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Dahab: Fun in the Sun on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

Dahab: Fun in the Sun on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

January 13th. 12 pm. Dahab, Egypt.

My gray Arabian horse, Oscar, starts prancing beneath me. I feel his powerful muscles coil in anticipation as we turn off the paved road and approach a mile-long stretch of hard-packed sand.

dahab egypt

“Are you ready?” my guide asks.

“Ready,” I reply, and release my hold on the reins.

Seconds later we’re thundering down the straightaway, galloping through the sand as Arabian horses have for millennia. These animals are bred for the desert; every drop of their purebred blood is designed for speed, endurance, and the relentless Egyptian sun. Oscar’s breaths come steady and fast and his long silver mane whips into my face as we fly along the shore at speeds nearing 40MPH.

To my right, the barren red peaks of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula stretch towards the sky. To my right, there’s nothing but the open expanse of the Red Sea and–off in the distance–the purple peaks along the coast of Saudi Arabia.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

Welcome to beautiful Dahab.

I’ll come right out and say that current travel advisories tell visitors not to go to this part of Sinai. It’s considered “dangerous” for travelers and “should be avoided” on travel itineraries.

Of course, like the rest of Egypt–and the rest of the world–there are potential dangers that exist. But during our five days in this absolutely breath-taking resort town, the only things I felt were happy, safe, and exuberant. The locals are the friendliest and most welcoming I’ve met anywhere in the world.

And since there are so few visitors these days, they truly do treat you like royalty. We experienced that our very first night, when we rode in the back of an old Jeep out into the desert for an authentic Bedouin dinner, cooked and served by the campfire.

dahab egypt

But anyway, back to the sunshine.

We’re staying at the cozy Amanda Hotel, located right on the shore of the Red Sea. The owners, Mohammed and Rita, have treated us like long-lost family from the moment we arrived.

dahab

dahab

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

Dahab is a stunning little town, full of funky street art, coffee shops, and family-run businesses. Along the seaside path that meanders through town you’ll find joggers with dogs, locals on horseback, mothers pushing strollers, and street artists at work.

If there was a dry, desert version of the Caribbean, this would be it.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

For me, it was love at first sight. The sky and the sea are so blue it almost hurts your eyes. The mountains shift from red to chestnut to gray to lavender, depending on the time of day. The air is crisp and dry and the temperature hovers between 60-70 degrees.

I’ve found my happy place. It is Dahab.

From here, we’ve explored Saint Katherine’s Monastery and climbed to the top of Mount Sinai. We also took a ferry across the Red Sea to Jordan to explore Petra–but that’s for another post.

Let’s return to Oscar and our gallop across the sand.

When we (finally) reach the end of the straightaway, it’s time to untack the horses and go for a swim. I haven’t done this in ages, since I had my own horse in Florida–and I’m psyched.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

Back and forth we swim through the most amazing crystal-clear water I’ve seen in a long, long time. The water’s a few degrees cooler than my Floridian blood prefers, but hey…I’m not about to complain.

After we dry off and saddle up again, we head back towards town past a literal cemetery of beachfront resorts. The 2011 and 2013 revolutions hit all of Egypt’s tourism industry hard, but especially so in Sinai. Beautiful high-rise resorts now sit eerily empty, their windows sandblasted, their pools dry, their lounge chairs rotting in the sun.

It’s easy to imagine the town in its heyday, and it’s sad to see what it’s become now that so few people are traveling here.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

By the way, I didn’t have to try hard to get these photos with no people in them. In fact, I didn’t have to try at all.

There’s virtually no one else here.

But anyway–enough dwelling on the negatives. The upside is that we had the whole place to ourselves and our pick of leisure activities to enjoy!

My ride on Oscar was awesome, but it wasn’t my only outdoor adventure in Dahab. We also signed up for an excursion to the Blue Hole, via a slightly untraditional mode of transportation.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

As if riding camels isn’t awesome enough (how cute are those ears?!), riding camels along the beach is seriously cool. The peaks of the Sinai Peninsula spread out before us, while the mountains of Saudi Arabia rose from a gray haze across the sea.

It was pretty trippy. In a good way.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

As always, Jeremy was such a good sport. I drag the poor man on all sorts of four-legged adventures all over the globe–even though he’d prefer to be on the ground.

