Diving-Safari at the Red Sea

“Oh my Red Sea, you are in my dreams radiant by day, a glittering jewel by night!» These are the lines by Nikolai Gumilev, a poet with an amazing and tragic fate – he was shot by the KGB in 1921. A desperate and daring adventurer, at the age of 20 Gumilev first went to Africa through Egypt, and returned there three years in succession. It was a dangerous and exciting journey (nobody heard about any “guided tours” in those days). He was so much struck by the Red Sea that he expressed his feelings in verse: “Hello, the Red Sea, the shark soup, the Negro bath, the sand barrel!” The lines from the Bible sum up these epic poems: “Do you remember how You, only one of the seas, have once fulfilled the law of the God: ripped the mighty swells, So that Moses could pass and Pharaoh died.”

Nowadays the Red Sea, glorified by the poet, has become a mecca for divers from all over the world. The Red Sea is unique: no rivers flow into it, so it is famous for its clean water, which is warm (up to 30°C in summer and 18°C in winter), enough to make diving possible all the year round. Besides it has a vast coral colony, thousands of species of fish and almost all the species of sharks, sea cows, stingrays, dolphins and other animals, which are found only in the Red Sea. And as a diving dessert there are a lots of ship wrecks, which lie quietly in its waters …
A diving safari in the Red Sea is attractive primarily because you can enjoy being at one with nature as you would in an overland safari. Besides, you need not go back to the shore after each dive. The yacht travels far out into the sea to visit unknown islands and reefs, where you have a great chance to see rare marine inhabitants and corals in their pristine beauty. Divers can choose both time and number of dives. As we know the underwater world is the most attractive at dawn and after sunset. Finally, the divers have everything at hand on a yacht – there is no need to carry heavy equipment from place to place and waste valuable time travelling.
The Red Sea has a huge number of attractions for a diving safari, traditionally subdivided into several destinations: Hurghada, Safaga, Marsa Alam, Deep South and, finally, the North and ship wrecks. We are going to tell you about some of them.

HURGHADA

Abu Hashish – is an island in the middle of the bay to the south of Hurghada. The island acquired its name, because smugglers used to store hashish there. The diving site is located in the southernmost point of the reef. There is a shelf at the depth of 15 m, followed by a steep smooth slope. There you can see stingrays and hammerhead sharks, moray eels, and squid, and some beautiful caves. The headland in the northern part of Abu Hashish with an old lighthouse on it is called Ras Disha. To the north there is a deep precipice, and in the southern part of the site there are three large sand bars, a very nice place for diving. In the northern area there is a large cave with lots of glass fish. In the sand there live crocodile fish, flounder, rockfish, devilfish and spotted stingrays, and you can sometimes meet a gray reef shark.
Shaab Petra is divided into two sandy bars on a sandy bottom, while to the east there is a small coral boulder, whose beauty cannot leave even the most worldly-wise divers indifferent. On the boulder there are a few large pits, where glass-fish and snappers live, butterfly fish and sultan fish play on top of it. Here the leopard shark has been repeatedly noticed.
Shaab Eshta– these are two very cute bars: a large one and a small one, resembling leaves with rounded edges in shape. The site is surrounded by corals and algae. The fish found here are the lionfish, the emperor fish, the stone fish, the scorpion fish, the crocodile fish, as well as stingrays, turtles and sea horses. Turtles spend the night in a small cave.

Shaab Abu Nuhas is the most dangerous reef of the Red Sea, it has wrecked a lot of ships. The fishermen gave it a name that can be roughly translated as ‘a memorial reef’. Four vessels lie on its northern side – Chrisoula K, Ghiannis D and Carnatic.Chrisoula K ran onto the reef on August 30, 1981, having collided with a cargo ship nose to nose. Now the ship lies at the depth of 5 to 25 metres. Divers are attracted by immersions to the internal part of the ship: on the galley you can see an open electric stove, and find bathrooms with all the accessories in the cabins. Visibility is perfect here, so the place is perfect for fans of underwater photography.

The Greek ship Ghiannis D sank in 1983, having collided against the ill-fated Abu Nuhas. The ship was only half-sunk for some time, but due to a sudden storm, it cracked, fell into two halves and went to the bottom. The hull has been completely preserved, not counting one third of its bows that was torn, so the ship can be seen almost entirely.

