. It’s been 15 years since divers had the opportunity to visit Ras Mohamed and Tiran with so few other divers in the water.
There are some great deals on offer as dive centres try to keep themselves afloat, which will hopefully make up for the fact the only way for British divers to get to Sharm at the moment is through indirect means
For those interested in visting, the easiest and most direct options are to take EgyptAir from Heathrow via Cairo, Pegasus from Gatwick and Stanstead via Istanbul, and Turkish Airways – also via Istanbul – but departing from Edinburgh and Manchester as well as Heathrow and Gatwick. Your bags will be checked through all the way from the UK to Sharm to minimise inconvenience, and excellent prices are available through advance booking. Turkish Airways are currently offering an indirect return option from the UK to Sharm in June for £250
Another option is to fly to Hurghada, which is not subject to any restriction and to which direct flights can still be booked. There are daily flights between Hurghada and Sharm, and LaPesPes, the twice-weekly ferry provides an alternative, with crossings on Sundays and Thursdays.
The third option would be to travel from one of the countries whose government has lifted the travel ban to Sharm Airport. Inexpensive flights can be booked to a number of destinations across Europe, and some tour operators are able to offer complete packages. It will mean some delay in travelling, but any excuse for sight seeing along the way is a good excuse!
In Sharm itself, although it’s quiet, the mainstream dive centres, hotels, bars and restaurants are still open, and you can be assured of a warm welcome. It may be worth noting that, aside from the excellent state of the reef, the current value of UK Sterling at £1 for 23 Egyptian pounds means your beer budget may be substantially reduced!
A full list of operators is provided below, but please remember to take into account the current FCO advice regarding Sharm Airport. You may need to contact your travel insurance company to check if you are covered for travel to Sharm, but if you’re not, Insurance is available from Westfield Sub Aqua & Marine Insurance Services will cover on their standard policy.
(Daniel Stokes is a freelance instructor and current resident of Sharm El Sheikh)
From Vienna with ETI Tour operator. Packages available. https://www.eti.at
From Brussels with TuiFly. Flights Tuesdays and Sundays. https://www.tuifly.be
From Düsseldorf and Munic with Germania. Flights Mondays https://www.flygermania.com/en/
From Munich and Dusseldorf with ETI Tour operator. Packages available. https://www.eti.de
From Munich, Dusseldorf, Hannover, Frankfurt and Leipzig with FTI Tour operator. Packages available. https://www.fti.de
From Tbilisi with Air Cairo. Flights Thursdays and Sundays. http://www.flyaircairo.com/en/Home
From Alexandria, Cairo (daily) and Hurghada (Thursdays and Sundays) with Egyptair: http://www.egyptair.com/en/
From Cairo with Nile Air. Flights daily. http://www.nileair.com
From Hurghada with LaPesPes Ferry.Thursdays and Sundays. http://www.lapespes.com
From Amman with Royal Jordanian. Flights Mondays and Thursdays. http://rj.com/en
From Kuwait with Egyptair. Flights Wednesdays and Sundays. http://www.egyptair.com/en/
From Oslo with Air Cairo. Flights Sundays. http://www.flyaircairo.com/en/Home
From Jeddah and Riyadh with Saudia Airlines. Flights Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays. http://www.saudiairlines.com
From Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. Flights Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays. http://www.turkishairlines.com/en-int/
From Istanbul with Pegasus Airways. Flights Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays. https://www.flypgs.com/en