He’s a keeper for sure.

dahab egypt

When our seaside camel trek was over, we continued our journey via Jeep to the famous Blue Hole. One of the best-known dive sites in the world, it’s also the most dangerous.

How dangerous? A staggering 130 divers have died here in the last 15 years alone! The beach surrounding the Blue Hole has been nicknamed the “Diver’s Cemetery” because of all the commemorative plaques and tombstones lining the rocks.

dahab egypt

Danger aside, the Hole itself is a sight to see, both in and out of the water. The little spread of dive shops that have popped up around the site is reminisce of an old west town. I half expected to see a stagecoach come rolling through!

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

Since neither of us is PADI certified, we rented some snorkeling equipment and prepared to brave the chilly water. While the Europeans and Russians bragged about how warm the water was, I tried to control my chattering teeth as I slid on my fins and forced myself to get wet.

Let me tell you–the chattering teeth were worth it. We hugged the shallow rim around the bottomless blue abyss, marveling at the brightly colored coral and fish. Hundreds of them–thousands of them–all just inches below the surface. The water was the clearest I’ve ever seen, far clearer than the Florida Keys, Belize, Hawaii, or southern Thailand.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

I had no idea water could look like this. Makes me wonder how incredible the oceans must have been hundreds of years ago–before modern industry polluted them!

On our final free day in Dahab, we ticked another activity off our bucket list: sandboarding! We saw it once in a travel show and always wanted to try it, so we were thrilled when we saw a place in town advertising it for a very reasonable $15.

Done.

We’re picked up by a kindly man and his 14-year-old son (who doubled as our sandboarding instructor) in a beat-up car with equally beat-up snowboards sticking out the back. Off to a great start already!

We drive out into the desert to a surprisingly tall dune located just off the (one) road leading inland. No boots, no fancy equipment required. Just you, your board, your bare feet, and hundreds of feet of sand to climb.

Where’s a chairlift when you need one?

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

Let me be the first to say: This is NOT as easy as it looks! Unlike snowboarding, where the snow does most of the work for you, you have almost no maneuverability in sand this deep. You can’t turn an edge or carve down the hill.

You pretty much have to straight-line it down and hope for the best.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

After climbing the dune and making four or five runs, we were sufficiently exhausted (and had sand in places we didn’t know it was possible to get sand). It was officially time for a shower and a seaside meal in town.dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

Yes, it really is that beautiful. No, we never wanted to leave.

Especially after we tasted these incredible dishes: calamari tagine, beef shish tawook, and two scoops of date and hibiscus ice cream.

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

dahab egypt

It was a delicious end to our five fun-filled days in Dahab. We were sad to drive to the airport at Sharm el Sheik and leave Dahab behind, but I have a strong feeling we’ll be back someday!

dahab egypt

 

Bali’s Best Beaches: Black Sand and Emerald Water

Bali’s Best Beaches: Black Sand and Emerald Water

It was our last day in Bali, and we still had a few things to check off the bucket list. The volcanoes and rice terraces were spectacular, no doubt. But we still hadn’t found Bali’s best beaches.

Truth be told, we hadn’t found any great beaches. The famous backpacker haven of Kuta Beach was quite the disappointment. And while the volcanic backdrop of Amed was stunning, the actual beach was nothing but rocks and stones.

amed beach bali

There was no way we could leave this island paradise without finding at least one amazing beach.

So, over a delicious breakfast of buckwheat crepes at Le Moulin in Ubud, we scoured Google one final time. We knew there was a black sand beach somewhere – a beach that was actually made of sand.

Finally, in an old TripAdvisor forum, I saw a recommendation for a place called Keramas Beach. Google maps said it was 32 minutes away. That was good enough for us!

We checked out of the charming Kamandhandi Hostel and headed south out of Ubud. Approximately half an hour later, we hit the southeast coast (north of Denpasar) and made a comical U-turn to find this “hidden beach.”

This, my friends, is why you should NOT attempt to drive in Bali!

We turned off the main road and onto a completely deserted, bumpy dirt road. We were surrounded on both sides by rice fields, one of which held the remains of an abandoned cargo plane.

keremas beach bali

keramas beach bali

Sure enough, the road dumped us out right on the coast. And, as promised in the forum, we were the only souls in sight on the stunning black sand of Keramas Beach.

keramas beach bali

keramas beach bali

keramas beach

black sand beach

I can’t say how cool it was to have the entire beach to ourselves – especially a rare black sand beach! If you want to get away from the crowds, this is definitely the beach to visit.

