The World's First Swim Across the Red Sea

Saudi Arabia to Egypt

In October 2022, Lewis swam from Saudi Arabia to Hurghada, Egypt. Along the way he passed Sharm el-Sheikh, where world leaders would gather for Cop27 in November.

The 123 km swim took 16 days to complete.

Not only did Lewis swim over some of the most precious coral in the world, he also  swam across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes leading to the Suez Canal.

Lewis urged all nations to drastically cut their emissions, to tackle the climate crisis and protect the world’s oceans. He also called for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.

Coral in Crisis

Coral reefs support 25% of all ocean life and are the most biological diverse ecosystem on Earth.

“If we lose our coral reefs, we will not just drive many thousands of species to extinction, we will lose an entire ecosystem, on which we depend. This would be unprecedented in human history. Coral reefs are the nurseries of our oceans, and home to some of the most incredible life on earth. I refuse to accept that we could lose them in my lifetime.” – Lewis Pugh

Every Fraction of a Degree matters

Lewis is known for swimming in some of the coldest waters on the planet. This time he swam in some of the world’s warmest.

Scientists warn that if we heat our planet by more than 1.5° C, we will lose 70% of the world's coral reefs. If we heat it by 2°C, 99% of coral reefs will die. We are currently on track for at least 2.2°C increase. UN Secretary General António Guterres calls the Climate Crisis “a code red for humanity”.

“Coral reefs are the barometers that illustrate clearly what happens when we heat our planet,” says Lewis. “Every fraction of a degree now matters.”

The Last Reef?

If ever an area needed to be properly protected, this is it. Half the world’s coral reefs are believed to have died since the 1950s due to warming sea temperatures, combined with overfishing, pollution and reef disturbance. Red Sea coral is different. Researchers have found that the coral in the Red Sea is more resilient to warming and acidification than coral in other places, such as the Great Barrier Reef, where bleaching events are increasingly common.

If temperatures continue to rise as predicted, the coral of the Red Sea could be the last surviving coral on earth, so it is imperative that we protect it from other threats.

In the months following Lewis's swim across the Red Sea, Egypt committed to protecting 2000kms of its astonishing Great Fringing Reef.

On the Red Sea swim the Lewis Pugh Foundation partnered with the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA). HEPCA is a network of scientists, professional divers, industry experts and community members, all passionate and pro-active about protecting the resources of the Red Sea.

HEPCA have been calling for the Great Fringing Reef of the Egyptian Red Sea to be declared a multiple-use protected area. There is clear scientific evidence that the Great Fringing Reef, which is characterised with high resilience and tolerance to climate change, could be the last refuge for coral reefs worldwide. One of HEPCA’s projects involves working to reduce the pressure on the coral reefs around Hurghada, where the number of dives at some sites has reached more than 200,000 annually (the recommended carrying capacity is 5,000 - 22,000 dives in a single dive spot).

In the months following Lewis's swim, Egypt committed to protecting 2000kms of its astonishing Great Fringing Reef.

Marine Protect Areas & COP27

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) make the oceans more resilient to climate change. At the UN Climate Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh in November 2023, Lewis called for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030, stressing to world leaders the role healthy oceans play in mitigating against the Climate Crisis.

He asked them to move beyond long-term commitments toward immediate urgent action.

“The danger from the climate catastrophe is real. We are proud to support Lewis's efforts to raise awareness and push for positive change. Inaction is not an option.”

Michelle Scrimgeour


The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates responses to environmental issues within the United Nations system. Its programmes focus on climate, nature, pollution, and sustainable development. Lewis Pugh became UNEP Patron of the Oceans in 2014.
Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) is focussed on protecting the resources of the Red Sea.
The Ocean Agency is a strategic creative NGO working to accelerate ocean science and fast-track ocean conservation.
Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM) is regularly voted one of the world's most sustainable investment managers.