Travel Blog
Destination: Saudi Arabia

Vessel: M/Y Almonda
Liveaboard with Nina from NiCe Dive & Trips

Travel Blog - Exploring the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia with M/Y Almonda

From March 7th to March 18th, 2023, it was time for another unforgettable adventure. This time, we set out to explore the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia aboard the M/Y Almonda. Our journey took us on a week-long diving safari around the Farasan Islands in Saudi Arabian waters. Before diving into the depths, we paid a visit to Jeddah, explored the historic old town, and embarked on a short hike, complete with a delightful BBQ.

Our stay promised to be filled with excitement, numerous highlights, and unique experiences. Keep scrolling to discover all about our spectacular journey.

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Our journey kicked off in the vibrant city of Jeddah, where modernity seamlessly blends with tradition. Exploring the lively streets, savoring local cuisine, and marveling at the contemporary architecture set the tone for our adventure. Jeddah, with its unique fusion of history and innovation, marked the beginning of an extraordinary exploration.

Al Balad

A step back in time awaited us as we delved into Al Balad, Jeddah's historic district. Wandering through narrow alleys adorned with ancient coral-stone buildings, immersing ourselves in the scents of traditional souks, and soaking in the timeless charm of the area transported us to another era.

Moon Valley

Our journey led us to the enchanting Moon Valley, a surreal landscape of rocky formations and lunar-like terrain. The otherworldly beauty of Moon Valley provided a breathtaking backdrop for moments of awe and wonder.

Diving Safari at the Farasan Banks

The pinnacle of our adventure unfolded beneath the waves during a diving safari at the Farasan Banks. Exploring the underwater wonders of this marine paradise, encountering diverse marine life, and witnessing the vibrant coral reefs added a thrilling aquatic dimension to our already spectacular journey.

Stay tuned for more details and highlights from our unforgettable expedition.

Our Group Journey in Saudi Arabia

It's March 7, 2023, and today marks the beginning of our group journey to Saudi Arabia. In high spirits, we gathered with Harald and Daniel at Vienna International Airport. After a smooth check-in, we relaxed in a restaurant before embarking on our approximately five-hour flight with Saudi Airlines. During the flight, we were treated to food and drinks, and for those interested, in-flight entertainment offered a selection of movies. Upon arrival in Jeddah, we proceeded to the passport control area.

It's worth noting that obtaining the visa in advance online and bringing the printed copy is essential for a hassle-free entry. The adventure started right at the airport, and everything worked seamlessly. Our accommodation for the first four days is at the Hyatt Hotel on Sari Street, a 20-minute drive from the airport. After the check-in, it was already 1 AM, and we all eagerly retired to our rooms.

Tomorrow, our exploration takes us to the Old Town, "Al Balad," and the Jeddah Waterfront. We're excited and looking forward to a wonderful day ahead.

March 8, 2023
Jeddah Private City Tour

After a restful night and a delightful breakfast at the Hyatt Hotel, we started our Jeddah tour at eleven o'clock.

Quick Feedback on Hyatt Hotel in Sari Street:
The rooms are spacious, beds are comfortable, and the shower has excellent water pressure. The breakfast buffet is outstanding, offering freshly prepared omelets, fresh bread, cold cuts, cheese, hummus, grape leaves, and more.

Our guide, Mr. Gari, picked us up, and we headed straight to the Old Town, "Al Balad," in Jeddah. Our first stop was the Jaffali Mosque and its accompanying lake. Built in 1987, the Jaffali Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Jeddah, and the adjacent lake creates a serene atmosphere. We then proceeded to Al-Balad, the Old Town of Jeddah, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2014. Mr. Gari shared insights into the history of Jeddah and Saudi Arabia. Al-Balad was built on a beautiful coastal stretch and, in 657 AD, was designated as the royal seaport of Mecca. Over the centuries, people from various cultures and walks of life converged at this location. The buildings in the Old Town are made of coral, wood, and a type of concrete. The entire Old Town is currently undergoing restoration, and we had the privilege of exploring it almost exclusively.

