Saturday, May 15

Red Sea Facts

The highest mountain in Egypt is Gebel Katarina with its impressive 2642m. Still it would easily be swallowed by the depth of the Red Sea.

The Red Sea, or as it’s called in Arabic: Bahr al-Ahmar, is one of the world’s most tantalizing seascape environments. It began to develop 20-30 million years ago when the plates of East Africa and Arabia stretched-out until they broke apart. The Red Sea is a geologically recent opening and one of the youngest oceanic zones on earth.

Nine countries share the shorelines of the Red Sea and the waters of the Red Sea support a vital fishing industry and provide recreation facilities. Unfortunately, the coastal environment is fragile. The shore line, coastal region, and near-shore waters are all under pressure from populations and industry.

The Red Sea is connected to the Indian Ocean in the south through the narrow Strait of Bab al Mandab and the Gulf of Aden. In the north Red Sea splits into Gulf of Aqaba and Gulf of Suez where it only just joins the Mediterranean Sea via the man made Suez Canal.

Red Sea Facts

Length: 1900 km
Maximum Width: 306 – 354 km – Massawa (Eriteria)
Minimum Width: 26 – 29 km -Strait Bab al Mandeb (Yemen)
Average Width: 280 km
Average Depth: 490 m
Maximum Depth: 2850 m
Total surface Area: 438 x 103- 450 x 103 km2
Volume: 215 x 103 –251 x 103 km3

Gulf of Suez is a 300 km long, 50 km wide with depths ranging between 50 and 75 m.
Gulf of Aqaba is 180 km long and 25 km wide, narrow in the north and widening to the south with maximum depths of 1850 meters.

Approximately 40% of the Red Sea is quite shallow (less than 100m) whereas about 25% of the Red Sea is less than 50m deep. About 15% of the Red Sea is over 1000m depth. Shelf breaks are marked by coral reefs and the continental slope has an irregular profile (series of steps down to 500m)

In 1869, the completion of the Suez Canal by a French company linked Egypt’s Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts and made the country a strategic crossroads. British troops occupied the county in 1882, and it was more or less a British colony until resuming its independence in 1922.

Red Sea Birds

Where ever you are in Egypt either it’s on a liveaboard in the middle of the sea or it’s out in the vast dessert, you’re likely to spot some of our rare species of birds.

Some are endemic to the region, like the White Eye Gull, Swift Tern and the Brown Bobby.

Some birds are using Egypt and the Red Sea for navigating in their migrating pattern, like Storks and Flamingos.

In March and September you can see thousands of storks (left) in the sky in a long line from horizon to horizon. They are using the up-going winds over the desert to save energy. It’s an impressive site.

Some are seasonal guests that come here for breading like the Red Billed Tropic Bird, and in the mangrove areas; several species of Herons and Falcons.

The Wadi Gemal National Park outside Hamata is well known among ornithologists as the only place in the world where you’ve got a fair chance to spot a Sooty Falcon.

Birds of pray play and important roll in the delicate echo system and on Small Giftun Island, Big Giftun Island and on the Tawila Island we have one of the world’s highest density of nesting pairs of Ospreys. How cool is that?! It’s not rare at all to see Ospreys hunting around dive sites. Imagine how cool it would be to have an Osprey catch a fish in front of your eyes during a dive!

The Ancient Egyptians were excellent natural historians who vibrantly documented the flora and fauna of their time on the walls of their tombs and temples. More than 75 different species of birds can be easily identified from the wall paintings and other artefacts.

As Egypt is located at the crossroads of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa the area has a huge variety of habitats with unique bird life. Egypt is also located on the major migration route for millions of birds we see pass over the sky every spring and fall. On top of this, the Egyptian wetlands are vital wintering locations for many water birds.

On average, about half a million birds of prey like Lesser Spotted Eagles, Honey Buzzards and Levant Sparrow hawks plus 250,000 White Storks and 70,000 White Pelicans passed during fall. About a million birds of prey like Honey Buzzards, Steppe Buzzards, Steppe Eagles and Black Kites plus 450,000 White Storks passed during spring. Peak numbers are higher; over a million birds of prey and half a million White Storks. Can you imagine the sight when a never ending flock of huge birds cover the sky from horizon to horizon? It’s magical.

The migration periods of White Storks and White Pelicans is fairly predictable and the passing period range from 4 to 13 days. During fall, 90% of the migrating populations of flocking species such as Levant Sparrow-hawk, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Red-footed Falcon pass within 13 to 18 days. Non-flocking species, like Egyptian Vulture and Short-toed Eagle, generally take twice as long to pass. Similar passage periods have been recorded during spring. For most species, the fall migration period is longer than the spring migration period, probably because in fall adults move before the young birds.