On September 13, 1869 the steamer Carnatic ran aground on the reef here, and broke its back, the two parts hanging on a coral slope. Since the ship was carrying a large shipment of coins (40,000 pounds), it was decided to organize a rescue mission, which included two divers. Air pumping technology and immersion in the helmet was used for the first time in the history. The divers brought to the surface 32 000 pounds. The question is: what is the fate of the remaining 8000? It is likely that they are waiting for their savior amid the wreckage of the ship, so you probably have a chance! .. A year later, the broken ship sank to the bottom and broke into three parts. The vessel was thoroughly damaged by the sea water, but now its stern is on the sandy bottom. Together with the reef rising above and colorful fish it makes a picturesque spot for photography.

North Umm Gamar has two diving sites: the northern plateau, rich in corals and big fish, and Halg Umm Gamar (“Umm Gamar’s Neck” – a bay, protected by a wall in the south and by a 60-foot coral slope in the north. At the southern wall you can see a rare species of corals – black corals. Nudibranch with an exotic name of a ‘Spanish dancer’ is a special attraction of the reef.

Located north of Umm Gamar there is a small Shaabrur Umm Gamar, which means ‘a small reef’. Unlike its “big brother” there is no identification object like a lighthouse in Shaabrur, which was the cause of the collision of three ships here. In the north the reef ends in a ridge, which goes several hundred meters into the depth. It is here that the two best diving sites are located: drifting along the eastern wall and immersions near the southern plateau, home to moray eels, napoleon fish and spotted stingrays. In descent area you can see the white reef shark and giant tuna.
The Dolphin Reef, or the Dolphin Playgraund, stretches around a large lagoon in a narrow band. Here a wide cavity attracts special attention, with a coral garden and three beautiful coral columns on its edge. And, of course, as the name of the reef prompts, you are sure to meet a cute shoal of dolphins. Aquatic fauna is also represented by the eagle stingray, bat fish, and sea stars.
Hamda is located at the foot of a ridge of high rocks and opposite a white pebble beach. There is a small plateau of hard corals under the water, going 35 metres down into the depth. On its external side there is a smooth slope with lots of smooth circular “steps”, a stunning surreal landscape. In the open sea on a plateau there swim schools of triggers, tuna, lucians and narwhales, and below there are barracudas, scorpion fish, moray eels, and occasionally whale sharks and turtles.
To the north of Hurghada there stretches a long and narrow strip of the reef called Umm Gamar, or the Moon’s Mother. It got such a name because the island on the top of the reef is in the shape of a crescent. The most popular diving sites are the southern plateau and the east wall, next to the three towering coral “pillars.” In one of them there is a sand cave, another one resembles an abstract sculpture by its shape, and the third one looks like a miniature of the Roman Coliseum. Here there is an abundance of purple soft corals, among which predators are hiding – stone fish, scorpion fish, lionfish, and whale sharks.

Safaga
Panorama, or Abu Alam (“The Father of masts”) is the largest reef of Safaga, a huge 400-meter block of corals. A popular place to dive is on the southernmost tip of the reef, where the beautiful plateau descends 35 meters down, and then there is a steep 80 meters long descent on the wall. On the southern plateau there lives a napoleon fish family, known to all divers, as well as moray eels and turtles.

Gamul Soraya includes four blocks of corals. In the south-east of the reef there is a beautiful coral garden, stocked with sand eels. A few hundred meters away is a coral “horseshoe”, and further – a beautiful coral pillar, whose top is on the surface of the water. There is a lot to see here for fans of marine biology: among corals there live cardinal fish, butterfly fish, soldierfish, and angel fish.
Abu Kafan is a long, narrow reef. The underwater reef rock descends steeply to a depth of more than 100 meters. In the northern part of the reef there is a plateau interspersed with black corals and giant horny corals – gorgonian corals. Among animals living here are various species of turtles, hammerhead and gray reef sharks, a metre and a half long, tuna and schools of barracudas and large-eyed sea bream.
An elongated reef, Ras Abu Soma is famous for the fact that immersion gives excellent visibility in the water. This allows one to admire the beautiful cave and 4-meter “antler” corals on the reef plateau. The underwater fauna is represented by almost all species of sharks and stingrays.
Shaab Hamdallah consists of coral blocks, rising from the sea at the depth of 18 m. In the largest, the northern block, there is a tunnel, covered with soft corals inside. The southern block is characterized by dense thickets of beautiful gorgonian corals a “sea fan”, and through the western block there passes a “channel”, leading to the center of the reef, to the smallest block with an abundance of soft corals.

