Wednesday, June 16

Northern Red Sea Dive Sites

Here are some of the maps and briefings published in the aziab guidebooks.
One book covers 40 dive sites in El Gouna area and one covers 40 dive sites in the Hurghada area.
A third book is on the way and will cover 130 dive sites in the “Deep South”.


Like The Carnatic and The Dunraven, The Ulysses was one of those beautiful, slender ships built in the late 19th century. When she was launched from the shipyard in 1871 she had a 2-stroke 2 cylinder compound steam engine delivering 225 hp to the single screw but was also rigged for sailing.

In 1887 the Ulysses was on her way from London to Penang in Malaysia using the route through the Suez Canal. The morning was calm and there was no waves breaking over the reef, giving the threat away. She hit the reef just north of Bluff Point in the early morning August 16th. At first the captain and crew saw no immediate danger and even declined help from a passing vessel, thinking they could re-float and mend the ship. However, the wind and weather made The Ulysses break in two over the reef and she sunk September 5th. The bow is now scattered over the top of the reef and the stern rests on the seabed at 28m.

There is a shoot-line attached to the wreck and as you descend you glide down along what was once the aft deck. You reach the bottom at the stern and a bathtub seemingly completely out of place next to the wreck. Swim around and have a look at the propeller and the rudder. Then back again and into the belly of the ship.

Like on The Carnatic the deck is long gone but the supporting steel frame is still there. Explore the inside of the wreck and exit mid-ships where the hull has collapsed and the aft mast is extending out over the bottom. Here you find the boiler half-buried under wreckage.

The bow section was broken off and totally disintegrated on the top of the reef so this is where the wreck ends.

The marine life on this wreck is somewhat special. You often find many species of nudibranches including the gorgeous Decorated Flabellina (above) in surprising large numbers and the Twin Chromodoris as well as the beautiful Risbecia. Keep an eye out in the blue as well, dolphins often comes around during a certain time of the day.

Type: Steam/Sailor Passenger/Cargo -ship
Built: 1871
1900 ton – 95.1m x 10.2m
Engine: 2-stroke 2 cylinder compound steam engine
Sank: August 16th to Sept 5th 1887
Depth: 28 meters
North/west – south/east axis

Bluff Point
Drift Bluff Point North Side

If you find you had enough of the wreck of Ulysses and you’ve still got plenty of air and NDL time you can, with the right current reach all the way to the east end of Bluff Point. This is a nice part of the reef and it goes well with a multi level dive profile. This also makes an excellent dive of its own if the conditions don’t allow a dive at the wreck.

At the beginning you have a sloping wall meeting a flat sandy bottom at 15 to 18 metres with outcrops of coral and small towers. As you swim the seabed falls back to greater depths and the wall gets steeper. There is no need to seek depths here but start the dive out on the shelf and explore the pinnacles and coral blocks that are packed with life. Small cavities give shelter to schools of glass fish that are protected by the red tooth grouper. Lionfish and trevallies hunt in clouds of silversides and sometimes dog tooth tuna patrol in the blue distance.

At the point where the reef makes a turn to the south you find a large coral formation split in two creating a home for a vast school of glassfish. As you reach about 100 bar you come up shallower to the foot of the main reef. Make sure you keep an eye on your NDL time and work yourself progressively shallower in a multilevel profile.

Small ledges repeatedly interrupt the wall at a depth of 17 to 20m and here you find a sparkling marine life. A few minutes later you are at the east corner of the bluff where the shallow part is stunningly beautiful and offers an excellent safety stop among soft coral and gorgonian fan coral. This is a dive in absolute world class that easily competes with more well known dive sites.

Malag Gubal North

Depending on the current and general conditions around Malag Gubal you might choose to dive to north of the mooring. One option is to jump in from, and return to the boat but you can also take the Zodiac up north and roll in for a drift dive. Whichever the conditions suggests you will have a pleasant dive with a lot of interesting marine life. If you go from the mooring you will find a slanting wall underneath the boat and a sandy slope that bear a resemblance to a ski slope. Swim out over the sand and slow down at a depth of 20 metres. Cautiously continue a few metres and find an eel garden swaying rather graciously in rhythm with the water movement. When you leave, be careful not to scare the eels down into their burrows as divers behind you then wouldn’t get a chance to see them. Turn north and work yourself progressively shallower with the reef on your left shoulder. Keep an eye out for larger marine life in the blue to your right as it happens that tunas, dolphins, even mantas pass by here.