The Saudis were delighted to see us, and their reserved friendliness was impressive. As we strolled through the Old Town, occasionally exploring houses from the inside, music suddenly filled the streets. Drums beat, people sang, and dancing ensued. We eagerly joined in the festivities, making it an unforgettable experience.

Later, we enjoyed traditional Saudi coffee and tea and took a brief rest. The Old Town is truly beautiful, with its antique houses exuding a unique charm, and the vendors and locals were more than friendly. Sightseeing works up an appetite, so for lunch, we indulged in traditional Saudi delights. As is often the custom in Saudi Arabia, we were given a private room in the restaurant where various dishes were served. Freshly baked flatbread, chicken in various preparations, rice, and vegetables adorned our table. It was delicious, and well-fueled, we set off for our next destination.

Next on our itinerary was a true landmark of Jeddah, the "Floating Mosque," also known as the "Al-Rahmah Mosque." Constructed in 1985, the floating mosque's foundations are submerged underwater in the Red Sea. The gleaming white mosque with its beautiful domes is a sight to behold. Inside the mosque, there are windows providing views of the Red Sea, and an elaborate chandelier hangs from the ceiling. The architecture is impressive, blending Islamic and traditional construction styles. The mosque is open 24/7, and a visit at sunrise or sunset is highly recommended. The "Floating Mosque" is located right next to the Jeddah Yacht Harbor, which is under construction and expected to be completed in 2024.

The Formula 1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia also takes place in Jeddah, with the racetrack just a few meters from the Yacht Harbor and the Al-Rahmah Mosque. The Grand Prix is scheduled for next week, and preparations are already in full swing.

After this beautiful day with our guide, Mr. Gari, we treated ourselves to a delicious meal in the evening before heading to bed.

March 9, 2023
Moon Valley

After a well-rested night and an enjoyable breakfast, each of us spent the morning as they pleased—some relaxing in the hotel, others exploring the city of Jeddah.

At 3 PM, we kicked off our trip to Moon Valley, where a hike and barbecue were on the agenda. After about an hour and a half of travel, we reached our destination and were warmly greeted by Mr. Gari's entire team. Tea and coffee were already prepared by the fire, and we settled comfortably on blankets around the fire. The landscape is aptly named Moon Valley because the entire surroundings give the impression of being on the moon.

Our hike began, and upon first glance at the mountain, we thought we would reach the summit in ten minutes—boy, were we mistaken. After about an hour, we almost reached the top, found a cozy spot, and settled in to watch the sunset. Simply breathtaking. The mountain is composed of granite, adorned with both small and very large rocks. The view was incredibly beautiful, and we savored every second.

Afterward, we made our way to our campsite, where our food was already prepared. As the grill heated up during engaging conversations, the delicious aroma made us quite hungry. In addition to meat and cevapcici, there was salad, bread, and rice—exquisite. After a digestion break, we packed up and returned to the Hyatt Hotel. Happy and satisfied, we eagerly looked forward to the next day.

March 10, 2023

Today, everyone had the freedom to do what they desired. Some visited the fish market and the shopping mall, while others returned to the old town and the Souq of Jeddah. The Jeddah Fountain, one of the landmarks, was also on the list.

The city of Jeddah is bustling with activity. The neighborhood with numerous gold shops side by side is bustling. Similar to Vienna, there are groups of friends on a shopping tour, and men also strolled through the city in groups. In Jeddah, it is highly recommended to visit a spice shop; there are delicious treats waiting.

In the evening, we found our way to Al-Nakheel Cafe, an absolutely cozy restaurant with excellent food and a great atmosphere. We chatted with some Saudis and exchanged stories. For dinner, we ordered Chicken Shawarma, Hummus, freshly baked bread, and stuffed grape leaves. Afterward, we relaxed with tea and a delicious dessert before heading back to the hotel. A more than successful day in Jeddah.