To the north of Safaga there is a large round reef Gamul Kebir. In its center there is a long reef, which is home to schools of big yellow barracudas, and the north-east there are three coral blocks. Here you can see a sea cow, besides the nosefish, and sand eels live in the sand.

The Middle, or Central Reef has an oval shape, and is famous for its coral gardens, the most beautiful in the Red Sea. Among fish found here are mackerel, lucian, surgeon fish, triggerfish and parrot fish, as well as sharks, moray eels and turtles.

Marsa Alam

Shaab Abu Galawa, a barrier reef in the shape of a crescent, in the northern part consists of four inner lagoons. On the west wall of the reef are bizarre protuberances, openings, and small canyons that attract the attention. A hundred meters from the western extremity of the reef there is a sunken tug boat Egyptian Tinstin.

Shaab Al Mallah –is a small reef of complex configuration, with several individual reefs and seamounts, adjoining to it. The reef is so much trenched with arabesque caves, tunnels and platforms, that it will be a delight for maze fans.
The Dolphin Reef is the largest in this part of the Red Sea. One of the three lagoons of Dolphin house reef block is inhabited by a large shoal of dolphins. Snorkeling with dolphins – is an amazing attraction at this reef. And fans of antiquities can try their luck in the northern lagoon, where amphorae were found in a ship wreck at its bottom.

Shaab Marsa Alam is a large reef on the south side covered with mountain-like blocks that form a coral garden on its bottom. The garden in its turn passes into a sandy alley. Here you can see a very large colony of Red Sea eels – Gorgas.

FAR SOUTH
Zabargad (“Huge tiger’s side”) – is a large volcanic island. Frozen multi-colored lava resembles the color of a tiger. This is a unique marine reserve: only here you can see a rare emerald coral, and in ancient times precious topaz, including rare green topaz, was mined on the island. The underwater landscape has striking splits, caves and labyrinths. Zabargad – is a great place for night diving: there are great reefs and water is not very deep here.

Habili Uasta – is a reef, sprouting to the surface from great depth. When immersing at dawn divers can see large pelagic fish: sharks, eagle rays, cavallas, and trevally. The abundance and diversity of corals – alcyonarians and gorgonians is really stunning.
Shaab Mahrous – one of the world’s best diving spots on vertical walls. The reef is habitat for many species of sharks, including fox shark.

The shallow reefs of Mars Selmi, Fender Hemer Park and Malachi are perfect for night parking and night dives, when nudibranchs of amazing sizes and colors can be seen at the bottom, and between the corals there are moray eels, shrimps, squid and crabs.

Shaab Ayman is a great 15 m high reef, which is well worth a visit because of a rave of colors and shapes and coral colonies.
St. John’s reefs – is the most southern diving route in the Red Sea, it is almost on the border with Sudan. It is a combination of seamounts and smaller reefs on the territory of 14 square kilometres. Divers are attracted by steep walls, covered with gorgonians, coral gardens, and a great variety of fish: schools of giant barracudas and tuna, hammerhead sharks, gray whitetip reef sharks, turtles and stingrays.

Habili Jaffar, an unusual pyramidal reef rising from the depth of 70 m. Besides its unusual shape it is attractive with an abundance of reef fish and invertebrates.