Further up north the steep slope gives way to a slanting coral garden that starts next to the main wall at 14 metres and tumbles down to 22-25 metres where a drop off again plunges down into deeper water. Turtles are not rare to encounter here as well as free swimming moray eels. Large gorgonian fan corals and some quite nice coral bommies spread out over the slope makes this part of the dive fascinating and for the sharp eyed diver; a challenge to find long nosed hawkfish and other well inconspicuous marine life like scorpionfish and stonefish.

Make sure you keep an eye on your depth and air consumption, because it’s easy to track of both due to the angle of this coral garden. Turn around on 100 bar and make way back towards the boat along the shallow wall. Here you will discover hard coral in absolute mint condition. Sometimes you can also have big trevallies or tunas shooting in and out, hunting in schools of fusiliers. This provides the safety stop with some action beyond imagination.

Shaab Ruhr Siyoul
A.k.a. Blind Reef

Shaab Ruhr Siyoul is a long slender reef running on an almost exact east-west axis encircled by a wide plateau. The north side of the plateau starts on 19-22m and it’s segmented by coral ridges stretching from the main reef towards the drop-off. The hard coral foundation of the reef might not be the best in the Red Sea here but the great quantity of soft coral growth is breath-taking. Whether you are at the east or the west side, a dive from the mooring and back to the boat is just as enjoyable as a drift around the corner. Also, this might be the best option during windy days when the waves are breaking over the north side and a zodiac dive is not safe.

The West Corner:

Rolling in from the Zodiac on the west side is a somewhat different experience than on the east side. Here the wall doesn’t land on a plateau but rather a bottle-neck shaped profile at the depth of 25m. Be aware of the depth as it rapidly increases and soon the abyss is all you have beneath.

There are a few really beautiful coral blocks full of marine life along the wall and as you come around the west corner you’ll find the wall itself covered in a purple haze of soft coral. In an exactly westerly direction a deep plateau is reaching out in the open sea. Make sure you take a bearing of the reef if you venture out there, especially if the current comes from any other direction than straight from the west.

Before it’s time to move up to a shallower depth there is one more feature, two small coral towers next to each other on 20m, just before the wall makes its final turn to the east. They are hollow inside with cracks and openings, the perfect home for a big school of glassfish. Around the blocks swarms of silversides move swiftly from side to side to avoid hungry predators like mackerel, trevally and grouper.

The south side begins like a sheer wall with a slight “bottle-neck” on around 30m, later widening out to a narrow shelf. All along there are huge table corals and small coral formations sticking out. About halfway from west to east there is a coral ridge coming up from the deep up to 15m and here the plateau starts that surrounds the east corner. This is also likely to be where it’s time for you to move towards your safety stop.

Shaab Abu Nuhas

Regarding Shaab Abu Nuhas. Establishing the identity of the wrecks has been an ongoing saga for ages and the arguments have been taken to the point of pie-throwing. Now it finally seems to be reasonably commonly recognized that what we have, starting from the west, is Giannis D, Carnatic, Chrisoula K and Kimon M. If this is inaccurate, I apologies to everyone who knows better.

A.k.a. Bottle Wreck, Markeb Etnen (boat #2) to Egyptian boat crews.

The second half of the eighteen hundreds was an era when tall ships ruled the trade routes, beautiful slender vessels that overlapped the time of sail and the time of steam. The Carnatic was one of those proud ships. With 34 passengers she was trafficking the route Suez – Bombay – china for The Peninsula & Oriental line under the command of Captain P.B. Jones and his 176 members of crew. The cargo was cotton bales, copper sheets, Royal Mail and £40.000 of species.

