Best of The Northern Red Sea
M.Y. Juliet departs
el Sheikh Or Hurghada (Red Sea / Egypt)
weekly throughout the year, covering the Best
of The Northern Red Sea
Her exciting dive itinerary has plenty of variety. It includes the very
best coral reefs and islands between the Tiran and Gubal Straits
Although wreck dives are weather dependent, she usually covers Sha'b Abu
Nuhas, famous for wrecks including the Giannis D cargo vessel and the
Carnatic, a 100 year old wine wreck, plus the S.S. Thistlegorm in Sha'b
Ali. Dives can be made from her tender, ensuring plenty of drift diving.
She is fully equipped with comprehensive navigation and safety equipment
to cruise in comfort in all sea conditions.
Ras Mohamed, declared a National Park in 1983, lies on the southern most
tip of the Sinai and it is one of the best kept National Parks in Egypt.
The sea near Sharm El Sheik is full of nutricients and therefore
attracts a large amount of big fish. Steep walls covered in coral, going
down to depth of 1000 meter, is the nature of diving in Ras Mohamed. It
has earned itself a reputation as one of the top diving areas in the
world. Sites include:
Ras Ghozlani - One of the most
beautiful dive sites in the area. Having been closed to divers for
many years due to the turtle laying beach close by, this site has an
extraordinary array of beautiful table corals, glassfish covered
pinnacles and an overall stunning landscape. Entry fee: 5 Euro (paid
Ras Za'atar - Most northern dive
of Ras Mohamed National Park, it is the southern entrance to the bay
of Mersa Bareika. This is where the steep wall of Ras Mohamed, with
caves and overhangs, meets the gentle slope of the bay of Mersa
Bareika, and is scattered with colorful coral heads. Head north
along the wall amongst big overhangs and dark gullies, the wall is
swathed in sea fans, gorgonians and the odd sprig of black coral.
Just before the corner look out for the chimney at 15m, home to
malabar grouper. Look closer and find the cleaning stations with the
wrasse and shrimp in attendance. Don't forget to check out the blue
for schools of barracuda and jacks or the odd eagle ray cruising by.
Entry fee: 5 Euro (paid locally).
Jackfish Alley - the largest
plateau in Ras Mohamed. Running across this plateau is a secondary
or satellite reef which creates the sandy 'alley' through which fast
currents are funnelled. In early spring, this is the site of the
seasons' first mating fish; crowds of white pointy nosed blue
Spangled Emperors congregate here for only a couple of weeks,
occasionally giving divers the chance to see glimpses of.black tip
sharks! Entry fee: 5 Euro (paid locally).
Eel Garden - Eel Garden is
situated in front of a small beach south of Jackfish Alley and
immediately before Sharks Observatory. Eel Garden is well sheltered
from the currents but since it is exposed to prevailing winds and
waves divers must pay close attention to the condition of the sea.
The dive is extremely easy and the route winds through the sandy
plateau slightly inclined to the east opposite the beach. On the
central part of the sandy ledge there is a small cave out of which
appears to flow an impressive V-shaped stream of sand. The middle
section of the plateau is populated by a lovely colony of Garden
eels. Entry fee: 5 Euro (paid locally).
Shark Observatory - The site is
not aptly named as it is not noted for its shark sightings, however,
it is a fantastic dive. Beneath the towering cliffs that continue
below the surface to disappear into the deep abyss the wall is
covered with soft coral and honeycombed with numerous gullies and
canyons that are home to hoards of glass fish and hatchet fish
herded by red mouth grouper. An overhang, fringed with sea fans at
10m, is a great place to watch the Trevallies, Jacks and Turtles
passing in the blue. At the southern end Anemone city is worth a
visit. Entry fee: 5 Euro (paid locally).
Shark & Jolanda Reefs - Situated
right at the tip of the Sinai this site is world renowned. Shark
Reef, covered in stunning hard and soft corals, is a vertical wall
dropping to charted depths of nearly 800m. Yolanda Reef has a wide
plateau with a coral
garden and masses of pinnacles, each one a cleaning station teeming
with fish. Between Jolanda reef and the main reef lies the cargo of
the wreck of the Yolanda. A 74m long cargo ship, she was
transporting bathroom supplies and a BMW to the port of Aqaba when
she struck the reef in 1980. She lay on her side until 1987 when she
slid into the abyss, during a heavy storm, leaving her cargo behind
for divers to explore today.
Currents can be quite strong here, creating a kind of rollercoaster
ride around these reefs in one direction or the other, depending on
the prevailing current. Most of the year, divers enjoy looking out
for scorpionfish, crocodilefish, groupers, turtles, tuna, huge
morays and napoleons that frequent this dive site but in the summer,
all focus changes to the water away from the reef where schools of
fish collect together for mating; Twin spot (Bohar) Snapper, Red
Snapper, batfish, unicornfish, barracudas and more which of course
sometimes attracts the predators. Silkies, grey reefs, black tips
and even tigers have been seen at this dive site.
