Guide to hotels, flights, diving, excursions and more.
Marsa Alam and Red Sea Dolphins
Marsa Alam has one of the most important dolphin habitats in the Red Sea and the world - Samadai reef, home to a large family of around one hundred spinner dolphins. For more information about Samadai Reef please see our dive site guide.
On this page I want to answer a few interesting questions about dolphins in the Red Sea ( below ) and present some fascinating video clips of Red Sea dolphins (right ).
CAN I SWIM WITH THE DOLPHINS ?
Yes. Please see information about swimming with dolphins in Marsa Alam at the bottom of this page.
WHAT TYPE OF SPECIES OF DOLPHIN ARE COMMON TO THE RED SEA ?
Eight species in total. Seven species have been resident for a long time - the Bottlenose Dolphin, Bryde's Whale, Indopacific Bottlenose Dolphin, Pantropical Spotted Dolphin, Longbeaked Common Dolphin, Risso's Dolphin and the Spinner Dolphin. Recently Humpback Dolphins, who's normal habitat is the east coast of Africa, have also been seen in the Red Sea as far north as El Gouna, some 280km north of Marsa Alam.
WHICH OF THESE ARE YOU MOST LIKELY TO SEE ?
Probably one of these three species - the Bottlenose Dolphin, the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin or the Spinner Dolphin.
IS IT TRUE THAT DOLPHINS HAVE SOMETIMES PROTECTED SWIMMERS FROM SHARKS ?
Yes, and there has been at least one instance in the Red Sea off Sinai. In July 1996 a 29 year old diver was badly bitten in the left shoulder, stomach and back but then dolphins intervened circling him and flapping their fins and tails and scared off the shark. This event was witnessed by several other divers. The victim survived but had to spend a week in hospital.
DON'T RED SEA DOLPHINS GET COLD IN WINTER ?
No. The sea temperature does drop a little from 29 degrees in August to 22 degrees in February but the insulating fat tissue of dolphins becomes thicker in winter.
ARE DOLPHINS FISH ?
No, dolphins are mammals and need to surface to breath oxygen.
HOW LONG CAN THEY STAY UNDERWATER WITHOUT BREATHING ?
Bottlenose dolphins are usually able to stay underwater without surfacing for about 20 minutes.
HOW LONG DO DOLPHINS LIVE ?
It depends on the species but Bottlenose Dolphins have an average life expectancy of around 33 years.
HOW FAST CAN DOLPHINS SWIM ?
They can swim at speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour.
HOW HIGH CAN DOLPHINS JUMP ?
They can leap up to five metres out of the water.
HOW INTELLIGENT ARE DOLPHINS ?
Highly. They live in closely knit social groups called "pods". They are one of the world's most intelligent animals but it is difficult to compare their intelligence against animals with very different types of senses and abilities. Some dolphins species are known to use tools. Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins sometimes cover their snouts with sponges while foraging for food.
The dolphin brain is actually much larger than the human brain. In fact by 18 months the brain lobe of the Bottlenose Dolphin is already 80% of the brain mass of the adult human. Sadly, because of their intelligence, dolphins were used by the U.S. navy mine retrieval and used for military operations in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.
ARE DOLPHINS ALWAYS HETEROSEXUAL ?
No, there are many examples of dolphins having homosexual sex and even sex with dolphins of other species and animals, including occasional sexual interest in humans.
DO DOLPHINS HAVE A SENSE OF SMELL ?
No, dolphins can't smell but they do have excellent taste senses.
ARE DOLPHINS EVER ATTACKED BY SHARKS ?
Only occasionally and then usually only by the largest most aggressive sharks. Dolphins in a pod will defend each other from attack so usually sharks search out easier prey.
WHAT DO DOLPHINS EAT ?
A variety of fish, squid and octopus. They seem to make do with whatever is the most abundant species available to them and so consequently their diet varies according to location and the season.
