This cruise should suite most of you, from the beginner to the more qualified diver as it offers great reef diving, drop offs, drift dives and accessible wreck diving, most of the time in good conditions. We start from Hurghada, straight to the North with a first stop at El Fanadir and/or at the famous horseshoe shaped reef of Sha’ab El Erg, which is a perfect example of the reefs on offer on this cruise with its beautiful hard coral garden and the chance to see dolphins. Abu Nuhas has four well-known wrecks namely Giannis D, Carnatic, the lentil wreck and the tile wreck, all offering spectacular dives and plenty of fish life but it has also some nice reefs like Blind Reef. However, the most famous wreck of the Red Sea is the Thistlegorm, where we will arrive after a short ride across the straits of Gubal. Depending on divers' experience, weather and current conditions, we also try to offer a night dive here. Close by is the Ras Mohamed National Park, offering a dive at Shark Reef/Jolanda, a sheer wall falling into the blue and/or at Ras Ghazlani and Jackfish Alley. On the way back to Hurghada, we will visit superb sites like Umm Gamar, Sha’ab Ruhr Umm Gamar, Careless Reef and Small Giftun with Erg Samaya.
Dive sites The Classic tour
This great reef, also known as the "ships graveyard", emerges two miles to the north of Shedwan Island at the mouth of the Strait of Gobal. On the seabed of the surrounding area lie no fewer than seven sunken ships from different eras. It is often only possible to dive the wrecks from a zodiac due to the heavy sea swells. On the sheltered south side of the reef are two beautiful ergs known as Yellow Fish Reef which offers an excellent night dive.
Blind Reef (Sha'abrur Siyul)
Sha'abrur Siyul, or Blind Reef as it is more commonly known, is an elongated oval-shaped reef located to the southwest of Sha'ab Abu Nuhas. It has become commonly known as Blind Reef due to its location (totally below the surface) and in an area becoming increasingly heavy with dive boat traffic, it can be hard to spot.
There is some great diving to be found here and this site is dived much less regularly than other surrounding sites. Currents will dictate whether you dive from the north side in an easterly or westerly direction around the far tips of the reef and back to the south side. The north side of the reef drops away fairly steeply and has some beautiful corals. The upper slope has acropora table coral and some lovely gorgonian fan corals, as well as fields of whip corals and soft coral. As you reach the 20m mark there is an ever increasing array of soft corals (which require less light than hard corals), as the hard corals diminish slightly. Look out for large pelagic fish, white-tip reef sharks, barracuda and jacks. There are also often turtles in the shallows as well as hoards of Red Sea banner fish, fusiliers, and antheas. Currents can be strong here, usually coming from the north and splitting on the north side of the reef.
Careless has two large ergs rising from a shallow plateau surrounded by sheer walls rising from the deep. The area is unprotected and the reef can only be reached in good weather. The current at the surface is usually from the north but below it can come from any direction. To the north, the drop off is a forest of coral and to the south the plateau slopes gently away with small pinnacles of coral. The whole area swarms with fish of all types, there are numerous giant morays encountered here, white tip reef sharks and schooling reef fish as well as huge groupers and the occasional hammerhead in the early morning.
The Carnatic was a splendid 90 metre long sail and engine steamer launched by P&O in 1862. Carrying a cargo of wine and "London soda water" in distinctive oval bottles, it was sailing the Indies route with a destination of Bombay. It struck the reef in 1869 and remained aground a number of hours before sinking Sha'ab Abu Nuhas’ Reef. Despite the length of time (it sank in 1869) it is remarkably intact. She lies on one side with the stern at 24 metres and the bow at 16 metres. The decking of the hull has fallen away exposing blackened support structures which are now draped in hard and soft corals. The very photogenic wreck is now home to a number of morays, large grouper and octopus.
El Fanadir is a large reef east of El Gouna. offering great visibility, a reasonable amount of corals, blue spotted rays, lionfish, stonefish and the rest of the usual suspects. El Fanadir offers different kind of dives (drift - deep - and intro dive) and is for some the first dive on a live-aboard up to the North.
Erg Samaya lies at one end of Small Giftun Island and can be done as a dive in its own right. There are a couple of coral pinnacles coming up from the main reef that are shrouded with soft coral and there is also a swim-through in one of them. The soft corals on Erg Samaya are beautiful and the fish life did seem slightly more prolific than on other dive sites in the area.
The dive starts on a semi wall and depending on where you are dropped you will come across some fantastic fan corals. Be careful of the speed of your drift around the coral, if in doubt keep with the guide. Eventually the wall turns into a coral garden. If the current is still running keep low to the seabed and eventually it will ease.
The Giannis D (built in 1969), a large Greek freighter – known for its cargo of timber – hit the reef of Abu Nuhas in1983 and slowly sank over six weeks, lying at a maximum depth of 28 metres. The wreck is broken up in the centre, but the bow and stern remain intact. At the stern on the sea floor there is a point where penetration allows you to travel up towards the top of the wreck to a pocket of trapped air. You will need to leave by the same hole which you entered. At the bow you can see where the boat had been renamed, with the old name just visible under a layer of paint. Expect to see glassfish, scorpion fish, angelfish, bump head wrasse and a napoleon fish. The dive can be finished by traversing the reef, or by climbing up the mast, which rises up to only four metres below the surface.
Jackfish Alley, also situated on Fringing Reef (and a part of Ras Mohammed Marine Park), gives you a dive which traditionally starts with a cave at 5 metres which is actually a swim through coming out at a depth of 9ish metres. Stay in the cave for a while and look up at the sunlight streaming in from the crack above. You then drop down to 18 metres and head towards a small erg. You then have the choice, or head out to the satellite reef to look for sharks (silkys early morning), or to head towards the sandy alleyway where the site gets its name from. You should see barracuda, tuna and all the usual Red Sea suspects here. The dive finishes at the end of the sandy alley when most people are on 50 bar.
