REVVING the engine, I braced myself for the bumpy dunes that lay ahead.
The sun was just starting to set beyond the peak of Mount Sinai, making my hour long foray across the red-sand desert even more captivating.
It was my first time on a quad bike and I couldn’t have picked a better spot than the Egyptian town of Sharm El Sheikh to give it a go.
The stunning resort, nestled beside the Red Sea on the edge of the Sinai Desert, enjoys glorious sunshine all year round and can reach temperatures of 29C in the winter months.
And with snow and frosts hitting the UK hard this week, sipping cocktails by a pool in the sizzling heat has never been more appealing.
A flight time of around five hours means Sharm El Sheikh is closer than many winter sun destinations, yet its far-reaching deserts, sun-kissed oceans and palatial architecture make it feel worlds apart from the UK.
My daughter Georgia and I were staying at the all-inclusive Coral Sea resort, part of the TUI Blue Sensatori chain, which sits right on the Red Sea and overlooks the straits of Tiran.
We stayed in a beautiful double swim up room boasting a private terrace with steps straight into a swimming pool.
Although you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to taking a dip as the sandy beach stretches for 700m in front of the hotel and is populated by palm trees, wooden sunbeds with thick cushions and, naturally, a beach bar.
There are also five large pools, including an adults-only pool, a family pool and a brilliant kids’ pool, complete with a pirate ship, waterslides, tipping buckets and jets.
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Best of all though, at every pool, on the beach, and even on the swim up terraces, the waiting staff are ever present to offer cocktails, coffee or cola delivered direct to your sun lounger.
While it’s the perfect resort for those who want to lie in the sun being waited on from dawn til dusk, there’s plenty for the adventurous traveller.
Early birds can get stuck into sunrise yoga, or HIIT classes on a “wellness platform” on the beach, while a daily aquafit session in the pool is a great way to escape the heat.
Plus there’s beach volleyball, football, archery, darts, table tennis and boules.
It was the snorkelling that caught our eye though.
Beneath the sun-kissed surface of the Red Sea lies a coral reef teaming with life and for just £2.50 you can hire all the gear that lets you experience this other world for yourself.
As we plunged our heads into the ocean, brightly-coloured fish of all shapes and sizes darted among the rocky surfaces.
We saw many underwater creatures, including the blue and yellow Emperor angelfish, bright yellow Butterfly Fish and Rainbow Parrotfish.
If you really love snorekelling then the one-to-one scuba diving sessions may be right up your street too, where you’ll be carried out to sea on a boat to explore even deeper waters.
Or, for a day of complete luxury, you can head to Ivo Beach, a private stretch of shore with wooden cabanas and hammocks, where you’ll be served breakfast and lunch by a personal waiter.
For around £60, the experience was well worth it and made us feel like real VIPs for the day.
Although if it’s full-blown relaxation you’re seeking then the Chavana spa, set on the fourth floor with stunning views across the water, has everything you’d need for a day of pampering.
Inside, you’ll find a gym, steam room, sauna and Turkish bath, but it’s the treatments that will really get you into the holiday mood.
My Balinese massage and facial cost only around £30 for an hour and 20 minutes of pure heaven.
Red glow over redder sands
And the food at Coral Sea is even better value for money.
The five restaurants on site offer a range of cuisines from Tex-Mex to Italian and all-inclusive guests can visit any of these three times in a week’s stay.
For sheer dinner theatre, the Gorkan Tepinyaka is brilliant, with a flame-throwing chef cooking each meal on a hot plate around the table and even getting the guests involved in the explosive show.
My favourite grub was at the Gorkan Asian though, where the tempura vegetables, sushi and noodles were divine, and the Middle Eastern Marhaba (a mix of delicious foods from the region) included the best falafel we’d ever tasted.
There’s so much choice for those with a little spare change, but with the hotel’s all-inclusive tariff, there’s really no need to spend a penny while you’re here.
For the all-inclusive price, you’ll get all meals included from a buffet with hot and cold options plus stations where chefs will whip up selected foods to order, including chicken burritos, custom made pasta and pizza.
Plus there’s a show venue for after-dinner entertainment, with nightly productions from an extremely talented entertainment team, and various bars, including the Piano Bar, which has resident musicians every night.
It’s the scenery that really makes this place special though, and as I gazed across the desert from my quad-bike, the sun casting its red glow over even redder sands, I felt worlds apart from the bitter British chill.
OUR TOP TIPS:
As a tourist area, no visa is required to enter Sharm El Sheikh but may be needed if you are travelling to other parts of Egypt.
Don’t bother exchanging your cash as British pounds, Euros and US
Dollars are all accepted in the area, as are Egyption dollars.
Local staff typically earn low wages so you might want to take £5/5Euro notes for tips.
A good mosquito repellent is a must and it’s worth packing antihistamine tablets and cream for bites.
GO: Sharm El Sheikh
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 5H Tui Blue Sensatori Coral Sea is from £1,196pp, including flights from Gatwick on January 7, 2023.
See tui.co.uk, visit your local TUI holiday store or download the app.
OUT & ABOUT: Desert quad biking can be booked through the resort from £57pp, including a camel ride plus dinner and Bedouin tribes show.