SHARM EL LULI (RAS HANKORAB)

To book an excursion contact steven@marsaalam.com or via WhatsApp on +201284332337.

Paradise (AKA Sharm El Luli or Ras Hankorab) is located some 60 km south of Marsa Alam town – about half way to Berenice – that’s if you believe the hype surrounding this remote sandy beach and lagoon.

For GPS anoraks it’s located at approximate coordinates 24’33 North and 35’9′ East which, as you can see from the satellite image at the page bottom, is exactly the middle of nowhere.

And that’s half the attraction – “It’s a pristine fine as talc white sandy beach that puts the Maldives in the shade” – tout the sales reps – “No it’s not.  Its’ sands are pale yellow and some Caribbean beaches are better,” whinge a few dissatisfied tourists who appear mortified that their fellow TripAdvisor travellers have ranked it number one of 18 “things to do in Marsa Alam” (as at the time of writing – 19.02.2021).

Nicely edited video with occasional photos of the beach, bay and reef.
Apr 2014 – 4.06 mins – 102+ likes – 25,000+ views.

SO WHAT’S IT REALLY LIKE ?

It’s a stretch of long mostly pancake flat sandy beach with a few rocky outcrops and a shallow sandy bottomed stretch of water, flanked by coral reefs.  At low tide (and the tidal range here is limited) it’s a perfect lagoon and it’s easy to wade in thanks to the gentle gradient of the sea bottom which eventually leads out to deeper waters with a maximum depth of 20 metres to the shore side of the reefs.

The coast at Sharm El Luli unusually runs east west with the small headland to its’ north sheltering it slightly from the prevailing winds.  It’s important to stress slightly because, while there is a stunning mountainous backdrop inland to the east, the immediate surroundings are (the occasional mound of stones or boulders excepted) extremely flat.   

However the headland and the surrounding reef, which is widest near the open sea at the eastern flank,  do ensure that the lagoon is usually calm and most visitors comment on the crystal clear waters and the different colours – the contrast so striking that it can easily be seen from Space.  If you don’t believe that just take a glance at the satellite image at the page bottom.  

However, underwater visibility is not always perfect due to the sandy bottom which can be stirred up on windy days or sometimes in busy periods, by too many divers or snorkelers on or near the sea bed.

But despite its’ increasing popularity, the area is totally undeveloped – no hotels, no restaurants, no shops, no bars, no toilets, no fixtures of any sort – which in part is the main attraction.

Thankfully regulations on construction are strict here as the beach as well as the surrounding desert and coast line lie inside the Wadi El Gemal (“Valley of the Camels”) National Park – which also means that it’s a great location for enjoying the protected virgin reefs and exotic marine life.  

A vast beach all to himself – tourist films Sharm El Luli
Nov 2018 – 3.30 mins – 24+ likes – 4,100+ views
Sharm El Luli – the perfect place to relax – not another person in sight !
Mar 2017 – 0.28 mins – 21+ likes – 4,600+ views.

AND WHAT’S THE SEA LIFE LIKE ?

There is an impressive – aquarium-like – to use brochure speak – diversity of fish as well as many different types of colourful coral.

If you spend time snorkeling you can marvel at the quick darting movements of the butterfly fish,  the slower skulking behaviour of solitary groupers or puffer fish, the exotic coloured Napoleons and the bright orange clownfish, made famous by the film “Finding Nemo”, usually hiding among anemone tentacles.

Perhaps most beloved and remembered by visitors are the sightings of the photogenic sea turtles that come to feed on either the corals or the extensive sea-grass meadow in the lagoon area.   

Italian visitor’s snorkeling video set to Egyptian music
Jan 2018 – 4.30 mins – 50+ likes – 5,200+ views.

HOME OF THE ENDANGERED HAWKSBILL TURTLE

A study by the local conservation group HEPCA of Red Sea turtles in southern Egypt revealed that almost half of all identified hawksbill turtles in the region were spotted at Sharm El Luli and that furthermore two thirds of all sea turtle sightings were made within the surrounding Wadi El Gemal area.  So if you are a turtle lover, Sharm El Luli, definitely merits a visit.

However, do not be persuaded by salesmen that you are guaranteed to see turtles or dugong sea cows or other rare marine species.  As always with wild creatures, especially those whose status is considered vulnerable to extinction – it is always a matter of luck.

The sad news is that the World Conservation Union now consider the hawksbill turtle critically endangered. Its’ beautiful shell has made it the target of poachers world wide and its’ range of available nesting sites reduced as more and more resorts have spread out along the coast.

