DAHLAK ARCHIPELAGO, ERITREA
Why go? If you think Sharm el-Sheikh lacks a certain cachet these days, then the Dahlak Archipelago is the Red Sea spot for you. Comprising more than 200 islands – only four of which are inhabited – the whole area is a national park, where the few locals still herd goats, rear camels and fish in traditional ways, and where the wildlife really rules the roost. The diving is superb; as a consequence of years of war with Ethiopia, large-scale fishing was halted here, and a profusion of sea critters remains. Also, the ships and military hardware sunk in the wake of the conflict – particularly at Nokra, on the main island of Dahlak Kebir – are now rife with marine life, from colourful corals to turtles and rays. As some of the wrecks are only a few metres deep, they’re explorable by anyone with a mask and snorkel.
When to go: The best times to visit are April-early June and September-November. The rainy season is December-March; July-August is very hot.
How to go: The nearest mainland port to the archipelago is Massawa, 120km from Eritrea’s capital Asmara. Permits are required to visit the Dahlak islands; for tour companies licensed to take travellers there.