Just after midnight September 12th 1869 The Carnatic hit the reef of Shaab Abu Nuhas. The night was tranquil and the brakes over the reef didn’t give its position away until it was already too late to correct the course. The Carnatic ran aground and was firmly stuck on of the reef. However, the situation seemed safe and Captain Jones was sure that the pumps would be able to rid the inflowing water. He trusted the P&O liner Sumatra, that was due to pass shortly, would be in time to help. For more than 48 hours he was right but before The Sumatra steamed into sight the reef ate through the iron hull and The Carnatic broke in two. The aft section was ripped off, rolled over and sunk followed by 5 passengers and 26 of the crew. This caused the bow to re-float, roll over to the portside and disappear beneath the waves. The remainder of the passengers and crew saved themselves into the lifeboats that came off as The Carnatic sunk and went for safety on Shedwan Island. All the £40.000 worth of specie was recovered and the myth of “half the treasure still waits to be found” is just that; a myth.

This wreck is likely to be one of the most beautiful in the Red Sea. The wooden deck is long gone and the metal framing is covered with soft coral offering exquisite photo opportunities. The stern-section is resting on portside with the rudder and propeller screw in 26 meters of water. The mid section is collapsed but still an interesting part of the dive. Here you find the boiler, funnel and the two masts that are reaching out over the sandy seabed. Like the stern, the bow is a framework of metal incrusted by one hundred and fifty years worth of coral growth. Where the bowsprit once was attached a peeping hole now opens for a classic and world famous camera angle.

Once the wreck was full of wine bottles but years of souvenir-hungry divers have deprived The Carnatic from this treasure. Now all you can find is a few broken bottles here and there. See but not touch is the rule here.

Type: Steam/Sailor Passenger/Cargo -ship
Built: 1862 in London
1776 ton – 89.8m x 11.6m
Engine: 4 cylinder compound inverted
Sank: Sept 14th 1869
Depth: 26 meters
West – south axis

Gota Abu Nuhas

When liveaboards stay at Shaab Abu Nuhas over night they often go for a night dive at Gota Abu Nuhas. Normally the boats are moored up between the Gota and the main reef so it is possible to dive from the boat and back again. However, for this adventure you need to have good air consumption. Better then to take the Zodiac out and swim back to the boat. Drop at the north west side about 20 m out from the top of the reef and find yourself on top of a beautiful sloping coral garden that meets the reef on the depth of 7-8m. Further out, where you get down to 16-18m and you can see big schools of yellowtail barracudas and surgeonfish. On the outcrops of coral you often see stonefish and scorpionfish.

As you reach the channel that leads to the lagoon you may find the current picking up since it’s getting pushed through this bottleneck. Here you choose if you want to go to the right or the left back to the boat. Mornings to the right and afternoons to the left for best sunlight. Keep an eye out for a family of Napoleon wrasse who lives here. Free swimming morays are fairly common and you find timber from the cargo of Giannis D. scattered over the bottom.

Dolphin House Shaab El Erg

This is one of those dive sites you read about and go “Oh yeah, right!” There is not a place in the world where they say, “here you can dive with dolphins” and you actually do. It is like seeing sharks at “Shark Point” or turtles in “Turtle Cove”, it never happens. Well, at Dolphin House there actually is a fair chance for it to happen. If they are not around on the day you come here, you may follow this route instead.

With the boat on the east side of the reef you swim south to the end. You go on in the same direction in a straight line, first passing one pinnacle on 10m then between two at 12m. From here you can see the next two beside each other at 15m and then two lined up on 18m. This area is absolutely fantastic with jacks feeding on schools of silversides and clouds of anthias surrounding deep purple soft corals. A few meters further out you find the edge of the plateau and turn right. Do not stay at the actual edge; make your way north-west over the coral garden and look under the table corals for marine life seeking shelter there.

At the west end of the reef you find a big brain coral at 9m and here you make the decision to go either on the north side through the channel or on the south side. If you choose the south side you swim with the reef on your left shoulder up to a big pinnacle. These almost form a lagoon at 7m and it may be a little tricky to navigate. Try to keep south of this pinnacle by looking for a couple of big brain corals and keep right of them. Soon you will be back at the place where you left the reef. Here you take a left around the corner and you will find the mooring lines.