Tomorrow is the day; we are excited to embark on the M/Y Almonda.

March 11, 2023
Departure to Port Al Lith

The day began with a hearty breakfast and great anticipation for the upcoming dive safari. At 3 PM, we were picked up from the hotel and taken to Port Al Lith for the M/Y Almonda.

The journey took about three hours, and along the way to the port, we spotted numerous camels in the landscape.Upon arriving at the safari ship, we were warmly welcomed, rooms were assigned, and the boat and safety briefing were conducted. After an excellently prepared dinner by the head chef, we relaxed on the sundeck for a while, bringing the evening to a close.

March 12, 2023

1st Dive at Aramco Reef
Night Dive at Aramco Reef

Finally, the moment arrived! With the departure clearance granted, we set off to our first dive spot. We submerged into the waters of Aramco Reef, reveling in the refreshing sea.
In contrast to many other check-dive locations, Aramco Reef was vibrant and teeming with fish. We also conducted our night dive at this site. During the night dive, we encountered enormous crabs, hunting moray eels, numerous shrimp, and sleeping parrotfish.
A splendid first day of diving.

March 13, 2023
Mubarak Reef - Hammerhead Sharks as far as the eye can see

Overnight, Captain Hamada steered towards the Farasan Banks, reaching our dive spot, the Mubarak Reef. Let me share a spoiler: we will have all the dive spots to ourselves for the entire week. Where else does that happen? Currently, in Saudi Arabia. The wake-up call was at 06:30, followed by a briefing at 07:00, and by 08:00, the first divers were already submerged. We started the dive directly from the boat. The Mubarak Reef is known for its drop-off and the good chance of encountering large fish. The latter didn't keep us waiting long. Shortly after descending, two silky sharks welcomed us as we headed into deeper waters. Many large tunas and a small school of barracudas also crossed our path. Upon reaching the depths, a hammerhead shark came to say "hello" and scrutinized us closely. It seemed to be the scout of the hammerhead school. Three more decided to inspect the rare divers closely. A very beautiful dive indeed. The reef wall was adorned with hard and soft corals and many reef fish. Back on the Almonda, we had breakfast and then took a short nap.

Our next briefing was at eleven. We decided to do our second dive at the same site. It was a very good decision. We thought the first dive was already fantastic, but it got even better. A school of more than 80 hammerhead sharks calmly passed by us. Wow! Wow! What an experience. Besides the hammerhead school, some of us became part of a very large school of barracudas. We can't tell you how many there were, but certainly several hundred. The silky sharks visited us again, including some babies. I don't think I need to mention how impressive this dive was. And because it was so beautiful, some wanted to do the third dive at the Mubarak Reef as well. Done deal. But before that, we filled our stomachs with a delicious lunch. A short power nap, and off we went again. Captain Hamada repositioned the Almonda during the second dive to the ship's location. This time, it was moored in the south. One group opted for a relaxed reef dive. Incredibly many fish and healthy hard and soft corals. More than once, we heard after the dive, "This is like Egypt 30 years ago." That's a statement.

With only three liveaboard ships operating in Saudi waters, it's not far-fetched to think that marine life and corals here still feel particularly at home.

The second part of the group did a third dive at the northern tip. This time, I won't say it was better, but at least as fascinating as the second dive. We had everything at once. Hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, barracudas, and tunas at the same time. We didn't know where to look first. An exceptionally luxurious diving day. To top it off, we snorkeled with dolphins in the lagoon. Special mention goes to the entire crew. Everyone is very friendly, helpful, and you can see that they enjoy their work. Many thanks, Team Almonda. After an excellent dinner, we ended this eventful day with a cup of tea, already looking forward to the next dive day.

