Desert Treks -- There are several locations within an easy day trip by jeep from Dahab that offer spectacular rock formations and perspectives on the desert. The top three locations for these trips are Colored Canyon, Ain Khudra, and White Canyon.
Diving -- The combination of a laid-back attitude, stunning coral, and highly professional dive centers has long made Dahab a diver's heaven. Here's a selection of some dive sites within easy reach of the town:
Reef Island is a lovely concentration of brain and cabbage corals just off the shoulder of the bay that protects the lagoon in front of Dahab City. The aftermath of an earthquake has made some interesting passages through some of the corals.
Eel Garden is a colony of garden eels, which make their home in burrows on the sandy sea bed. Swimming above them, you see them extended vertically from their burrows like a little forest, bent a little into the current as they collect food from the passing water.
Ras Abu Galum is a popular spot to make a diving trek; arrive by camel or jeep, and spend a night or two at the Bedouin camp there. The reef has a variety of fire, brain, and table corals, and hosts a rich variety of sea life from emperor and puffer fish to turtles. What makes Abu Galum special, though, is the local population of sea cows, or manatee. Diving with these mammals, which can weigh up to 1,000kg (2,200 lbs.) is a truly special experience.
Snorkeling -- Even if you're not ready to don tanks of air and bulky strapping stuffed with lead weights, you can experience the stunning underwater life around Dahab. The reef that runs parallel to Mashrab and Masbat is still worth snorkeling despite a decade of insensitive use, and the reef around Blue Hole is simply stunning. Many of the dive sites listed above are also accessible to snorkelers, depending on their level of fitness and swimming ability.
St. Catherine's Monastery -- St. Catherine is a deeply significant site that is steeped in history and tradition and is a must-see for anyone with an interest in the history of the region or the church. Most hotels and any of the small tour operators in town can sell a tour up to St. Catherine's Monastery. Generally they leave late at night and arrive in time for the 2- to 3-hour climb to the top of Mount Moussa for the sunrise. Following is a tour of the monastery and a packed lunch before heading back to Dahab. Expect to pay about LE220 to LE330 ($40-$60/£20-£31). Think about whether you have time to overnight at the monastery and do the trek up the mountain, in addition to the tour of the church and its small but densely packed museum, in more comfort and less haste than these tours allow you.
Coral: Look but Don't Touch
Because of the year-round warmth of the water in the Red Sea, rich coral reefs abound. Everyone who visits the area should experience the richness of the life that teems just below the surface of the crystal-clear waters. At first sight, it's easy to imagine that these rocky outcroppings are tough and impervious to human touch, but this is far from the case. Touching the coral or walking on it will break and kill it, leaving behind a dead, gray wall and a hole in a complex ecosystem that can take decades or longer to heal. Most international resorts have opted to do the responsible thing and have built jetties that allow swimmers and divers to get into the water without damaging the coral. Unfortunately, there are many places on the coast -- including Dahab -- where the government and local entrepreneurs haven't found the foresight to protect this invaluable tourist resource, so it's the responsibility of individual tourists to look beyond the next few days of their holiday and think about the global environment. It's easy enough to do: Find a place where the water is deep enough to swim over the coral, never touch the coral with your hands or your feet, and never throw plastic bags or other refuse into the water.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.