Torfa El Erg
a.k.a. Carlson’s Corner

El Erg is a huge reef with as many dive sites as there are dive guides in the area. Everybody has got their own little favourite spot. To the south east, at the very end of the reef-tongue is a dive site called Torfa El Erg also known as Carlson’s Corner.

If the current is really strong you might want to drift this dive but otherwise you can easily go from the mooring and come back again. When you drop down you will find yourself on a flat sandy bottom scattered with coral blocks next to a shallow wall at 8-10m. Head up north with the reef to your left and wander out to the east but keep the reef within visual distance for navigation. There is a beautiful big block worth exploring a few minutes up the reef.

As you progress further northwards the seabed transforms from mainly sandy to a semi-covered coral garden. At the same time the main reef turns from steep wall to more sloping and eventually the seafloor and the reef merges into a spectacular sloping coral garden cascading from the just below the surface to a depth of 16m where it spreads out over the bottom. At this point the reef also makes a turn to the west. When it’s time to turn around you ascend to a slightly shallower depth and progressively make your way to the safety stop level. The top of the reef is full of cracks, small canyons and caves. In this area you find surgeonfish, tangs, parrotfish and on occasion moray eels, napoleon wrasse or turtle.

Poseidon Reef
A.k.a. Gota Shaab El Erg

We are now at the south-west end of El Erg reef system, at a reef called Poseidon. Named after the God of the sea in Greek mythology, this dive site has a lot to live up to.

The moorings are placed at the south end of the reef and over a sandy bottom at 10m. The south side is not the most interesting part of the dive, but there is a nice coral garden just behind the boat. When you start your dive, going west, you pass the pinnacle at the corner and a spectacular coral garden lies in front of you. First head out from the reef and you find a beautiful pinnacle at 12m. Further north-west another one at 13m and the next one on 14m. Now swim north and slowly move closer to the reef until you find yourself at 12m on the north end.

The east side has less to offer so stay on the west. The first thing you notice on the way back south are huge brain corals cascading down the sloping side of the reef. From this point and back to the boat you may just as well stay on the safety stop depth since the reef wall, the light here, and the view is absolutely amazing. It also allows you to see how a coral garden, over time, becomes a reef. You will see coral growing on top of coral, on top of coral, on top of coral, and so on. When you have about 10 minutes to the boat you will see the coral garden change into sandy bottom again. When you come around the corner you can recognize the pinnacle. Look up and you will see the boat.

Um Gammar

Um Gammar means Mother of the Moon. Some say that it was the shape of the island that gave it its name, some say it was because of the colour and some say that this island actually is the moon’s mother.

A reef, twice the length of the island, reaches out towards the north. You can dive on several different places around Um Gammar but there are only moorings on the south side. Most dive centres follow the same route here. From the mooring around the corner, struggle against the current down to the cave at 30m, up to the pinnacles and then try to get the divers back to the boat before they run out of air. My personal opinion is that this dive plan is the worst of all options. First of all, the cave is nothing but a black dead hole. Second, this site is not interesting on 30m. My suggestion is to drift from the north and enjoy this whole dive on a depth not more than 18-20m. The top of the reef is beautiful and the pinnacles with the cracks and tunnels are very pretty, but the deep cave is not worth the air.

At the end of the dive you may run into the big silver sweetlips that are normally hanging around over the plateau. Free swimming moray eels and turtles are common and if you are lucky you may meet a white tipped reef shark. There are often a lot of boats here, so if you do not know exactly where your boat is it may be a good idea to ascend close to the reef and swim the last bit on the surface.

Erg Somaya

Somaya was the first female martyr in the Islamic religion. This reef might be named after her or after some dive guide’s girlfriend, either way this reef is so beautiful that it is definitely worthy the name of a saint. A drift dive is highly recommended because if there is a fairly strong current you may miss the best part of the dive.

When you jump in the water, make sure that you are close to the reef because the drop off goes straight down to about 65m. On the way south to the mooring on Erg Somaya you first pass by two big pinnacles, almost pyramid shaped, and one smaller. These are covered with deep purple, red and blue soft corrals and gorgonians. If you ever thought about bringing a under water camera you should do it on this dive! Between the first and the second “pyramid” you may just as well swim straight through the blue water. You will still see the wall and the next “pyramid”. On the slope between them you see a big table coral.

