There are plenty of reason to chose liveaboards before daily diving. First of all some dive sites in the the Red Sea are only accessible with liveaboard and also it’s convenient to roll out of bed and into the water. However some of these dive sites are also a bit more challenging than the daily sites with currents and conditions you better be prepared for. For marine parks like Brothers and Daedalus the rules are set by the Egyptian government: You need to have at least 50 logged dives or a level #2 certification such as PADI AOW or CMAS**. This being said certifications and amount of logged dives does not always correspond with the quality of the diver…
It is absolutely imperative that your guide knows the dive site well. He/she should make a map and explain all the details of the dive: Where you’ll roll in, what currents you can expect, different depths, “landmarks” for navigation, The dive plan, entry and exit points and techniques and emergency procedures.
There are dive sites in the Red Sea you can only reach from a liveaboard. Have a look at some maps over those sites follow the link below.
Currents in the Red Sea
The ocean water moves around all over the globe all the time. The tides, weather and wind dictates the direction and the strength of these movements. The moon and the sun is what are ultimately responsible and there is nothing we can do about it. Sometimes current is good, sometimes current is bad. Knowledge and planning is the only weapon we have to make the best out of the situation. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Your guide is responsible for checking the currents and plan the dives in a safe and enjoyable way.
To plan a dive alongside an off shore reef like Brothers or Daedalus it’s crucial to know what the current is up to for several reasons; where to start the dive, which way to swim, how to use- or avoid problems with the current, where the interesting marine life can be expected and maybe most significantly; where you most likely will surface at the end of the dive.
You might use a line with a small weight next to the boat to find out the general direction of the current. Or maybe there are a lot of jellyfish in the water to give you a hint. Sometimes it’s enough to watch the surface and it’s obvious. Anyway it’s good to have an idea where to start your current check before you get into the water.
Mask snorkel and fins is all you need. Let the zodiac take you to the place where you suspect you will find the split point. At the edge of the reef you swim against the current till you find the split point. The best way is to look at the anthiaes. They always face the current and how hard they work to stay in one spot is a good indication of the strength of the current. Where you find a huge cloud of anthiaes facing straight out from the reef, or maybe even randomly swimming around in no general direction at all, that’s your split point. Most likely you also have a school of snappers in mid water a few meters outside the wall but you can’t trust them. They move around too much. One thing is sure though: Never trust that groups from other boats have done a current check and know what they are doing. Just because they roll in from the zodiac over there doesn’t mean that that is the right spot.
Using the current
To hang in the split point often takes no effort at all. Here the current is week and you can make excursions out from the reef to have a look into the blue knowing that you will not be swept away from the reef. Here is also where most of the action is going on and most of the time this is where sharks are patrolling. Tuna, trevally, barracuda and other predators come in for fast attacks in pursuit of pray.
There are a few guide lines that can help you predict the current. Generally a moon in the first or third quarter rising in the east creates the strongest currents and the second and fourth quarter raising in the west the least current.
When making a drift dive it’s easy to give in to the temptation to “go with the flow” from the first fin kick but when it comes to this kind of diving you get more out of the dive if you first go against the current till you find the split point. That’s where you have the action. Providing your guide made a good current check and dropped in close enough.
Use the reef profile
Most reef walls are not a straight wall. They bend in and out creating a zigzag profile. Outside along the wall the current fly by undisturbed but in those small bays you will find the current weaker. On a small reef like Little Brother a dive can be over in less than 10 minutes if the current is strong. Then you can use the reef profile to hide from the current making the dive linger. Also the current may swivel inside a bend in the reef and actually go in the opposite direction compared to outside.
Up and down current
When the current hit the reef from the side it can create up and down currents. For the inexperienced diver this might cause changes in depth the diver is not aware of. During a few days challenging diving to the 40 meters of the north plateau on Little Brother you don’t need unexpected yo-yo profiles. The easiest way to avoid this is again to keep an eye on the anthiaes and pay attention to changes of pressure in the middle ear. If you see a cloud of anthiaes facing straight up or down working hard to stay in one spot, just go a few meters away from the wall to avoid the risky stretch.
Having problems equalizing or not having enough weights might normally not seem like a huge problem. However, when making a negative entry on a dive like the north plateau of little brother this probably means you miss the dive. Empty your BCD and suck out the last air through the inflator orally. As you roll in exhale so you get extra heavy. A few fin kicks and meet up with your buddy on 5-6m.
If it happens
If you would be swept out of visual contact with the reef you should immediately go to the surface, of course not faster than 18 meter/minute but without making a safety stop on the way. (This is one of the reasons why you never should run into deco out here) If you try to find your way back to the reef under water, which will be unsuccessful, and then on top of that time loss, stay 3 minutes on 5 meters, you would probably be halfway to Sudan when you finally reach the surface. Most likely you will also end up in the sparkling reflection of the sun on the horizon. The next human contact you can hope for is in a helicopter many hours later.