March 14, 2023

March 14 - A Day of Exciting Dives

On March 14, we embarked on an early morning dive at the Mudarr Reef, accompanied by dolphins on our way to the dive point. What could be more beautiful in the morning? Underwater, a Napoleon wrasse greeted us, snails, shrimps, and lots of small creatures were also present. A very relaxed morning dive. After a hearty breakfast and a digestion break, we made our second dive at the Jabarrah Reef on the north side. Here, we encountered parrotfish, a turtle, and numerous barracudas.

Third Dive at Choppy Reef South:
The Choppy Reef consists of a steep wall, a north plateau, and a south plateau. As we made our way to the plateau, a silky shark paid us a visit, and on the sandy area of the plateau, a feathertail stingray relaxed. An eagle ray glided past us gracefully, and a blackspotted stingray partially buried itself in the sand. Many bluespotted stingrays were also present, delighting our spirits.

Night Dive at Shaab Ammar:
A night dive was also on the agenda today at Shaab Ammar. Night dives are especially beautiful. Basket stars dance around the reef, shrimps peer out from the reef crevices, and moray eels hunt in the darkness.
After four exciting dives, delicious food, and plenty of fun, we all happily fell into bed.

March 15, 2023

Today, we were excited about exploring the following dive sites:

1+2 Dive: Shaab Ammar
3 Dive: Long Reef South
Night Dive: Marmar Reef

It was another wonderful day in Saudi Arabia, in the Red Sea. Where do I begin? Silky sharks, parrotfish, schools of barracuda, two sleeping reef sharks, Napoleon wrasses, countless fusiliers, and many other underwater friends paid us a visit during our dives.
Oh, and dolphins accompanied us, following the M/Y Almonda throughout the day.

Another night dive awaited us, featuring encounters with cuttlefish, hunting moray eels, torpedo rays, and an abundance of basket stars and sea stars.

March 16, 2023

1. Dive: Dohra South
2. Dive: Malatu South
3. Dive: Malatu South-East

On this sunny day, the marvels of the underwater world continued to captivate us. Whitetip reef sharks, Napoleon wrasses, four silky sharks— one of them joining us during the safety stop— and a hammerhead shark gracefully swimming along the reef wall left us in awe.

In addition to the fascinating marine life, we admired the vibrant corals along the steep walls and ventured through a captivating underwater passage.
Once again, the entire crew exceeded expectations. We were treated to delightful culinary experiences, and the atmosphere was filled with fun and outstanding spirits.

March 18, 2023

Final Day of Dive Adventure in Saudi Arabia: Dolphins, Parrotfish, and More

The last day of our diving expedition in Saudi Arabia was filled with excitement and action. The early-morning dive was truly incredible. As we rode the Zodiac, dolphins greeted us and accompanied us both on the surface and underwater. They showcased their acrobatics and playful nature, staying with us for an extended time before bidding farewell and moving on to entertain the second dive group. During this dive, we encountered six parrotfish, escorted by an eagle ray. A whitetip reef shark and a feather-tail stingray relaxed in the sandy depths.

For our final dive, we explored a steep wall where numerous batfish enjoyed the morning. It was simply beautiful. The second and last dive of the day was shallow and colorful.

We concluded our Saudi Arabian diving safari on a relaxed note, taking the time to wash and dry our equipment afterward.


In the early hours of the morning, at three o'clock, we awoke to commence our journey back home. After a little over three hours, we arrived at Jeddah airport. Traveling in various directions, some back to Austria, others to Switzerland and Germany, everyone embarked on their homeward journeys.

A heartfelt thank you to our guides, Renata and Ahmed, and the entire crew of the M/Y Almonda. Many thanks for this unforgettable week in Saudi Arabia. We had an incredible amount of fun, were impressed by the culinary delights, and are already looking forward to our next diving safari in the Saudi Arabian waters of the Red Sea. Also, a big thank you to Husam from Ocean Breeze for the excellent organization and smooth operation.