After this you swim closer to the reef and the third pinnacle. If you go between this one and the wall you may get a fun ride on the current that often is quite strong in this bottle neck. If you look to the left now, you will see the first mooring line going from the bottom to the boat. The next thing you see is the actual Erg Somaya. Here you stay for the rest of the dive swimming around the reef making your safety stop around the top where you whish you could stay for ever and that you could change the film in your camera under water.

Sabina Garden

Sabina Garden, also known as Sabina Walls or Shaab Sabina, is an obvious drift dive. You could easily swim out and back to the boat but this would mean that you miss the best part of the dive. When you drop you find your self over a “hill” of hard corals rather than a reef. The depth here is around 12m sloping down to 14m. Often you find stonefish and scorpion fish laying here. Swim down the slope and enter a sand patch with a couple of table corals in the middle. Here it is not uncommon that you see eagle rays and blue spotted ribbon tailed rays.

On the other side of this sand patch you enter a maze of pinnacles and small reefs. To be able to navigate here it is good to notice the position of the sun and the current, which most of the time comes from north, turning east when it hits the reef. South of the “maze” and in visual distance, the main reef takes you east towards the boat with a spectacular variation of different hard corals living on top of each other, making the safty stop a true pleasure. When you turn around the corner at the end of the reef it all of a sudden turns from colour to black and white. At this point you see a small coral block a few metres from the reef where a stonefish often rests. Now it is only a few minutes travel to the boat on the south side of the reef.

Abu Hashish Lagoon

Abu Hashish sounds like it has something to do with drugs and some people say that this reef got it’s name from the contraband cargo of a boat that once hit it. (Or maybe that is what the author was smoking who wrote in his guidebook that this is a place to see hammerhead sharks) Others say that hashish also means seaweed in fisherman slang. Not that you find any of that here, but who knows?

The boat is moored in a small lagoone with the depth of 4m-7m. This dive can be done as a drift or from the mooring and back. If you go from the mooring you first have to swim through a small channel in the reef. Here it is no more than 2m so waves and current can make it tricky so you have to think about your buoyancy. When you are through you swim a bit up north and turn around for a look back. This is what it is going to look like when you are on your way back. Memorize! One landmark is the small coral tower where you turn right into the channel.

Head up north again, on your left hand side you will now have a bend in the reef with big brain corals cascading down the sloping reef side. Continue up north until you find a pinnacle with a cleaning station at 9m. Now it is probably time to turn around. When you are back at the small coral tower you can see the channel on your right hand side. If you still have air left take a look around the two small pinnacles on the south side before going back to the boat in the lagoone.

El Miniya – T43 Mine Sweeper

The history:
El Miniya was one of four T43 ocean-going minesweepers, built in former USSR, delivered in spring 1956 as part of a $120 million arms treaty negotiated by President Nasser during a meeting in Moscow on 24th of September 1955. It is interesting to note that the T43 originally was a UK design, but the blueprints found their way to former USSR somehow…

The four T43 minesweepers delivered in 1956 were named after four different Egyptian cities: Assiout, Bahaira, Gharbia and the hometown of President Nasser himself, El Miniya. After sinking, El Miniya was replaced at the naval base in Hurghada by another T43 named Sinai. She, together with two more T43s was delivered in the fall of 1970. All of those T43s are now out of service and have been used for target practicing or cannibalized for spares.
The sinking:
On the 6th of February 1970 four to six Israeli aircraft, probably Phantom F-4 A, or Mirage III approached Hurghada over sea from the east. Coming in at low altitude to avoid radar detection, their mission was to attack the radar station next to the airfield. At the same time, stationed at the naval base in the harbour, was the minesweeper El Miniya. As it happened she was at anchor in the direct flight path of the Israeli aircrafts. One or two of them were probably ordered to clear the way for the attack. El Miniya’s anti aircraft guns made her a threat to the low flying aircrafts as well as a prestigious target.