Ras Ghazlani, a site on the Fringing Reef, part of the Ras Mohammed Marine Park and close to Sharm El Sheik, offers beautiful hard and soft coral, as good as in the Deep South. There can be sometimes a slight. Done as a drift dive your dive normally goes from north to south. Lookout for big grouper.
Ras Mohammed National Park
Ras Mohammed National Park occupies one of the world's most extraordinary settings: a slender, dramatically arid peninsula at the very southernmost tip of the Sinai, rising to a dramatic promontory that looks out over some of the most gloriously rich coral reefs. The Ras Mohammed peninsula marks the nexus of the shallow Gulf of Suez and the deep intercontinental chasm of the Gulf of Aqaba, itself a small portion of the Great Rift Valley that stretches deep into Africa.
Coral reef ecosystems found in the National Park are recognized internationally as among the world's best. This recognition is based primarily on the diversity of flora and fauna, clear, warm water devoid of pollutants, their proximity to shorelines and their spectacular vertical profile. The reef exists as an explosion of colour and life in stark contrast to the seemingly barren desert adjacent to it.
Shark Reef is one of the most famous of the northern Red Sea dive sites and as a result can be very busy. The best time to dive this site is early in the morning. The dive site is essentially a single pinnacle which rises almost vertically from around 800 metres. At around the 26m metre mark it splits into two separate pinnacles - the one to the east is known as Shark Reef and the one to the west is known as Jolanda (named after the Cyprian freighter which hit the reef and deposited it's cargo on the west side of it in 1980). The currents here can be strong and the best dive plan is for either your dive boat or its tender to drop you to the northeast of Shark Reef and then for you to descend and drift in onto the east side of Shark Reef. The boat drop should normally take place further away from the reef and whilst viz should allow you to locate the reef wall and heads towards it underwater, it maybe advisable to take a compass reading and then drop below the surface to avoid the boat traffic.
It is quite possible to see white-tip reef sharks and if you're lucky larger grey reef sharks - identifiable by the thick black strip which runs all the way down the rear of their tail fins - or even a scalloped hammerhead. Also look out for barracuda, jacks and tuna. The reef itself on the eastern side of Shark Reef is fed by nutrients from the sometimes strong currents and as a result there are some beautiful gorgonian fan corals and black whip coral. The deeper part of the reef has a proliferation of soft coral from the 30m - 70m range. Soft coral requires much less light than hard coral and seems to thrive in this inky abyss.
At the west side of Jolanda Reef there are vast numbers of toilets and sinks which made up the majority of the cargo of the container ship Jolanda. In the early 1990's these containers were still intact, but nowadays there are some piles of bathroom suite parts left. The wreck itself slipped over the edge and rests now on a 40 metre wide ledge, where it crumpled after its stern impacted with the ledge - the bow at 140m and the stern at just over 200m. The final part of the dive can either be spent behind, the north side of Jolanda or over the cargo wreckage.
Shark Reef is best dived around July and August after the spawning season where you will be confronted with a wall of fish, including jacks and barracuda.
Sha’ab El Erg
Sha’ab El Erg is a huge horseshoe shaped reef offering many dive sites. The north point can be home to Mantas in season. The lagoon is dotted with ergs and is renowned for sightings of the resident dolphin community.
Small Giftun Island
Small Giftun Island has been a marine reserve for a few years now and it makes a big difference as this is one of the best dives in the area. The 2 Euro entry fee is well worth the money. this dive is a relaxing exploration along a magnificent wall, where you can 'fly over' extensive stretches of large fan corals and if you look out into the blue it's not uncommon to see large tunas and trevallies. The dive leads to a sandy plateau dotted with numerous coral formations. Here it is common to see turtles, moray eels, crocodile fish and spotted stingrays, as well as schooling fusiliers and goatfish. Often done as a drift dive but can also be done as a normal dive where the boat is moored up. An excellent site for technical diving.
The Thistlegorm was discovered in 1956 by Jacques Cousteau and is probably the most famous wreck in the world. It sank in 1941 when it was hit by a German bomb that blew a hole in the port side, igniting tank ammunition that was in the hold. The explosion ripped the roof of the ship backwards, rather like opening a tin of sardines. The stern section of the wreck lies almost horizontal to the sea bed; the remainder of the wreck is nearly upright. Inside the wreckage, tyres, tanks, motorbikes, Bedford trucks, waders and Wellington boots can be seen. Penetration is possible around the bridge and blast area. The large prop is still in position and the guns on the stern are in excellent condition. Artillery litters the blast area. A bath tub can be seen towards the bow and a toilet near the stern. The sea life is impressive with possibility of seeing tuna overhead the resident turtle. Expect this to be very busy, especially once the day boats have reached it.
This offshore Island is surrounded by good diving on all sides. The south end has a shallow plateau where the moorings are positioned, this location is the most used. For first timers at Umm Gamar the dive will take place from the plateau, moving eastwards to the drop off then north along the wall. After a short swim against the current you reach three pinnacles close together, chimneys reach through the pinnacles toward the surface. After exploring this area you take advantage of the light current to drift back to the corner of the plateau where three small ergs are found, covered in glass fish. Finish the dive on the plateau exploring the numerous coral heads and reef fish. The plateau is home to Napoleons, Emperor Angels and free swimming Morays. The east and west side have awesome drift dives and the northern tip has a magnificent coral garden but is only accessible in very good weather. Big groupers and lots of sweepers live in the multiple caves found along the eastern and western walls and drop offs of this tiny island's fringing reef.