But miraculously, at Sharm El Luli, probably due to the relative protection of the surrounding National Park, your chances of seeing sea turtles, including the hawksbill, are usually good – perhaps fifty fifty or greater.  
You can distinguish the hawksbill from other sea turtles by its’ elongated head that ends with a pronounced and slightly hooked beak-like mouth (hence its’ name).  They are large creatures (typically weighing around 80kg) and have a long life span of up to fifty years.  

You are most likely to see them around the reef area while turtles you see feeding on the sea-grass are more likely to be the green turtles, equally photogenic, equally large and also with large flipper like limbs, although without the hawksbill’s distinctive claws.

A Hawksbill filmed somewhere along Egypt’s Red Sea coastal reefs.
Oct 2019 – 1.24 mins – 5+ likes – 280+ views.
Fun facts about the hawksbill sea turtle
Sep 2019 – 1.43 mins – 43+ likes – 2,900+ views.

HALF DAY AND FULL DAY EXCURSIONS

Local agent Steven, who’s excursions are ranked #1 of 77 on TripAdvisor (at the time of writing – 19.02.2021), offers a half day excursion starting at only 35 euros (or £30) per person, depending on the location of your hotel and the number of people in your party. It includes a private air conditioned taxi pick up from your hotel at 8am, after an early breakfast, as well as all your snorkelling equipment and watermelon, biscuits and soft drinks and then a return to your hotel at about 1pm in time for lunch.  It also includes the cost of the national park ticket and a sun umbrella or parasol.

However, nature lovers might prefer a full day excursion with prices starting at just 69 euros (£59) per person, again depending on the location of your hotel and the number of people in your party.  It includes the cost of your private air conditioned taxi pick up and return to your hotel at around 6 pm, as well as your snorkelling equipment, a full lunch and soft drinks, the cost of the national park ticket and a sun umbrella or parasol.  

To book or for more information please email steven@marsaalam.com or contact him via WhatsApp on +201284332337.

The beautiful but endangered hawksbill turtle
NOAA – public domain – via Wikimedia Commons.

WILL THE BEACH BE BUSY ?

Sharm El Luli is usually a lot quieter than Marsa Alam’s other famous beach at Abu Dabbab, but it does depend on the season, the time you go and luck. Sometimes you might find you have the entire beach to yourself – 

“I was lucky enough to enjoy the beach three times in a week in complete solitude” remarked Debora from Italy on TripAdvisor. (27 December 2012).

More recently an Egyptian traveller from Port Said seemed impressed –

“This is a virgin piece of earth (protectorate) where there is no noise and no pollution and no human impact so far.” (AMohsen – January 2021)

and similarly another tourist recalled – 

“A beautiful silences, only the wind and the waves.”(Elisa – TripAdvisor 1 October 2012 ).   

But then a visitor who went there in the peak summer season commented –
“In the afternoon we were 24, in the morning the boys diving have counted 180.”( Adriano – TripAdvisor 20 July 2012 ).

Unfortunately there is no reliable rule as to whether morning or afternoon will be busier but it is a large beach so there’s plenty of space especially if you don’t stop as soon as you arrive on the beach, where it’s most likely to get busy, but walk a little further along.

Sharm El Luli snorkelling – 2012.
Nov 2012 – 4.41 mins – 24+ likes – 10,900+ views.
A pristine beach all to oneself.
Mar 2017 – 23 secs – 11+ likes – 2,400+ views.

TEN THINGS TO BRING WITH YOU

1. Sun cream, sun glasses and a hat because the sun can be relentless.  Sharm El Luli really is in Egypt’s Deep South, and just one degree from the Tropic of Cancer – currently at approximately 23’30 North.  The sun is unforgiving in summer and you can get burned even in mid-winter !

2. Sensible clothing that will keep you protected from the sun including, if your are vulnerable to sun burn, a t-shirt for snorkelling. Also bring some sensible shoes for walking so that you don’t cut your feet on the occasional sharp rocks.

3. Bring a mat or rug for the sand or even some large extra towels – as there are no sun beds or deck chairs on the beach.  

4. Bring plenty of soft drinks and some large bottles of drinking water.  If you don’t need it, there probably be someone else who will.  A cooler bag if you have one would be great – or if not you can ask the hotel kitchen in the morning if they can give you some ice in a water proof bag to store the drinks. ( If you are visiting with Steven’s excursions some soft drinks are usually included – please check for excursion details with steven@marsaalam.com)

5. There is almost no shade available so, if you must have shade, ask if your guide can bring a beach umbrella.  (A sun umbrella/parasol is normally provided by Steven’s excursions – please check for excursion details with steven@marsaalam.com)

6. Bring toilet paper – there are no toilets !

7. Don’t forget your snorkelling equipment (if your guide isn’t bringing any -if you are going with Steven’s excursions this is normally provided for you – please check all excursion details with steven@marsaalam.com) as well as swimwear and a towel.