It was probably PHANTOM F-4A or MIRAGE III aircrafts that was responsible for the attack on Hurghada. Israeli war records show that the two types were on mission over Egypt on the 6th of Feb 1970.

El Miniya must have managed to escape the attack for a while. However, she was still at anchor, and eventually she reached the end of the chain. The “cat and mouse chase” was over and there was no escape. A small bomb hit her on the starboard side of the bow and the minesweeper rolled upside down. Still floating, (some sources say that she sunk and then resurfaced) she was again attacked by the Israeli aircrafts, now bullets from the machine guns hit the underside of the hull and the minesweeper sunk. Landing on the superstructure El Miniya lost her mast and the machine gun that was mounted in the bow. The anchor chain that she released while trying to escape the attack; is still marking her trail on the seabed.

The reason:
In the beginning of 1970 the tension between Egypt and Israel was as hard as ever. In 1969 Egypt had started an “unofficial” war to recapture the Sinai Peninsula lost during the Six Day War in June 1967, and eventually of course; they wanted to eliminate the state of Israel. As a counter attack the Israeli Air force attacked deep inside Egyptian territory with the main target being industrial and military installations such as this radar station. In 1973 those attacks finally lead to the “official” Yom Kippur War.
In 2004 this was the View over the damaged mountain around the radar station next to the airfield in Hurghada which was the main target of the attack on February 6th 1970. Today apartment buildings block this view from the main road.
The dive:
Most of the time the mooring line is attached to the propeller axel but there is no guaranty. Since the wreck is situated in the harbour area, passing boats often cut the morning line and sometimes dive masters put the new line in the anchor, in the bow of the wreck.

The best way to dive El Miniya is to start at the stern. The wreck is laying on the portside, leaning on the superstructure. From here you have a good view of the two propeller screws and rudders and then you continue on the south side over the stern deck. Here you find the big rolls of cable used to tow the torpedo-like minesweeping devices. Before you come up to the superstructure you pass the rear anti aircraft gun and machine gun by the funnel. Close to the seabed, at the back of the superstructure you can take the opportunity to have a look into the telegraph room before passing the next two machine guns in front of the bridge. The mast was ripped off as El Miniya hit the bottom and can now be found north of the wreck.

When you come up to the bow area you will find that this part of the wreck has quite a lot to offer. First there is the mount for the second anti aircraft gun. The gun fell off when El Miniya rolled over and is now to be found a short distance south of the bow. In front of the gun mount you can look through the hatch into the rope room. Then there is the portside anchor chain running out over the seabed, marking the route El Miniya took trying to escape the attacking Israeli aircrafts.

The starboard anchor is still in place on the hull and next to the anchor you find the blast hole from where the bomb hit. This invites for a swim through and a glance into the corridor. From here you head back on the starboard side of the superstructure where you have a few doors and portholes that give you a chance to have a look at the interior of the wreck. All along the last bit you find the torpedo-like devices that were towed for minesweeping. After a few fin kicks towards the stern you are back at the propeller and it is time to ascend.

Dive site location:
East of Hurghada Naval Base. N27°13.543′ E033°50.861′

Dive site depths:
Max 32m at the stern, 26m at the bow and 19m around the blast hole on the top of the wreck.

Dive site marine life:
There is no reef here, so do not expect a sparkling coral life, but there is a lot going on, on and around El Miniya anyway. Great schools of glassfish find sanctuary in the wreck, especially in the blast hole the bomb left behind. Here you find the redmouth grouper herding his own school, protecting them from hunting jacks and lionfish. Silversides glitter around bright red sponges that reach out from the deck in the bow like giant fingers and often a grouper sits in the hatch to the rope room. To get most out of this dive you should bring a torch so you can light up the inside and get the true colours of the marine life.

Dive site conditions and hazards:
The location sometimes has bad visibility and strong current. That together with the maximum depth of 32 meters suggests that this is a dive mainly for experienced divers. It is also a good idea to keep in mind that there are sharp edges and objects to be aware of, especially around the blast hole. All over the bottom you find bits and pieces from the wreck. Do not touch anything! There is still some live ammunition spread out over the seabed. El Miniya is a popular dive site and boats come and go all the time; make sure you look up during your ascend.


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