Before getting in the Zodiac
Make sure you have everything you need. Most commonly forgotten items are weights, masks, computers and cameras. Make a buddy check!
En Route with the Zodiac
Before the Zodiac start moving, defog your mask and put it on, then the regulator in your mouth, after this start getting your fins on. This way, if you lose balance while fiddling around with your fins and fall back into the sea, you won’t have any problems. Do not put your mask on the floor of the Zodiac if you don’t want it to break.
Getting back into the Zodiac/dive-platform
If it’s rough there are a few things to think about at the end of the dive both for your own and your fellow divers safety.
- When it’s time for the safety stop it’s time to start planning for the re-entry onto the zodiac.
- Make your safety stop close to the reef.
- Send up your SMB at least one minute before you plan to break the surface.
The crew can’t take the Zodiac too close to the reef because then it might be swept on top of the reef by the wind and waves. You have to swim out and meet it.
- Grab the handle/rope with your left hand.
- Release your weights and give them to the crew in the Zodiac.
- Keep holding the Zodiac and release all buckles with your right hand.
- Unclip the left shoulder strap and swing your BCD around your body holding the inflator and inflate.
- Help the crew by pushing from underneath your cylinder.
- Swing your legs out to get your body in a horizontal position.
- A few hard fin kicks and pull yourself over the tubing.
- Well done! This while procedure takes maximum 20 seconds.
- Hold on to the line rather than the ladder.
- Keep regulator in your mouth and mask on your nose.
- Do not put your knee on the ladder, this can take your kneecap off if there is a big wave.
- Wait for the platform to descend, get on the ladder and use the next wave to lift you up.
- Stay clear from the area below the ladder until the diver before you is on the platform. To get hit in the head by the tank of a diver falling back in can be fatal.
“OH NO! I can’t believe it! I just had it serviced before I came out here” That’s the most common line I hear if there is a problem with a regulator on arrival. Have no fear, there are plenty of service technicians here. Even if you’re going on a safari the next morning you can actually get it done “over night”.
If you have rare or irreplaceable equipment you might want to consider to bring your own spare.
Red Sea Dive Site Name Dictionary
Everybody who’s been diving in the Red Sea probably once or twice wondered what the name of the dive site actually means. Some dive sites have English names but they also have an original Arabic name. Believe it or not but Elphinstone is not the original name, it’s Shaab Ruhr Abu el Hambra. This refers to the red mountain on the main land that can be seen from the reef.
- Abu – Father
- Dahra – Straight line
- Erg – Pinnacle
- Eshta – cream
- Eroug – Pinnacles (plural)
- Fanadeer – Rocks on top of reef
- Fanous – beacon
- Fasma – Channel through one or between two reefs
- Foug – Up/Upper
- Gammar – moon
- Ganoub – South
- Gebel – mountain
- Gota – Piece of…
- Habili – Reef not reaching the surface
- Halk – Bay with only a small opening in the surrounding reef
- Hambra – Red
- Hashish – sea weed
- Helwa – beautiful
- Kafan – deep water
- Kebir – big
- Malag – Bend/Bay in the reef (spoon)
- Marsa – Open bay with coral reefs on each side of a sand beach
- Ras – Head (Peninsula)
- Soraya – small
- Shaab – Coral/Reef
- Shaab Ruhr – Reef close to…/Extension of the reef…
- Sharm – Open bay with coral reef all the way around
- Shemaal – North
- Taht – Down/Lower
- Torfa – Tongue of reef…
- Um – Mother
- Quais – good
- Wadi – valley
Chamber of Diving and Water Sports – Egypt
There are rules and regulations in Egypt as to who is allowed to teach diving, guide qualified divers and snorkelers around the reefs. To guarantee the quality of the instructors and guides C.D.W.S. issue a card to those who are. Make sure your guide has one.
Deco Insurance In Egypt
Every dive operator with at least an ounce of self respect will offer you a chamber insurance when you’re checking in. You should be aware of that even if you have a health insurance that covers sport activities it might not extend to scuba diving. Even if yours does it might not work in Egypt. If you have a DAN insurance it’s all green light but if the chamber staff does not recognize the insurance company you might have a problem.
Liveaboard at night
One good thing with diving from a liveaboard is that you don’t have to go back to the hotel in the evening. And in the morning you can roll directly out of bed in to your suit and you’re ready.
Another advantage with diving from liveaboard is that you reach dive sites you’d never get even close to by daily diving.
But the best about liveaboard is that the format of your day is Dive, Eat, Sleep, Dive, Eat, Sleep, Dive, Eat, Sleep……..
We will update this page with pictures as soon as we have them available 🙂