Red Sea Mangroves

Mangroves is the collective name for all plants that can grow in salt water. It’s a fragile environment and an important part of the ecosystem besides that it also has a breathtaking beauty.

There is plenty of mangrove along the Red Sea coastline and it’s all protected by law. Mainly it’s the Grey Mangrove, Avicennia MarinaI along the Egyptian coast line and it seems to prefer the tidal areas. With an average of 4 to 8 metres in height the Grey Mangrove is towering over the sea surface but it anyway need its respiratory roots that grows up through the ground and stretches above the water. These roots are actually utilizing the oxygen in the air during low tide.

Cool Mangrove Facts:
In Egypt there are a scientific program working on mangrove rehabilitation and producing honey from mangrove flowers.
The mangroves growth in the small bay at Ras Mohammed is actually the most northern known growth in the world.
Mangrove leafs are covered in salt glands that helps the tree to rid excessive salt.

Mangrove plays an important part of the Red Sea costal ecosystem. It stabilizes the tidal area, it is a wave- tide and a storm breaker, keeping the inland from being saturated by salty sea water. It provides shelter, nesting place- nesting material, food and ground nutrients, plus it’s a wicked nursery for juveniles of innumerable species marine life and land animals. Reef sharks for example are spending the most of their young life here.

This juvenile blacktip reef shark (left) is swimming in less than half a metre of water in Makadi Bay.

Red Sea Lighthouses

Egypt is famous as the home of the prototype of all lighthouses, built in the early third century BC by the Pharaohs of Alexandria.

At nearly 120m, it was as tall as a modern skyscraper and much taller than any modern lighthouse.

It remained in operation until after the Arab conquest of Egypt in 642 AD and stood for centuries more, finally collapsing after several earthquakes.

Today you can actually dive this old light house since the building material is scattered over a large area of sea bed.

Red Sea Tides

In general tide ranges between 0.6 m in the north, near the mouth of the Gulf of Suez and 0.9 m in the south near the Gulf of Aden but it fluctuates between 0.20 and 0.30 m away from the nodal point. The central Red Sea (Jeddah area) is therefore almost tide-less. The prevailing north and north-eastern winds influence the movement of water in the coastal areas, especially during storms. In the winter the sea level is 0.5 m higher than in summer. Tidal velocities passing through constrictions caused by reefs, sand bars and low islands commonly exceed 1-2 m per sec, generally the velocity of the tidal current is 50-60 cm per sec with a maximum of 1 m per sec not to be confused with other currents that can be wicked.


Red Sea Living Resources

Red Sea holds one of the most spectacular coastal and marine environments of
the world and has a rich biodiversity. The sea is known for its biological characteristics including its rich fauna and flora, particularly coral reefs and numerous fish species has a number of unique marine habitats, including sea-grass beds, salt-pans, mangroves, coral reefs and salt marshes.

The Egyptian Red Sea was declared a “No Catch Zone” in 2009 and now you should not see any fishing boats at all around.

Red Sea Salinity

The Red Sea is the most saline open sea in the world. That is due to the effects of the water circulation pattern, resulting from evaporation and wind stress in the Red Sea. Salinity ranges between 36 and 38 ‰. The Red Sea water is an essential asset. There is extensive demand of desalinated water to meet the requirement of the population and the industries along the Red Sea.

There are plenty desalination plants along the Red Sea coast which discharge warm brine and treatment chemicals (chlorine and anti-scalants) that may cause bleaching and mortality of corals and diseases to the fish stocks. Although this is only a local phenomenon, it may intensify with time and have a profound impact on the fishing industry. The water from the Red Sea is also utilized by oil refineries and cement factories for cooling purposes. Used water drained back into the coastal zones may cause harm to the near-shore environment of the Red Sea.

Red Sea Sediments

The Red Sea is unique among the seas of the world as no river flows into it. Occasionally sediment is brought into the Red Sea via a number of wadis (walleyes with seasonal streams) especially in the south. Since there is absence of rivers and permanent streams, sand and dirt is only brought to the Red Sea by rain and wind. The coastal sediment is mostly composed of carbonate material from coral fragments, coralline algae and molluscs. The sediments vary in size from gravel to sand with occasional fine sediments at places.

We will be updating this page with new pictures as soon as we have them available 🙂