Boasting the longest coastline of any other country along the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia offers a wealth of possibilities for sun and sea lovers. From the Jordanian border on the northern Gulf of Aqaba to the Yemeni border in the far south, the country’s pristine azure waters, soft sands and idyllic islands make it possible to enjoy a tropical-style break without having to travel for hours and hours.
What’s more, with nearly 2,000 kilometres of Red Sea coast surrounding the Kingdom (the western coastline alone extends for about 1,600 kilometres, representing 79 percent of the Arabian Peninsula’s Red Sea shoreline) it’s a magnet for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. It’s up there among the best spots for those who revel in swimming in topaz waters teeming with beautiful colourful fish and coral reefs (there’s a rumour there are as many reefs in Saudi Arabia as there are in the rest of the Red Sea put together). Lots of other marine life and mysterious wrecks also make Saudi a winning destination.
While the government began offering tourist visas before Covid-19 hit, providing exciting new opportunities for divers, Saudi Arabia remains one of the least dived and charted areas of the Red Sea. And undoubtedly, one of the biggest advantages while discovering all the underwater beauty is the abundance of practically unexplored virgin reefs compared to the more tourist-filled spots in the region. Another plus for choosing to snorkel or dive in Saudi include the sunny weather, which makes it possible to go for an underwater adventure any time of the year. Additionally, the crystal clear waters make it a fantastic destination for everyone, including beginners, who can easily ogle at the wonders of the sea during those first shallow dives.
Umluj has become a particularly beloved piece of paradise for underwater world aficionados visiting or living in the Kingdom. Known as the ‘Maldives of Saudi Arabia’, this gorgeous small northwestern town is 150 kilometres north of Yanbu, making it an easy two-hour drive away.
The 104 subtropical islands known as the Saudi Maldives are located just off the Red Sea coast between Umluj and Wajh. A boat ride away, they boast some of the most spectacular diving sites in the Kingdom. The dreamy atolls, fringed with fine white sands and turquoise waters, are home to around 1,000 species of fish, as well as Hawksbill sea turtles, dugongs and dolphins. There are also around 300 types of stunning hard coral.
As well as the breathtaking underwater wonders, the must-visit destination’s palm-fringed beaches make it the perfect corner for soaking up the sun and enjoying some good old fashioned barefoot relaxation. Whether it’s back on the mainland or on one of the islets, there’s nothing like some seaside serenity after an exciting plunge. Options include a stroll in a picture-perfect setting, reading a book while peeking at the azure surroundings and getting a Robinson Crusoe-inspired barbecue started.