They do most of their feeding soon after dawn or shortly before sunset. Bottlenose dolphins eat between 8 and 15kg of fish a day. Dolphins hunt for fish collectively in a pod using various tactics including "coralling" where the fish are chased into shallow water where they are easier to catch. They can also use echolocation, a clicking sound they omit which produces a return echo when it hits any object, to determine the location of nearby fish shoals.
DO DOLPHINS EVER ATTACK HUMANS ?
Extremely rarely. Much less likely than a shark attack which is itself extremely unlikely. They are normally friendly and interact well with humans but when they seem disinclined to play or interact, you should not try to swim after them and don't try to touch them. I don't know of any instances of attacks in the Red Sea although there have been a very small number recorded elsewhere in the world including that of a man attacked by a Bottlenose Dolphin off the coast of Brazil in 1994.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST THREAT TO DOLPHINS ?
Humans. It is estimated that in the last fifty years perhaps as many as 30 million dolphins have been caught unintentionally in fishing nets. Once snared they are unable to surface to breath.
Environmental pollution and over fishing has also reduced the fish population which dolphins depend on for their survival.
Dolphins are also hunted because of their food value. In Japan the value of some species of dolphin meat can be as high as $50 a kilo. Other fishermen hunt dolphins simply because they don't want dolphins to eat fish which might reduce their own catch and profits.
CAN I SWIM WITH THE DOLPHINS ? YES !
Get close to one of the world's most intelligent and playful creatures - we recommend a day trip to the famous Dolphin House ( Samadai Reef ) - one of the great wonders of the natural world where a large group of spinner dolphins have made this particular reef their home.
Local expert Steven oranizes a day trip to "Dolphin House" from just 60 euros per person including return limousine pick-up from your hotel and the boat and all the necessary license fees. The time of pick up varies from each hotel.
The boat leaves Marsa Alam marina at 9am and goes to the Dolphin House reef. There you be certain of being able to swim and snorkel with the dolphins. Then you can have lunch at noon on the boat and soft drinks or tea and coffee. After lunch more swimming or you can relax on the boat. Return at 3pm to Marsa Alam marina.
Included in the 60 euro per person price is the boat charge, lunch, drinks, tickets and permits and limousine pick-up and return for hotels up to 20km from Marsa Alam.
Guests staying at hotels between 20km and 50km from Marsa Alam will be charged a surcharge of 10 euros per person.
To book this trip email email@example.com.
Need a taxi from the airport ?
Taxi drivers will often take advantage if you're
stuck at the airport. Best to book in advance.
If you need a cheap limousine, taxi service,
minibus or car rental at any time
The price for a one way journey between your hotel and Marsa Alam airport airport should be given on
the taxi prices page.
No need to pay a deposit as you can pay on arrival.
He has many types of car as well as people
carriers available in Marsa Alam, Hurghada,
Luxor, Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh.
A pod of Dolphins off the Marsa Alam Coast photographed by Miriam Triest, one of Steven's customers,
in November 2014.
RED SEA & MARSA ALAM
DOLPHIN YOUTUBE VIDEOS
Divers swimming with dolphins at Samadai Reef
May 2008 - 3.33 minutes - over 65,000 views
Diving with dolphins off Hurghada
March 2007 - 4.43 minutes - over 200,000 views
Pod of Dolphins off the Marsa Alam coast
July 2007 - 1.40 minutes - over 28,000 views
Dog at Eilat wants to swim with the dolphins !
June 2010 - 1.21 minutes - over 58,000 views.
Pod of dolphins at Samadai Reef
Feb 2007 - 1.56 minutes - over 17,000 views
OTHER DOLPHIN YOUTUBE VIDEOS
Cat and two dolphins playing together
March 2011 - 1.50 minutes - over 5 million views
Excerpt BBC documentary on dolphins rescuing humans
June 2009 - 2.21 minutes - over 4 million views
Dolphins and humans enjoy surfing together
August 2007 - 2.11 minutes - over 520,000 views
Labrador and dolphin have regular swim together
July 2008 - 1.18 minutes - over 1,500,000 votes