The afternoon was slipping away, and we still had a few more stops on our list. Reluctantly we bid goodbye to Keramas Beach and continued south, past Denpasar and Nusa Dua to the very bottom of Bali.

Our earlier internet search had yielded another hidden gem: Green Bowl Beach. Tucked away at the bottom of South Kuta, this beach is not marked and only accessible via a steep 300-step stone staircase.

green bowl beach bali

Was it worth the effort of driving all the way to the bottom of Bali to a basically unknown beach? HECK. YEAH.

green bowl beach bali

green bowl beach bali

bali

There were a few stragglers lounging around in the late afternoon sun, but once again we almost had the place to ourselves. The water was warm and clear as glass, providing a perfect view of the colorful coral rocks.

bali beach

My only regret is that we didn’t find this gorgeous spot until about 4 pm! Bali travel tip #27: Head to Green Bowl Beach EARLY and plan to spend the day there, because you’ll never want to leave.

But alas, we did have to leave, because we still had one more stop to make. We climbed the 300 steps and got back in our trusty Honda Brio, heading west to Uluwatu. Uluwatu is ranked the #4 surf destination on earth, and it’s easy to understand when you see the ENORMOUS swells rolling in from the open ocean.

Uluwatu is ranked the #4 surf destination on earth, and it’s easy to understand when you see the ENORMOUS swells rolling in from the open ocean. We didn’t go to Uluwatu to surf, though. We went to visit the famous 11th-century Hindu temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu.

Our goal was to watch the sunset, as this spot supposedly has the best sunsets in Bali. However, due to a sudden rainstorm and one of the worst traffic jams I’ve ever seen, it didn’t exactly work out that way. I jumped out and walked a good distance to the temple while Jeremy tried (and failed) to find a parking space in the chaos.

I got drenched and a monkey nearly stole my camera (literally) but I did manage to snag a few shots of the Uluwatu sunset.

uluwatu bali

uluwatu temple bali

uluwatu temple bali

My advice if you want to see an Uluwatu sunset? GO EARLY. The crowds were insane, even in the downpour.

After sitting in more rain and more traffic, we arrived at the lovely Mahogany Hotel in South Kuta. It was a last-minute find, and it turned out to be the nicest place we stayed all week. They even have a ban on durian, which was just fine with us!

Overall impressions of Bali? I’m very glad I went. There are definitely some beautiful sights to see.

Am I dreaming of the day I get to go back? No, I can’t honestly say that I am. I think it’s an amazing island to visit once…but there are so many other places to explore, too!

What’s the next destination on our hit list? That remains to be seen!

Spectacular Ko Phi Phi: The Jewel of the Andaman Sea

Spectacular Ko Phi Phi: The Jewel of the Andaman Sea

The brilliant sunlight warms your skin as you make your way to the bow of the ferry. You inhale a deep breath of salty sea air and sigh, gazing out at the crystal clear waters of the Andaman Sea and the tiny green islands on the horizon. You pause along the railing and take a sip of sweet, creamy Thai iced tea – probably your third one of the day – and think again how lucky you are to be here.

Today you’re on your way to Ko Phi Phi, one of the most beautiful (and easily accessible) islands on earth.

I recently had the privilege of visiting this gem of an island with my husband and a group of friends. We caught the ferry from nearby Phuket, Phi Phi’s bigger and better-known neighbor, and spent three glorious days exploring the beaches, bays, hills, and forests that make this island the ultimate tropical paradise.

Why Ko Phi Phi is So Amazing

Can you imagine snorkeling through waters as clear as glass and as warm as bathwater? Can you envision a narrow isthmus of land surrounded by spectacular twin lagoons – one a deep blue color and the other turquoise-green? Can you see the soaring green cliffs rising dramatically from the sea and stretching into the cloudless sky? Can you picture yourself climbing up one of those cliffs – which we nicknamed “The Cliff of Insanity” – on nothing but a tattered bit of netting, with sharp rocks and pounding surf below you?

We did it! And I’m eager to share our incredible story with you.

Travelicious.world recently published my first paid travel article about our amazing adventures on Ko Phi Phi. If you’re planning your own trip to beautiful southern Thailand – or if you just want to do a little armchair traveling – I encourage you to check it out!

Click here to read more about Ko Phi Phi!