Freedivers don’t ask for much from the world. They just want an accessible, large body of water with no current, a flat and calm surface, deep depths as close to the shore as possible, good visibility, a balmy sun, temperate waters, no boat traffic, a plethora of diving buddies, healthy food options, etc. Not much at all, really.
For the freedivers that specifically travel to get a few good training sessions in, or even for an entire training season, there are a small number of well-known places to choose from. Greece, Honduras, Egypt, Mexico, and the Bahamas are a few of the countries that come to a freediver’s mind. But which freediving spot has the most items crossed off of the extensive list mentioned above AND is also highly affordable?
The Blue Hole in Dahab, Egypt
Dahab, a beach town filled with Bedouins and tourists that borders the Red Sea, is located in the southern part of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. A sizeable chunk of the tourists there are freedivers who specifically come to visit the Blue Hole, a submarine sinkhole that provides freedivers with up to 92 meters (301 feet) of depth. The Blue Hole is located directly off of the shore and is reachable by a fifteen-minute taxi ride from town, making it easily accessible. With little to no current, flat surface conditions most days, a complete lack of boat traffic, water temperatures ranging from 19°C to 30°C (66.2°F to 86°F) depending on the season, and 25 to 30 meters (82 to 98 feet) of visibility, it’s not a mystery why it is one of the ultimate diving spots in the world where competitive freedivers spend months training in.
Accommodations in Dahab
Whether you can only get away for a week or two, or have the luxury of escaping the outside world for a few months, there are affordable hostels, camps, and Airbnbs for short term, and houses or apartments for rent by the month for the long term. There are 3 main areas that foreigners live in Lighthouse, Assalah, and Mashraba. Lighthouse is the tourist center of the town, thereby making rent in that area more expensive, but there are accommodations in Assalah and Mashraba that are close to the sea as well and more affordable.
There are plenty of budget hostels, hotels, and camps in Lighthouse that are near to the beach, and if you prefer to be a little farther from the hustle and bustle, Mashraba is an excellent option with the same affordable prices. For longer stays, renting a house or an apartment is more cost-efficient and comfortable, and oftentimes you can strike a deal with your landlord if you pay ahead, especially in dollars or euros. Rent for houses and apartments gets higher the nearer to the beach and closer to the tourist center you are.
Nutrition for Freedivers
If you mostly do your own cooking, you will love how many shops in Dahab sell inexpensive and fresh fruits and vegetables, but you will have to get used to cooking less complicated dishes, as Dahab is a small town and does not have as many extravagant ingredients available for purchase. But for those of us who prefer a meal with no hassle, restaurants in Dahab include Egyptian, Indian, Italian, Thai, Chinese, and plenty of other Western choices. The seafood is fresh, vegetarians and vegans have some options, and the Friday Market where Dahabians gather to sell homemade food and handcrafts is the best part of everyone’s week.
Egyptian street food, such as breakfasts of fool and falafel, can be very cheap, with lunch and dinner options being take-away chicken dinners and deliciously fresh fish restaurants. For international foods, as a rule, the nearer to the beach you are, the more expensive the restaurant. Restaurants situated further away from the beach offer cheaper prices on appetizers and main dishes, with a variety of options.
Transportation and Getting Around
The best part about Dahab is that almost everything you need in town is within walking distance. There are bicycles and motorbikes available for rent and purchase, but if you would prefer a taxi for short distances, taxi trucks are available in all of the busy corners. For freedivers, morning sessions at the Blue Hole are usually arranged between each other, with everyone chipping in for a rented taxi truck.
When it comes time to renew your visa, there are organized trips to the visa office in Nabq in microbuses that can fit ten to twelve people inside, or you can post in multiple Dahab Facebook groups to arrange a smaller number of people sharing the cost of a private taxi. Buses going to and from Cairo with GoBus have a number of options depending on class and can be bought online. You can also purchase tickets for the East Delta bus company in person for a slightly lower price.
Dahab in a Nutshell
Apart from all of the affordability of living in Dahab, in the end, it really is a freediver’s dream of a town. There is a reason why national and world champions come to Dahab to train. The Blue Hole is filled with freedivers from all levels every morning who all know each other, dive together, have Bedouin dinners in the mountains and party with healthy smoothies instead of beers. There is a diving doctor situated close by for your medical necessities, plenty of coaches for your every diving need, multiple freediving schools for courses, and scattered shops for all of your equipment demands.
Along with a number of beautiful recreational dive sites that scuba divers and freedivers frequent, there are trekking opportunities to Mount Sinai and nearby canyons, avid rock-climbers to scale wadis with, and camping under the stars in nearby Ras Abu Galoum and Blue Lagoon. There are also copious amounts of schools dedicated to scuba diving, kitesurfing, and windsurfing if you need a rest from freediving.
In the end, you have a plethora of options all around the world for your training sessions. Yes, Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas is an iconic place, and who doesn’t want to enjoy authentic Greek food after a diving session in Kalamata?
But for those of us with big dreams on a limited budget, Dahab is our Mecca.