When travelers think of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, they picture miles of rolling sand dunes stretching out across parched land. However, its extensive coastline that spans the tranquil, warm waters of the Red Sea is poised to capture the public imagination. Currently Red Sea Global — the multi-project developer responsible for ambitious tourism sites The Red Sea, Amaala and the recently announced Thuwal Private Island — is transforming Saudi Arabia’s west coast into a haven for watersports enthusiasts.
The impressive work being done by Red Sea Global falls under The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, a multi-faceted initiative designed to reposition Saudi Arabia as a world leader in several fields, including as a tourism hotspot.
One of the first steps to achieving this is changing perceptions. That meant highlighting the Kingdom’s Red Sea coastline which stretches for more than 1,000 miles along some of the most untouched, ecologically rich waters in the world.
One of the major factors driving this change of perception is the transformation of the Red Sea into a global watersports hub. Headline-grabbing developments like Triple Bay Marina — set to transform the region into a destination for superyachts — doing much of the heavy lifting.
As this vision has expanded, so has Red Sea Global, which now boasts numerous world-spanning partnerships and several of its own brands. The first two of which were WAMA, responsible for watersports and activities on and above the water and Galaxea, the diving brand that’s set to handle things below the waves.
Two individuals that play major roles in these Red Sea Global brands are Daniel Pellissier, senior manager for watersports and entertainment at WAMA, and Dr Sander den Haring, associate director of diving operations at Galaxea.
“Saudi Arabia’s west coast is truly one of the most beautiful water spaces in the world,” says Pellissier, “And most importantly it’s untouched, our role is to allow people to experience this special place, through a variety of different sports and activities, in a sustainable way.”
“Looking specifically at diving,” adds den Haring, “the Saudi Arabian Red Sea is essentially in the position Egypt was before its waters were affected by mass dive tourism. We have the opportunity to make the correct decisions from the start.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea finds itself on the cusp of change, as it is transformed sustainably into a global hub for watersports. But what exactly can visitors expect from these new Red Sea Global destinations?
The Red Sea: a global hub for watersports
Taking its name from a combination of the first two letters of the word for water in English and Arabic, WAMA is the Red Sea Global brand that has been tasked with providing a variety of options and activities for visitors to Saudi Arabia’s astonishing Red Sea coastline.
“WAMA is going across the board with every single possible activity,” says Pellissier. “Wind and kite surfing, foiling, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and sailing, we are developing an entirely new watersports industry on the Red Sea.”
While variety is certainly the name of the game, WAMA is forging key partnerships with the necessary federations to ensure a world-class operation is delivered. While keeping standards at the highest level, working closely with international sailing, surfing and water-based federations also creates both jobs and opportunities for professional Saudi Arabian athletes by improving their facilities.
“There is no other spot better suited to becoming a global hub,” says Pellissier. The climate remains warm in this part of the world year-round, there’s no period where conditions are likely to be too rough, or cold. Additionally, Saudi’s geographic placement ensures athletes and enthusiasts from across Europe, Africa and Asia are all within a short flight. “I was out kite surfing the other day in incredible conditions,” adds Pellissier, “it ticks every box.”
Amaala Yacht Club
A truly standout build that will help cement the Red Sea region as a global destination is Triple Bay Yacht Club, the centerpiece of Triple Bay Marina, one of the key parts of Amaala. Designed by architecture firm HKS, this 85,000 sqft yacht club that spans four floors, is preparing to become a leading force within the global yachting industry.
In recent months, a strategic partnership has been forged between Red Sea Global and highly established, Monaco Marina Management. As a yachting tour de force, Monaco Marina Management is a consultancy that’s well-versed in the creation, development, promotion and management of marinas and yacht clubs worldwide. This partnership is set to guide Triple Bay into a position of global prestige.
“Triple Bay is perfectly positioned to open new doors for super yachting,” says Michael Hart, senior manager of watersports, sailing and entertainment at Red Sea Global.
Thanks to the Suez Canal, Triple Bay Yacht Club is within easy reach of Italy, Monaco, Marbella and the South of France, where superyachts tend to spend their summers. Traditionally, as the Mediterranean climate cools, these yachts all head to the Caribbean, however, Triple Bay is set to become a new alternative option.
Red Sea Global has also partnered with ‘sailing’s greatest round the world challenge,’ The Ocean Race, as the Regenerative Project Partner. This collaboration is set to promote the values of ethical seafaring and the necessity to protect oceans globally.
“Alongside the yacht club, there’s also going to be a state-of-the-art marine life institute,” adds Pellissier “So while these facilities will absolutely have luxury at the forefront, there will always be an element of education.”
Diving in the Red Sea
While WAMA is focused on delivering quality and variety across a wide breadth of watersports, Galaxea has just one focus, diving. Taking its name from the vibrant Galaxea fascicularis coral that is prevalent across the Red Sea, this dive company is leading the push to develop Saudi Arabia’s scuba offering.
From 18th-century shipwrecks to sea turtles and 25-ft-tall coral formations, the Red Sea plays host to some of the most incredible dive sites on the planet. “From the studies we have undertaken, it’s clear that the majority of Saudi Arabia’s reefs remain untouched,” says Dr den Haring. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to appeal to both seasoned divers and total novices.”
In addition to running standard PADI courses — where novices learn to dive for the first time — Galaxea will set up a PADI Career Development Center. “Similar to a sailing academy, this will give individuals the qualifications necessary to begin a career in the diving industry,” says Dr den Haring. “Classes will cover dive safety and teaching, but also hospitality and languages, giving individuals all the necessary skills to excel in this industry.”
This career development center is set to become a key resource for the local Saudi community, creating new jobs and opportunities for the region.
From Red Sea Global’s inception, every action taken has been united by a commitment of sustainable development, pushed by a desire to improve both societal and environmental conditions in the region.
New industries, such as watersports, diving, and the yacht club bring economic growth and opportunity. “At the sailing academy it will be possible for complete novices to progress right the way through programs to eventually become ship captains,” says Pellissier “with just as many options on land, like harbor master, dock master, retail, hospitality, it’s endless.”
Environmental considerations have also been taken along every step of the process. Currently Red Sea Global is taking steps to not just protect corals but also help them regenerate. “At Galexea we are keen to develop an entire conservation diving program,” says Dr den Haring. “This will involve several different efforts to help coral regenerate, like setting up coral nurseries.”
Steps are also being taken to keep dive impact to an absolute minimum. “The key to sustainable diving is dive rotation,” says Dr den Haring. “When divers are constantly visiting the same sites, that’s when issues occur. Here we have an incredible number of brilliant dives, so with the correct management we can greatly reduce environmental harm.”
The second half of 2023 has seen the first guests begin to arrive at The Red Sea, with thousands of miles of untouched ocean ready to be explored. Red Sea Global and its brands are continuing to expand the tourism capabilities of Saudi Arabia’s west coast, rapidly turning this area into a dream destination for watersports lovers.
To learn more visit redseaglobal.com