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Supervisor
Elham AbolFateh

Tourism

Flee for winter sun and dolphins on Egypt’s Red Sea Riviera

Wednesday 20/December/2017 - 11:04 AM
Sada El Balad
Edited by: Yara Sameh

WHEN snow، ice and rain blight your festive cheer، you need the promise of Soma-time، the sun reported.

Even in the UK’s deep midwinter، Egypt’s Soma Bay and other resorts on the Red Sea Riviera have average temperatures of around 20C in both the air and sea، so it feels like a lovely British summer day.

Egypt is a big country and despite the recent attack in the Sinai and continued travel ban on Sharm El Sheikh airport، there ARE still places where it is possible to enjoy a holiday.

And it’s only five hours away.

Soma and El Gouna are two of the very affordable resorts within 30 to 40 minutes of Hurghada airport، which are soaring in popularity.

Each has its own character but both have the same beautiful blue sea and sky all year round.

For those who are channelling David Attenborough’s Blue Planet، the Red Sea is recognised as one of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the world.

And closer to shore، the warm، shallow water and reliable wind without choppy waves makes it a brilliant place to kitesurf، windsurf or try a stand-up paddleboard.

The series of resort hotels that make up Soma Bay، which is south of Hurghada، are more peaceful than bustling، partying Hurghada itself.

Meanwhile، El Gouna is north of Hurghada and much smaller and more beautiful.

Its buildings are low-rise and are all painted in only five colours which match the shades of sunset and the desert. And they are all nestled around lagoons or swanky marinas.

And closer to shore، the warm، shallow water and reliable wind without choppy waves makes it a brilliant place to kitesurf، windsurf or try a stand-up paddleboard.

The series of resort hotels that make up Soma Bay، which is south of Hurghada، are more peaceful than bustling، partying Hurghada itself.

Meanwhile، El Gouna is north of Hurghada and much smaller and more beautiful.

Its buildings are low-rise and are all painted in only five colours which match the shades of sunset and the desert. And they are all nestled around lagoons or swanky marinas.

There are plenty of hotels but even more restaurants so this is the posh but affordable place to go if you want to rent a villa or apartment.

Whatever Gouna does، it does extremely well. Right now، it’s full of Christmas trees and lights and there’s a full-on festive programme of organised events and parties.

Events are big throughout the rest of the year too — which this year included the kiteboarding world cup.

This was held at the town’s newest “kite station”، Creativity Surfing، where tons of imported sand has been bought in to cover up the local stuff which is as hard as concrete.

This makes all-inclusive deals an especially good option. But if you’re going AI، you generally don’t stray far from the hotel so you’d better make it a good one.

Thomas Cook has taken the risk out of choosing your accommodation with a 24-Hour Hotel Satisfaction Promise.

If you arrive to find your hotel isn’t as described، the tour company will sort the issue or move you to another hotel of the same standard within 24 hours of you contacting the rep.

If they can’t do that، you can take the next available flight home and receive a refund، or continue with the holiday at the hotel you booked with a voucher for 25 per cent of what you paid.

But good luck finding fault with the 5H Sentido Palm Royale at Soma Bay. Sentido means “sense” in Spanish and the hotel has been designed to invigorate each of your five senses in a prime location which offers excellent service and cuisine.

It really is great، and it helps that the Palm Royale is a masterpiece of marble.

Most of the rooms are big and come with a large terrace that looks over the creatively designed grounds towards the sea.

And what concrete-sanded El Gouna lacks، Soma Bay has in abundance — proper sandy shorelines.

There is more than a mile of beautiful beach lined by palm trees.

Children will also appreciate the fact that their pool is heated in winter and there’s a big cave area to play in.

Parents، couples and singles will also love their heated pool — it’s in a courtyard at the spa، open to the sky.

Meanwhile، sauna، steam room، Jacuzzi and spa treatments are all indoors beside the giant gym.

Another must-have big tick on the all-inclusive checklist is food.

The Palm Royale has a daily spread that spans several square metres and covers all tastes of foodie freshness.

And as if that’s not enough، you can also choose to dine in different restaurants throughout the resort.

Beside the hotel’s private marina is Point Break watersports centre where you can take yourself kitesurfing، windsurfing and stand-up paddling.

Trainers are on hand to help and like most places in Egypt، they welcome you as if you were old friends، offering quiet support for beginners and respect for experienced riders.

Divers، snorkellers and boat fans can arrange their day trips at the hotel too.

Most of the boats from here or El Gouna will enthusiastically guarantee seeing dolphins and to be fair، there are plenty of them.

We definitely wanted to get in the water with them so rented a small boat from Abu Tig Marina in El Gouna — big enough for around eight people — for £175.

Captain Ahmed took us to a reef to snorkel while he scanned the horizon، then upped anchor and sped off towards a pod of 40 or so dolphins. We jumped off the boat and swam with them — truly، a magical experience.

Some may hear the soundtrack of Jaws when they’re swimming in the open sea but our ears were echoing with the soft Attenborough tones of wonderment.
What a pity we didn’t have his film crew to capture the moment.

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