The Red Sea of Jeddah is home to a wide diversity of marine life, with a colorful reef and lots of species to see: turtles, whale sharks, brightly colored corals and many kinds of fish. Made popular in part by French explorer Jean-Jacques Cousteau in the 1960s, the Red Sea has been a crucial part of the lifestyle of Saudi Arabia’s coastal communities. It’s warm, salty and protected from outside water influences. It’s an oasis for reefs full of biodiversity.
What also makes the location so special is its convenience, as coral can be found all along the coast of Jeddah. There are both shallow waters as well as very deep ones, so scuba and free divers can find exactly the kind of location they want.
“You can take a boat and dive literally anywhere you like, anywhere,” said Nada Alrasheed, professional diver. “Because you’ve got coral all along the coast of Jeddah. There’s an immediate drop off here and divers can find shallow depths to very deep ones.”
The view underwater is magnificent for snorkelers and scuba divers alike, and includes a diverse cast of marine creatures. The two-banded clownfish is often accompanied by symbiotic anemones that protect it from predators. The clownfish is easy to find, especially during snorkeling sessions at Sharm Obhur, north of Jeddah. The scorpionfish with tassel is able to camouflage itself and is a spiny textured fish. It’s one of the most poisonous in the world.
The blue-spotted stingray is distinguished by its electric blue spots. They frequent the seabed near coral reefs and wreck-rich sites such as Abu Tair. The giant wrasse is dubbed either the ”king of the reefs” or the Napoleon. Its beauty is enhanced by the diagonal black lines running from their eyes, reminiscent of eyelashes. These bulbous creatures can reach 1.82 m and 200 kg. The green sea turtle has been endangered for along while. Without pressures from predators or humans, they live to be over a hundred years old.
In the Red Sea, sharks are best seen at remote sites in the open sea. Several species venture into these waters, but one stands out from the rest: the silky sharks. Some people even snorkel near them. Sharks are extremely important to life underwater, and some scientists have dubbed them “the doctors of the ocean”. They help keep an equilibrium in the ecosystem by preying on the weak or unhealthy, whose genes won’t be passed on to the next generation.
“It’s always important to look around, sharks are predators and we’re in their habitat,” said Nada Alrasheed. “It’s OK to swim near them, but we have to be careful, aware and always look right and left. Always keep an eye on the shark.”
There are around 20% of unique and rare fish in the Red Sea. Around 300 different types of coral have been identified in the extensive network of reefs, plus close to 1200 species of fish.
Scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have formed a collaboration with planners from The Red Sea Development Company, the developer of luxury tourist destination The Red Sea Project, to protect the Red Sea and its coastline during the construction of this huge eco-tourism project.