Photo: Douglas Day
Photo: Douglas Day
Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt has come of age as a major holiday destination. While cheap to medium-priced accommodation is thick on the ground, those in the know are taking advantage of some of the amazing deals at the luxury end of the market. With the opening of the new Four Seasons Resort just up the coast in Ras Nasrani, Sharm has something special. The resort has just been named runner-up in Tatler’s Hotel of the Year awards. The good news is that at the same time as enjoying five-star pampering at affordable prices, guest divers have shore access and a quick start when getting to the prime sites around Tiran.
How’s the diving?
Much as it has been here for the past decade. The Four Seasons complex is based
on a hill, and there’s a nice little dive centre at the bottom, with a pontoon
for loading boats. Those who don’t fancy the five-minute stroll up or down the
hill can take advantage of either a funicular railway or a free, electric buggy
The resort has spectacular views over Tiran Island, which looms in the distance and can be clearly seen on most days. In the morning and afternoons you can see flotillas of dayboats pass by on their way to the classic Tiran sites – Jackson, Woodhouse, Thomas and Gordon reefs. These are world-class dive sites. Those who spend thousands on more obscure destinations may not see anything quite as beautiful.
Here, you will find healthy growths of soft and hard coral, big gorgonian fans, schools of snappers, groupers and other star attractions of the Red Sea. Probably the most visually entrancing of these sites is Jackson Reef. It’s one of my favourite places to enjoy the sight of golden anthias billowing out of the hard coral, set against the majestic royal blue of the Red Sea itself. As is the case with most healthy reefs, pelagic fish are common here, so it’s always worth keeping an eye out for large schools of barracuda and jacks.
Despite its relative proximity to the resort, Jackson is still a good 45-minute boat ride from the hotel’s pontoon. For those in search of something a little closer, I can recommend the house reef. This consists of a coral wall from the surface to about 10m, from where a sandy slope, littered with coral bommies, leads into deeper water.
It may not rival the gaudy fecundity of the outer reefs, but it’s a great little dive for those who fancy spending an hour away from the swimming pool or health spa. It even has a resident baby eagle ray, which can be seen hunting on the sand flats most days. In the afternoon, large lionfish come out of hiding and float just under the surface near the pontoon, looking for glassfish.
And how’s the accommodation?
Ludicrously good. I’ve read all the public relations waffle issued by Four
Seasons management, and it doesn’t even come close to doing this resort justice.
The architecture alone is worth a visit – think the Arabian Nights meets Conran,
with lots of designer lighting and arabesque flair. The rooms are sumptuous,
fitted out with thick marble, beautiful furnishings and the most comfortable
beds I have ever slept in. There are health spas, a monumentally opulent lounge
and cocktail bar, water features (an artificial river runs through the resort)
and something like 500 staff, all eager to make you happy.
Gripes? Well, the toilets block easily and the restaurants are a bit pricey, but you can always take a taxi into Na’ama Bay (a 20-minute journey which costs about £3).
It’s worth mentioning that I travelled with my older brother, who is autistic and can be quite demanding if he feels insecure. However, in the environment of the resort, I felt confident enough to let him wander around on his own, safe in the knowledge that the staff would always be happy to help and direct him back to my room if he became upset. He loved the place.
Do divers really need a posh resort?
The Four Seasons guys are going to love me for saying this, but the answer is an emphatic ‘no’. There are loads of mid-range hotels around Sharm, and they are fine if you just want somewhere to crash out at the end of the day. However, if you’re looking for somewhere special – or perhaps you need to keep some non-divers happy – this resort could be just the ticket. Combine its marbled opulence with competitive prices, and it’s a very tempting proposition.
How do I find out more?
In late March and April, Mosaic Holidays is offering week-long stays at the Four Seasons Resort, Sharm El Sheikh for £639 per person (if you were to book direct, it would be more like £300 a night!), including flights. From 8 to 29 June, the charge is just £599. Contact Mosaic on 020 8574 4000.