Stone Corals: Unique to Aqaba

A quick peek at the Aqaba Aquarium quickly establishes the pedigree of underwater wildlife along this part of the Red Sea. It won't come as any surprise that this part of the coast attracts international underwater photographers, drawn to the clarity of a sea with almost no current, and the relative ease of filming colourful sea slugs, frog fish and seahorses while standing in the shallows.

What is less anticipated is that this part of the coast attracts those in the know for another reason: it is home to a great diversity of stone corals. According to local experts, there are more than 100 different varieties of these marine creatures visible in local dive sites.

Corals, which are generally classified into two main categories, hard and soft, are living marine invertebrates whose exoskeletons fuse together to form coral reefs. Stone corals have been used in the crafting and carving of jewellery for thousands of years, and it remains a respected occupation of local master jewellers. The trade in this natural gem, however, is on the decline as attention turns towards preservation and protection of corals in their natural habitat. Growing in dark shady places on the ocean floor, these remarkable corals take some skill to spot – but your dive operator should help with identification.