Red Sea & Indian Ocean
The Red Sea With a Difference
Season: January-June, September-December.
Water Temperature: 22-29°C/72-84°F (warmest in August-September)
Diving: Wrecks, sharks, manta rays, walls, sea mounts, coral gardens, swim-throughs, caves
Willing to share option available
First explored by Hans and Lotte Hass in the 1950s and then by Jacques Cousteau in his famous boat, Calypso, the Red Sea is a classic destination for all divers. Rich with coral, laden with fascinating wrecks, populated by an incredibly diverse fish population including the ‘big boys’ of the sea, Manta Rays and sharks, the deep south of the Egyptian Red Sea and coastal Sudan offers some of the best diving in the world.
Leave behind the hordes of day boats and over-dived reefs of the northern Red Sea as you head south through southernmost Egypt’s and coastal Sudan’s finest dive sites and enter the world of the hammerhead and the Manta Ray. Explore some fantastic wrecks, visit Jacques Cousteau’s ‘underwater world’ and float through grottoes and around coral-covered pinnacles. Fish life is here in profusion and you will enjoy your reunion with your old friends: batfish, sweetlips, Napoleon Wrasse, lionfish, anthias, glassfish, triggerfish, cuttlefish and anemonefish, not to mention rays and sharks. Maybe the amazing and beautiful Oceanic White-tip Shark will just glide by in search of food … Sudan has much for the diver to enjoy.
South of the port of Marsa Alam, the southernmost town of any size on the Egyptian Red Sea coast, is Fury Shoal, part of which is famous for its coral pinnacles and swim-throughs with some healthy, large and colourful coral heads. Here you will see some classic images, with colourful anthias darting over the corals and inquisitive pufferfish peeping out of recesses. St John’s Reef lies about 138 nautical miles north of the Sudanese border and is a collection of small reefs, coral pinnacles and drop offs where some swift drift diving offers encounters with sharks, tunas and jacks.
Just 20 nautical miles from the coast of Sudan is Sanganeb Reef, consisting of a northern and a southern plateau. The North Plateau is famous for the British-built lighthouse that marks its location, as well as the reef wall with its visiting sharks, jacks and barracudas. At the end of the plateau those ‘bison of the sea’, the noisy Bumphead Parrotfish, may be encountered, and maybe, in the deep waters, a school of Scalloped Hammerheads may be found. At the surface there are also interesting encounters to be had, and perhaps a pod of dolphins will enjoy a visit to the boat and the chance to see some snorkeling humans. The South Plateau has superb soft and hard corals and is a good place to see Grey Reef Sharks. The shark list can be very good here and can include Scalloped Hammerhead, Silky Shark and even an occasional Oceanic White-tip Shark, while Manta Rays are fairly regular visitors.
It is at Sha’ab Rumi that Jacques Cousteau conducted his famous Conshelf II underwater living experiments, where five men spent more than a month underwater to study the effects of long-term underwater stays. The remains of the 1963 expedition structures, called Precontinent II, are still on the site and it is possible to dive the Cousteau constructions and also see the remains of the shark cages that were used.
Hans Hass named the wreck of the Umbria as one of the world’s finest wrecks and most wreck-enthusiasts will be in agreement. In World War II the Red Sea was an important route linking British-controlled Egypt and Sudan to the British colonies and dominions in Asia and Australasia. On the day Italy declared war on Britain the Umbria was just 20 miles from Port Sudan and heading for the Italian colony of Eritrea. The Umbria’s crew scuttled the boat when the captain heard that Italy had entered the war, denying the Allies her cargo of bombs and guns. The 153m long wreck now lies on the sea bed, listing at a 60 degree angle; its precious cargo is still onboard - 360,000 aircraft bombs weighing 5,510 tonnes!
The Blue Belt (or Toyota Wreck) lies upside down on a slope, and contains a cargo of cars, trucks, tractors and spare parts, in depths of 10-36 metres. It is possible to enter the wreck through a gap in the hull and work upwards, but the coral-encrusted remains of the cars, tyres, lights, steering wheels and other spare parts are perhaps more fascinating.
The small island of Dahret Abid, 20 miles north of Eritrea and around 30 miles east of the Sudanese shoreline lies at the point where a reef wall slopes down to the watery depths, so, if the current permits, the first part of the dive will usually be spent hanging in the blue keeping a lookout for the school of Scalloped Hammerheads that is often hanging around the area. At around 30 metres is a small collapsed balcony where many schooling reef fish can be found. The wall here has black coral and some highly photogenic Long-fin Batfish.
The Suakin group of islands in the southern region of coastal Sudan are scattered over a vast area. Beneath the waves, coral heads grow from the reef and reach towards the surface. Many of these coral heads, known as ‘habilis’, are just a couple of metres below the surface and attract an marine life in vast quantity. It is these habilis and a number of tiny islands which cause the fast flow of water and attract huge numbers of fish. The southern Red Sea has always been a magnet for divers seeking shark encounters, and sharks are still here to be seen. There are well-recorded encounters with the elusive Great Hammerhead, with elegant Oceanic White-tips, sleek Silkys, huge Tigers and other ‘wish-list’ sharks, though there is little doubt that there has been a steep decline in the shark population worldwide and the southern Red Sea sharks have suffered at the hands of man in the same way.
Add to this a variety of swim-throughs, beautiful coral gardens, shallow lagoons and the habilis, in combination with the almost-ever-present current, and it is easy to see why the reef fish are here in profusion. Great Barracudas, Black-fin Barracudas, Napoleon Wrasse, Bumphead Parrotfish, triggerfish, Spotted Sweetlips, fusiliers, surgeonfish and anthias occur here, many species in profusion. At any time it is worth gazing around on these dives, not just to look for approaching sharks, but to watch for the silhouettes of cruising Manta Rays, gentle giants that often seem to seek out divers, and turtles resting on the reef or nipping up for a quick slurp of air.
A minimum diving qualification of PADI Advanced (or equivalent) and a minimum of 50 logged dives are a pre-requisition for joining Royal Evolution cruises.
FLIGHTS: Please contact us.