Wreck of the Thistlegorm
To most divers familiar to the Red Sea, this iconic wreck needs no
introduction. It is a must-dive on quite a number of peoples to-do list,
and whether you like wreck diving or not, the Thistlegorm is just
incredible. Sunk in the same way as the 'Rosalie Moller' - just 48 hours
and a few miles apart - The Thistlegorm truly is one of the best dives
in the World. The Thistlegorm was carrying cargo for the War Effort in
North Egypt, and every dive is a visit to an underwater museum, a place
in time where the clocks stopped. Locomotives, various ammunition and
Lee Enfield rifles, Bedford trucks, Triumph motorbikes and even airplane
wings can still be found in The Thistlegorms cavernous holds.
The Alternatives - About 30
minutes north west of Ras Mohamed is a system of flat top ergs, with
names like "lonely mushroom", "stingray station" and sometimes known
as the "seven pinnacles". Best dive is around the third or fourth
erg from the east where the current sweeps through feeding pristine
corals with bright vivid colours, however, the visibility can be
effected in rough weather.
Stingray Station - In the
north-western part of the Alternatives there is a large roughly
quadrangular outcrop known as Stingray Station. It gets its name
because many Blue Spotted Stingrays gather here particularly in the
spring months. It can be dived both as a mooring dive and as a drift
dive and is very popular with snorkellers due to the shelter the
reef provides and the shallowness of the surrounding water.
Small Crack (Small Passage) -
Small split in the middle of Shaab Mahmoud’s barrier. The tide
empties and fills the inner lagoon twice daily, thus creating strong
currents that promote an impressive explosion of life. Brilliant
soft corals and resident flashlight fish also make it a premier
night dive location - weather permitting.
Shag Rock - Being so close to its
neighbour, the Thistlegorm, this large circular reef is often
overlooked. It offers excellent diving on pristine coral from any
location on its perimeter. The sheltered southern point is the most
dived location offering the opportunity for drifts along the west or
east sides. Weather permitting the northern point hosts the wreck of
the Kingston ('Sarah H') just below the surface (max. depth 12m).
Large schools of yellow goat fish and sweet lips abound here and the
area regularly patrolled by grey reef sharks. Weather permitting.
Lonely Mushroom - A single large
circular tower known as the Lonely Mushroom comes up from the sandy
seabed and despite its relatively small size offers a great mooring
dive for those that want an easy shallow dive and loves macro
photography. Nudibranches and small shrimp are in their abundance
hiding in amongst the numerous hard and soft corals. But be aware
this site can sometimes be very difficult to find!
Wreck of the Kingston - Shag Rock
is situated about a mile south of Sha'ab Ali and 6 miles away from
the wreck of the Thistlegorm. On the northern side of the reef lies
a wreck which for a long time had been falsely called Sara H, an
imaginary name that in reality does not apply to any ship. The wreck
in fact was the British cargo vessel Kingston built in 1871 in
Sunderland by Oswald Shipbuilding Co. which ran aground on the 22nd
February 1881 whilst en-route to Aden, located in Southern Yemen
with its cargo of coal. 78m long, 10m wide and 1449 tons this wreck
lies in water of 4m down to 15m. The wreck is easily accessible and
offers spectacular opportunities for photographers. There is an
abundance of soft and hard corals and numerous and varied reef
fauna. Divers need to be aware that this wreck should only be dived
when conditions are good as strong currents are possible
Built in Glasgow in 1910, this 108.2m long vessel started life carrying
cargo around Europe, before being re-registered in China in 1931. In
1938 the Rosalie Moller was requisitioned by the Royal Navy,
transporting 'Best Welsh Coal' to a variety of UK Naval Ports. After
joining the War effort - and a full overhaul - in July 1941 'The Rosie'
set sail for Alexandria laden with 4680 tons of coal. A collision in the
Suez Canal meant that she was unable to pass through, and was directed
to 'Safe Anchorage H' until the way was cleared. On 5th October 1941,
German Intelligence had reports of the Queen Mary being sighted in this
area, and dispatched 2 Heinkel HE111's on a search and destroy mission.
The Queen Mary was never found, but the merchant ship 'SS Thistlegorm'
was, and was bombed and sunk on October 6th. The explosion from the
Thistlegorm was so massive, that it lit up the night sky, exposing
'Rosie' in Anchorage H. 48hrs later on 7th October, the same fate was
delivered to Rosalie Moller.
Today the Rosalie Moller sits upright on the seabed with the main deck
at 30-32 meters. Apart from a hole in the port side near the stern,
where the bomb exploded, the only other major damage is the collapsed
funnel and the stern mast, which was broken off more recently due to
dive boats tying onto it. The wreck is home to large groupers and lion
fish and a huge number of glass fish. Large tuna and jack fish patrol
the wreck in search of smaller fish.
About 2 1/2 hours cruising time from Hurghada lies the reef of Abu Nuhas
- "The father of bad luck", so called because of the number of ships
that have hit this reef over the years. The reef is to the north of
Shaidwan Island, close to the main shipping channel from Suez and
usually partially submerged making it dangerous for shipping.
Among the many ships that have hit the north side of the reef, 4 remain
as diveable wrecks for recreational divers. Starting from the north they