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Red Sea, Northern Reef Dives

REEFS & WRECKS OF THE NORTHERN, RAS MOHAMMED ITINERARY

Using this map for the Sea Serpant route – here is a route and dive site description:

Hurghada  Area – Check Dive
Abu Nuhas Wrecks :  Carnatic, Ghiannis D
Gubal Island : Bluff Point, Barge - Thistlegorm
Shag Rock : Small Crack, The Alternatives, Dunraven
Sha'ab Mahmoud:  Shark & Yolanda, Jackfish Alley

ABU NUHAS WRECKS

Dive Site: Sha'ab Abu Nuhas
Description: Reef with five wrecks on it
Depth: 89 metres max (292 feet), mostly around 24 metres (79 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)
Rating: *****

Sha'ab Abu Nuhâs is a large slightly triangular shaped reef located around two miles to the north of Shadwan Island (also known as Shaker Island). The translation of Abu Nuhâs is "Father of Brass", Abu being father and Nuhâs meaning brass. Whilst I have never seen any brass here, it certainly deserves its other name - "The Ship's Graveyard". It's location at the edge of the Straights of Gubal make the north side open to rough conditions, particularly on the surface where a large swell can make mooring difficult if not impossible. The northeast corner often experiences strong currents which can actually sweep down from the north and in from the east, meeting at the corner. This means that on the northeast corner itself, two currents meet and a diver trying to carry out research on the reef wall formation could find themselves stuck between two non-swimable currents (trust me).

Abu Nuhâs is a wreck divers dream come true boasting four vastly different wrecks in very close proximity to each other and all within comfortable diving depths of 30 metres or less. The wrecks are located on the north side of the reef (see the Abu Nuhâs map in PDF format below) and this requires calm surface conditions for mooring. Back in the early 90's when I used to bring day boats here from Hurghada we often had no choice but to moor in less than ideal conditions, however these days most boats which come here have a RIB or boat tender. This means that the main dive boat moors behind the reef near a sand lagoon or behind Woodvalley Reef (a small reef piece on the west end). I refer to this extra piece of reef as "Woodvalley" due to the amount of timber located in the channel between it and the main reef (no doubt some of the cargo of softwood from the nearby Giannis D, washed here by the water flow. The tenders then ferry divers through this channel and out to the wrecks. If weather really is too rough to dive the wrecks, and if current allows Woodvalley Reef itself is a lovely dive. There is also the option of diving Yellowfish Reef (located on the south side of Abu Nuhâs) a reef which makes a lovely night dive.

Dive Site: Giannis D

Description: Japanese freighter
Length: 100 metres approx (300 feet)
Depth: 4 metres to mast (13 feet), 24 metres to sea floor (79 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)
Rating: ****

The Giannis D sank with its cargo of timber in 1983 and lies next to a coral reef. The entire wreck can be seen from either end because of good the visibility. It is broken up in the Center, 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, scorpionfish, angelfish, bumphead 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.

Dive Site: Carnatic

Description: British cargo ship
Length: 90 metres approx (295 feet)
Depth: 24 metres max (79 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)
Rating: ****

The Carnatic is a beautiful 19th Century wreck that lies on Sha'ab Abu Nuhas Reef. Its shallow depth means that it is accessible to all levels of diver and all levels will appreciate it as a great wreck dive. Despite the length of time the Carnatic has been on the seabed (it sank in 1869) it is remarkably intact. The majority of your dive can be done along the outside of the wreck past giant moray eels and other Red Sea reef fish that have made this wreck their home. In the holds you can see the remains of broken bottles and there are shoals of glass fish inhabiting them. Penetration into the holds is easy for any level of diver. To finish the dive you can head back along Sha'ab Abu Nuhas reef where you will be able to find many different types of coral and fish before ascending.

Dive Site: Kimon M

Description: 3129 ton cargo vessel
Length: 120 metres (394 feet)
Depth: 32 metres to seafloor at stern (105 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)
Rating: ****

The Kimon M was a general cargo vessel of 3,129 tonnes, with four cargo holds - two forward of and two aft of the central bridge structure. She was built Germany in 1952 and in December 1978, loaded with 4,500 tons of lentils she made her final voyage. On December 12th 1978, with engines at full speed the Kimon M drove hard onto the northeast corner of Sha'ab Abu Nuhâs Reef. A passing cargo ship, the Interasja, immediately responded to the distress call and picked up all the crew and delivered them safely to Suez two days later.

The initial impact drove the Kimon M hard onto the top of the reef where she stayed for several days, allowing the recovery of some of her cargo. Wind and currents pushed the ship onto her starboard side until the remainder of the ship fell into deeper water, coming to rest at the base of the reef. Later a large hole was cut into the vessel in order to salvage the majority of the engine.

Dive Site: Chrisoula K

Description: 3720 ton cargo vessel
Length: 98 metres (322 feet)
Depth: 4 - 26 metres (13 - 85 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)
Rating: ****

The Chrisoula K was a Greek registered freighter and on its final journey its cargo consisted of Italian floor tiles heading for Jeddah. It sank August 31st 1981 after Captain Kanellis passed over control of his ship following two days of intensive navigation. Shortly after the engines were set at full speed and the Chrisoula K was driven right into the northeast corner of Sha'ab Abu Nuhâs Reef. Thankfully there was no loss of life.