8. An underwater camera will be great but any sort of camera – even if your mobile phone one is a great asses – If you want a new profile photo on Facebook – your portrait against the crystal clear blue waters of Sharm El Luli will really stand out.

9. Bring a little money as although there are no shops there are some Bedouin women who sell traditional jewellery, including beads and necklaces.  It’s difficult to say what they’re worth – but with tourist numbers currently very low – it’s good to be generous.  

10. Don’t forget to take everything you’ll need to keep the children happy – there are no facilities and no kids club or other entertainments in the area.

Crystal clear water – crystal clear images of Sharm El Luli’s reef and sea life.
Jan 2016 – 4.04 mins – 31+ likes – 5,500+ views.
Nicely edited 1 minute video of Sharm El Luli’s “beautiful underwater world.”
Feb 2018 – 1.02 mins – 12+ likes – 420+ views.
The beach not too busy on this 2019 visit.
Jun 2019 – 1.10 mins – 3+ likes – 830+ views.

OTHER IMPORTANT TIPS

1. Try to find the time to spend at least three hours to make the journey worth while.

2. Take time to stroll along the beach if you want to fully enjoy this great natural wonder.

3. Remember that some of the reefs are far from the shore and you can wade out a long way – so do keep an eye on how far you are from the shore line.

4. If you are not a very strong swimmer it’s probably best to use a life jacket when snorkeling to minimize any possible risk.

5. Avoid going to Sharm El Luli on windy days – the sea will be choppy, underwater visibility will be poor, there will be a lot of sand in the air and it will be almost impossible to enjoy the beach.  

The perfect place to chill out and relax.
Aug 2016 – 3.09 mins – 6+ likes – 250+ views.

ENVIRONMENTAL CODE

1. Don’t touch any marine life, especially turtles.  While some sea turtles might seem oblivious to the presence of divers and snorkelers, others may be less used to being in the company of humans and might become stressed.  This is particularly important during the summer turtle nesting season.

2. Also some marine creatures are dangerous to touch such as stone and lion fish.

3. If you see any plastic cups, bags or bottles left on the beach please collect them.  Plastic is easily ingested by marine animals and birds with fatal consequences.  

4. Remember it is illegal to fish at Sharm El Luli as it is located within a National Park.  

5. Take care with your flippers near the sea bed as to not disturb the sand.  It doesn’t just annoy others but too much sand in the water can damage the sea grass on which much marine life including green turtles and dugongs depend.  

6. You might see fossils in the rocks but please do not remove them or anything else from the beach.

Sharm El Luli/Ras Hankorab – beautifully remote setting.
Photo: Gigi Ibrahim – CC BY 2.0 – via Flickr.

TRIPADVISOR COMMENTS

There are so many positive comments, that reading them can become repetitive.  I challenge anyone to find five reviews in a row, none of which use any of the following words or phrases – “paradise”, “Maldives”, “Caribbean”, “aquarium”, “Pacific atolls”, “sand like talcum powder” or “pristine.”

“This is a virgin piece of earth (protectorate) where there is no noise and no pollution and no human impact so far. It is one of the best beaches for snorkelling and diving….” (AMohsen Port Said Jan 2021)

“The beach is very beautiful and the snorkelling is amazing. The corals and fishes are beautiful and astonishing. You have to have a guide to show you the places of the corals and fishes… It is a must place to visit.” (Mariam Jan 2021)

“We spent a great day in Sharm el Luli. The beach was very clean, nice, silent. The sea is prefect. If u wanna go diving here, u ll find a wonderful underwater life.” (Anyta841 Hungary Jun 2019)

“During our drive from Marsa Alam all the way up very close to Sudan border, it was beautiful spot after spot and Sharm El Luli was the best of them. We spent in each place a few hours during the drive but this one we stayed longer.” (Aabbady New York Aug 2018

“one of the best free beaches I’ve ever swam in, I hope it stays like this forever. Must go see it, it is worth everything.” (Maha H. Egypt Jul 2018)

Well edited video – Arabic commentary.- Jul 2019 – 2.08 mins – 32+ likes – 2,900+ views.
The beach and lagoon on a blustery day – Apr 2019 – 2.33 mins – 17+ likes – 800+ views.

SHARM EL LULI – THE VIEW FROM SPACE

MINIMUM DEVELOPOMENT – MAXIMUM ATTRACTION