Japanese Gardens Aqaba |Jordan-Red Sea

Best Snorkel Site

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True name Japanese Gardens
Depth Surface to 40m
Conditions Canyon/wall, sloping reef, mild current at depth, surface traffic
Visibility Excellent (20m+)
Platform Shore or boat
Level Beginner to technical
Snorkelling? Yes, highly recommended
Other names used Taiyong (technical dive site at this location)

Heading past the pinnacle and over a huge lettuce coral, a large, undulating reef spreads out before you. Reef fish are everywhere, schooling and darting between huge, ancient table corals and branches of the elusive black coral. Turtles and eagle rays cruise the reef, casting shadows below.

 Japanese Gardens | Aqaba, Jordan, Red Sea
Aqaba’s Japanese Gardens are a Red Sea kaleidoscope of life and colour.

It’d be easy to use your entire tank here, between 10-12m, where the vibrant reef offers macro-distractions galore. It’s like an underwater kaleidoscope – Red Sea diving at its finest, with vertebrates and invertebrates healthily represented across the board.

 Japanese Gardens | Aqaba, Jordan, Red Sea
From the seagrass beds you cross on entry ...

But let’s keep going. The reef slopes gradually down to 24m, and here we come to a sudden drop to the East. This section of the reef is home to an even larger range of hard and soft coral species and larger pelagic fish, which enter this zone to feed on the reef. There’s often a mild current in this area due to tide and bottom topography.

 Japanese Gardens | Aqaba, Jordan, Red Sea
... to the schools of reef fish swarming in the shallows (snorkeler’s paradise!) ...

A few meters deeper, and we’re over the drop into in Black Coral Valley – incredible specimens dot the underwater landscape along the wall and sloping bottom between 26 and 30m.

Most divers head back up in a loop, making their safety stop over the reef. Just be careful on final ascent, as the area is very popular with snorkelling and glass-bottom boat tours.

... to the diverse Japanese Garden itself (famous in Aqaba for its pristine black coral valleys).

If we instead carried on from Black Coral Valley, we’d leave the Japanese Gardens and head into technical diving territory - and toward a towed-barge shipwreck scuttled intentionally in 1999 after her crane’s jib was literally dropped through the bottom of her hull.

 Japanese Gardens | Aqaba, Jordan, Red Sea
Diving Japanese Gardens, you’ll see fascinating marine life every meter of the way.

Since it was too expensive to save her, only divers can enjoy the Taiyong’s massive holds and marine life congregations today; she’s commonly used as a staging area for decompression dives, with a maximum depth of 57m at the tip of her stern crane and 35-40m along her port rail (she lies on her starboard side). You’ll see sponges unique to the area here, as well as impressive soft coral growth around the barge’s crane and wheelhouse, and superstructure.

Technical divers use Japanese Gardens as a staging area to experience the Tayong wreck, outside recreational depth limits.
 Japanese Gardens | Aqaba, Jordan, Red Sea

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