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Asmara (Asmera)
Agordat (Akordat)
Assab (Asseb)
Dahlak islands
Dekemhare (Decemhare)
Ghinda (Ginda)
Keren (Cheren)
Massawa (Massauwa)
Mendefera (Adi Ugri)
Nakfa (Nacfa)
Semenawi Bahri (Filfil)
Tessenei (Teseney)



The Dahlak Archipelago


Some 200 of Eritrea ’s islands belong to the Dahlak archipelago with a great opportunity for yacht cruising (scuba) diving and (pearl) fishing. Charter yachts are available for hire in Massawa. Only four islands are inhabited, with a total population of just 2,500, who still maintain their traditional lifestyle of fishing and herding goats and camels. The isolated and uninhabited Dahlak Islands, and the rich feeding grounds which surround them, attract large numbers of nesting sea birds from all over the red sea.

 Some islands have shores lined with mangrove trees or salt bush. Shoals and submerged coral reefs, a spectacular marine life (dolphins, sharks, dugongs, turtle species, hermit crabs, fish, mollusks or shellfish), shipwrecks and pumice stones formed from submarine volcanoes make the Red Sea an unforgettable diving experience.


209 islands surrounded by coral reefs form a natural gateway

126 islands surrounded by coral reefs form a natural gateway.


An important difference with other diving spots in the Red Sea is an unexpected result of the years of war. During the fights, fishery came to a halt and resulted in a spectacular increase of large numbers of fish. A second advantage of this forced isolation is a relative lack of shyness of the fish. It is thought that there are 325 species of fish in the Red Sea.

The Dahlak Archipelago has been designated as a national park during the Ethiopian rule. Presently you can’t go there alone (and without permission). For visits please contact an Asmara travel agent.


Travel House International - Asmara Eritrea



The Dahlak islanders were amongst the first in East Africa to convert to Islam, and a number of tombstones in Kufic writing attest to this early connection.

In the 7th century an independent state emerged in the archipelago, but it was subsequently conquered by Yemen, then intermittently by the Kingdom of Medri Bahri (Land of the Sea) 1517, when the Ottoman Turks conquered them and placed the islands under the rule of the Pasha at Suakin as part of the province of Habesh. A more sinister aspect of the islands’ history is that they were one of the most important conduits for the export of slaves from the mainland to Arabia.

The archipelago became part of the Italian colony of Eritrea, when it was formed in 1890. However, during this time the islands were home to little else except the Nacura prison camp operated by the Italian Colonial Forces.

During the Ethiopian occupation of Eritrea, Nacura island housed a prison, used by the Dergue. After Ethiopia allied itself with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, following the rise of the Dergue, the Dahlak Archipelago was the location of a Soviet Navy base.

During the war of independence a group of Eritrean freedom fighters - under the name Naval Force - carried out diving operations against the Ethiopian armed forces. These freedom fighters today make up the core of Eritrean diving tourism, organized by Eritrean Shipping Lines in Massawa.

Currently Eritrea has some attractive dive sites open for tourism diving. Some of the important dive sites in the Dahlak Archipelago and north of Massawa include: Desie, Madot, Nakura, Kundubul, Dahlak, Durgam, Durgella, Dehle and Dehl Bahot. All the islands have natural, good, long white sandy beaches which are excellent for recreation. The offshore water is also excellent for swimming, sport fishing and water sports.


Dahlak Kebir

The largest island, Dahlak Kebir, which is located 58 kilometers from Massawa, is some 643 km² with a population of about 1,500. It was the chief port for pearl fishing in the southern part of the Red Sea and was formally used as a military base by the Ethiopians.

Dahlak Kebir offers opportunities to visit Afar fishing villages, as well as ancient Turkish and Islamic ruins. The many hundred years old Arab inscriptions, the monumental cisterns, and the 360 wells are important living historical footprints, the proof of a high level of historical development that took place in Dahlak Kebir.



Nacura is an island situated west of Dahlak Kebir. In the early years of the Italian colonial rule i.e. 1891/1892, the island was established as a detention camp for the anti-colonial Eritreans as well as opponents from other Italian colonies.

During the Ethiopian occupation of Eritrea the prison was used by the Dergue. Thousands of political prisoners lost their lives, indicating the bitter conditions of this prison.


Marine base Nokra

Opposite to the Luul Hotel (Dahlak Kebir) lies the old marine base Nokra, setup by the former USSR and Ethiopia during the war of independence.

After the last days of the war the base was abandoned. One of the last actions before the retreat was the destruction of all military and non military hardware and to scuttle patrol boats, ships and the floating dock, that might be of any use to the Eritreans. This vindictive behavior has resulted in an interesting heritage for divers.

The two cranes of the former floating dock rise above sea level in the northern channel between Nokra and Dahlak Kebir, while the rest of the wreck is populated by riff fish, a variety of corals and blue and black speckled manta rays. The Russians even left a complete operational officers sauna for 20 persons, which is quite remarkable in one of the hottest regions on earth, which temperatures of over 50°C!


Useful telephone numbers and addresses
Name Address Phone Fax
Luul Resort Hotel
c/o Eritrean Shipping Lines
P.O. Box 1110 Asmara 120359 (Asmara)
552475 (Massawa)
120331 (Asmara)
Yacht Nobile
c/o Dahlak Hotel
P.O. Box 21 Massawa 552818  


Some of the numerous interesting diving sites of the Dahlak Archipelago.

 The Dahlak Archipelago is an Eritrean island group located in the Red Sea.
It consists of two large and 200 small islands. Four of the island are inhabited.


 Ancient Arab inscriptions - Dahlak Kebir

 Ancient Arab inscriptions - Dahlak Kebir

Dahlak Islands Luul Resort Hotel - Dahlak Kebir

Dahlak Islands Luul Resort Hotel - Dahlak Kebir

The Red Sea has many unusual species of colorful fish and coral.

The waters along the Eritrean coast have been nicknamed "fish
soup" because of the 1000 or so species that live in the Red Sea.
The Red Sea has many unusual species of colorful fish and coral.

Blue speckled manta rays and various corals

Blue speckled manta rays and various corals occupy the wreck
of the former floating dock of the Ethiopian marine base Nokra.

Turtle returning to the sea, after laying her eggs on the beach

Turtle returning to the sea, after laying her eggs on the beach.

Seil, a small rocky island in the Dahlak Archipelago

Seil, a small rocky island in the   Dahlak Archipelago,
in the  entrance of the Gulf of Zula, south of Massawa.
The  island,   35 kilometers  off  the  Massawa  coast,
is  famous   for  its  bird  life and  diving opportunities.

Scuba diver closes up on a deadly puffer fish

Scuba diver closes up on a deadly puffer fish
in the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea.

White sandy beach of Dessei (Dahlak Archipellago)

White sandy beach of Dessei (Dahlak Archipellago).
Photo: Eritrea PADI Dive Centre Eritrea.


More pictures of the Dahlak Islands Eritrea > > >


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