The North and Ship Wrecks

Diving safari along this route is suitable only for experienced and fearless sea salts: no wonder its second name is the Shark route. It includes visits to three sites, which are especially popular with these sharp-toothed marine predators. However, diving here is so great that this route is rightly called the Golden Triangle of the Red Sea.
The Brothers Islands – are the tops of two undersea mountains, the Greater and Smaller Brothers, rising from the depth of 300 m in the heart of the sea. Since 1989 the island has been declared a national marine park of Egypt. There are no other reefs in this part of the sea, so there is always plenty of fish and sharks, respectively – reef, hammerhead and whale sharks.
Daedalus, or Abu el-Kizan – is a huge remote reef, surrounded by a steep wall. Dedalus is interesting with an abundance of a variety of sharks, surgeon fish, snapper, and horse-mackerel. This is a marine national park, named after the legendary ancient Greek builder of the famous Labyrinth.
Elphinstone – is a massive reef, a cult diving place. The reef is named after Elphinstone, a marine surveyor. The reef has steep walls, covered with spherical and tree-shaped corals, along which rays, schools of dolphins and large turtles slide. At the depth of 50 m in the southernmost point of the reef there is a spectacular view of the round arch, which stands opposite a wall with a terrace on top. Hammerhead sharks and gray sharks can be often seen there.
The northern route includes the most interesting wrecks in the Red Sea and perfectly meets the demands of fans of diving on wrecks.
September 15, 1957 Egyptian military transport ship Aida, trying to moor to the island of Big Brother during a storm, came across the reef, was damaged and started sinking fast. On top of it the ship struck against cliffs several times, so that its body was cracked into two parts and sank. When immersing you can see that Aida’s main part is lying on a steep slope at the depth of 30-68 m. Fragments of Aida, that descended even lower, are fully covered with corals and actinia.

The British merchant ship Dunraven was wrecked in April 1876. In the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula the ship hit against Shaab Mahmoud reef and the front compartments were gored. Water began flooding the engine room and the deck, and the captain ordered to abandon the ship. Dunraven is lying almost completely upside down at the bottom, its port adhering to the reef. Water being transparent, you can see the outlines of the ship even from the surface. Diving through the breach in its starboard divers can get inside the ship. It is dark there, and it is necessary to carry powerful lights. At the bottom next to the ship there are two metal masts, heavily overgrown with corals. The wreckage of a ship is home to the giant 50-pound groupers, crocodile fish and sea turtle. On the outer side of the reef above the bow of the ship there is an intact coral garden.
El Mina is a Soviet ship, handed over to Egypt. According to one version, the ship was anchored in the port of Hurghada and was sunk by Israeli aircraft in 1967. According to another one, the ship ran into one of its own mines and sank. Visibility is low here, so descent and ascent are made with the use of a special tight rope. On board the ship antiaircraft installations have survived. In the fore part a shot hole can be seen, through which you can enter the interior of the ship, on the foredeck there is a soleplate of the weapon that was cut off.
At Shag Rock reef in 1881 the British freighter Kingstone sank. Its bow can be seen above the water, and the main body lies at the depth of 14 m. Small depth, excellent natural lighting and abundance of marine life makes it especially attractive for photo and video shooting.

The British ship Rosalie Moller was discovered only in 1998 in the Strait of Gubal. It sank during the Second World War on October 7, 1941, when a German aircraft dropped a bomb on it. The ship is well preserved, and is standing at the bottom on an even keel.

Only two days before, on October 6, 1941, another British warship, Thistlegorm, was attacked by a German aircraft in the vicinity of Shaab Ali reef. Two bombs hit the aft deck of the ship and exploded in a packed ammunition hold. As a result, the ship broke into two parts and sank at the depth of 30 meters.It is noteworthy that Thistlegorm was discovered by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and later he vividly described this dramatic picture. When diving you can see the machine gun and anti-aircraft installation. In the holds there are rifles, rubber boots and boxes of medical supplies, and at the top level – BSA motorcycles and Morris cars, Bedford trucks, boxes of ammunition and hand grenades.

Ulysses cargo ship on August 16, 1887 ran into Gubal Segir reef and sank. Despite the 130-year stay in the sea water the ship is well preserved, especially its aft body and the middle, which makes it possible to see the ship’s cabins, rear screws and other pieces.

The sunken “Russian Tank” is actually an M41 Walking Bulldog, an American tank. But it was submerged in 1999 by the order of King Abdullah of Jordan, for the development of diving. The tank is in shallow water (5 m deep), just 30 meters from the shore. The tank looks like new. This is a great site for photography.

And … if you are suddenly bored by the deck of a yacht, or bottom sand under your feet, we suggest that you should take another ship – the “desert ship” that is, a camel, and make a short trip to a Bedouin village. There you will fully enjoy Eastern exotics: whirling dervishes, and belly dancing, fire walking and walking on broken glass. You will meet funny eared hedgehogs, buy herbs and ointments, and try unusual Bedouin dishes. At night in the vast silence of the desert you will see huge and bright stars above you, which are like nowhere else in the world. Except for the night sea …
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