Not your typical holiday destination, Eritrea is one of Africa’s hidden gems. This small country is located in the northeast part of the continent and borders Sudan, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Those who like to go off the beaten track will enjoy its diverse scenery that ranges from plateaus and soaring peaks to the pristine beaches of the Red Sea. Eritrea has an extensive coastline with pristine waters that rival the more popular Red Sea destinations.
The Dahlak Archipelago is the place to be if you want to plunge into the crystal-clear waters of Eritrea. The over 300 islands of the archipelago are scattered over a vast area of the Red Sea and remain one of the last unspoiled destinations on Earth. The islands can be explored with both traditional and modern boats, but finding a dive center is not as easy as you’d imagine. Not equally as impressive, Massawa is also a good diving destination in Eritrea, with lots of fish and plankton.
To arrange a dive trip to the Dahlak archipelago and Massawa, tourists must contact one of the country’s travel agencies. Please note that you will need a permit to travel outside Asmara, Eritrea’s capital city, from the Ministry of Tourism. Furthermore, not long ago, foreigners were not allowed to use public transports and were left with no alternative but to hire a car and driver to visit other regions. In the past years, tourists have used public transport without any issue, but it is recommended to get informed on the current regulations when you arrive.
Diving in Eritrea is possible year-round, but the summers are extremely hot, which is why you may want to avoid the months of July and August. The manta ray season runs from March through June, which is also the best period to visit the country, as the temperatures are pleasant but not extreme. From June to September, Eritrea is influenced by the southwest monsoon that brings a bit of rain, but the weather is typically sunnier on the coast.
At its coldest, the water temperature in Eritrea does not drop below 20° C/68° F – the coldest month being February, while the at its warmest, the water temperature reaches 29° C/84° F.
The currents range from mild to strong depending on location.
The visibility around Dahlak Islands is reportedly outstanding.
Dissie Island - Viewed as the most beautiful island in the Dahlak archipelago, Dissie island has a variety of hard and soft corals and abundant fish life. Manta rays are occasionally seen here. The reef is 20 meters (66 feet) deep, on average.
Dur Gaam - This is a small island with good coral and currents that attract larger species such as sharks, manta rays, and blue-spotted rays.
Dahlak Channel – one of the deepest dives in Eritrea, the Channel is home to various species of sharks and manta rays and offers excellent drift diving opportunities.
Dahlak Kebir – The waters surrounding the largest island in the archipelago are resting grounds for a number of wrecks, including an Ethiopian cargo ship, Russian tanks, British and Italian ships.
Dohul - This a small island with good coral in its southern area, but what it’s best known for are the dugong sightings.
Green Island - It is the most accessible (and affordable) island in the Dahlak archipelago but it does not offer the best diving. Nonetheless, the island is considered a good snorkeling destination.