The Chrisoula K now sits in a large open, sandy space. The bows used to rise out of the water, but wave action has now reduced them to a few metres below the surface. The main body of the wreck is generally upright with the cargo of tiles still in place. The stern leans well over to the starboard and is slowly separating altogether. Deep inside the stern, the engine room offers some serious penetration diving for the experienced wreck diver, although there are numerous obstructions so be careful. There is also the possibility of some much more straightforward penetration with plenty of easy swim-throughs and access to areas worthy of exploration without the danger of becoming lost inside. At the seabed, the large propeller and rudder are still virtually undamaged at the maximum depth for this dive of 26m. The Chrisoula K is now covered in an assortment of hard corals and has been made home by a variety of reef fish. This shipwreck offers a variety of different dives to cater for all levels of experience.

SHARK REEF & YOLANDA REEF

Reef Basics: Submerged reef
Depth: 10 - >40m
Visibility: 10 - 25m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface conditions: Generally calm
Water temperature: 22 - 28°C
Experience level: Intermediate – advanced
Number of dive sites: 3

If Ras Mohamed is the most spectacular diving area near Sharm El Sheikh, then Shark and Yolanda reefs are its prized diving spots.

This dive is best done as a drift dive starting from Shark Reef and continuing to Yolanda Reef. These are 2 twin mountain-like peaks rising up from a sandy sea bed that is spread out deep below the surface.

Being not far from Anemone City, which is a good drop-in location, the site's eastern side is a sheer, vertical wall, illuminated by swarms of orange and purple anthias and black and white pullers dancing about the purple and orange soft coral trees.

Every possible fish species of Sharm El Sheikh is found here, including hammerheads, gigantic tuna and a menagerie of other pelagics. An ever present school of barracuda and snappers are residents and it's a great place for scuba divers to see Napoleon wrasse.

The other side, facing the west, is much shallower and constitutes part of the plateau that surrounds Yolanda Reef. There are literally thousands of jackfish, batfish and all kinds of sting rays, giant moray eels and lyretail hogfish on the densely coralled saddle. Scorpionfish are regularly spotted here, although it is quite a rare sight elsewhere.

Finish your dive above the wreckage of the 'Yolanda', a wreck that made this reef its final resting place in the 70's. Its cargo of British standard toilets, bath tubs and pipe tubes remain on and forever as part of the shallow reef.

JACKFISH ALLEY

Reef Basics: Reef and gully
Depth: 5 - >30m
Visibility: 10 - 30m
Currents: Moderate
Surface conditions: Generally calm
Water temperature: 22 - 28°C
Experience level: Beginner - intermediate
Number of dive sites: 1

Jackfish Alley is a popular Sinai Peninsula shore dive and is located only a short distance from the beach.

Most often done as a drift dive, you can start at a white mark on the cliff from where you drop down to a cave at about 5 metres, which is full of glassfish.

Towards the south lies a sandy coral-covered plateau buzzing with marine life, and is one of Ras Mohammed's most photographed coral pinnacles as it's swirling with glassfish.

Further south, the plateau narrows into a sandy gully - Jackfish Alley. Coral growth is good overall and the fish population is excellent. White tip reef sharks can often be found by alert scuba divers, taking an afternoon nap on the sandy plateau.

ROSALIE MOLLER WRECK

Description: Coal ship
Length: 108 metres (354 feet)
Depth: 35 metres to the deck (115 feet), sea bed at 50 metres (164 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 25 metres (65 - 80 feet)
Rating: *****

The Rosalie Moller sank in the 1940's with a cargo of Welsh coal, which is all that can be seen in the holds except for in the engine room. It was hit by a bomb on the starboard side, leaving some damage. Penetration is possible as the gaps are large, but is not necessary as the interesting parts of the wreck are visible from the outside. The prop and rudder are worth checking out because they are immense. The deck is very clean and in tact except for the funnel which lies on its side. There are ladders leading to the bridge and passageways across the decks. The sea life is fantastic, with thousands of glassfish on and around the deck and the possibility of spotting tuna and other large fish, perhaps even a reef shark.

DUNRAVEN WRECK

Description: British steamship
Length: 78 metres (256 feet)
Depth: 28 metres max (92 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
Rating: ***

Rumour has it that the Dunraven sank when the Captain went on a drinking binge having found out that his First Mate was sleeping with his wife. He would not tell the First mate how to navigate, so they hit the reef (we have since been told differently by a reader - see below). The wreck now lies in two sections next to each other, both of which are penetrable, but there is not always an entire route through. The large brass propeller lies to the north end of the wreck and the reef to the west. The engine can be found in the northern section of the wreck. The sealife is interesting here and a swim along the reef makes a good end to the dive. Napoleon fish are common, as well as lionfish and flathead scorpion fish. There is a particularly impressive brain coral on the reef as you leave the wreck that is only three metres below the surface.

THISTLEGORM WRECK

Description: Container ship
Length: 126 metres approx (413 feet)
Depth: 16 - 33 metres (52 - 108 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)
Rating: *****

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.

GUBAL ISLAND - sites include:

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

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.

Small Crack (Small Passage): Small split in the middle of Shab 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. (Small Crack can be part of a Thistlegorm overnight trip).

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.

Kingston Wreck:

Location: Shag Rock
Description: 18th Century steamship
Length: 80 metres (262 feet)
Depth: 20 metres maximum at the stern (65 feet)
Visibility: 20 - 30 metres (65 - 100 feet)
Rating: **

The wreck of the Kingston lies on the eastern side of the southern of two large pieces of reef which are known as Shag Rock. Shag Rock is the name of the southern reef; however in the absence of a name for the northern piece these two are often grouped as Shag Rock, part of the much larger reef system - Sha'ab Ali. Incidentally Shag Rock gets its name from the cormorants or "shags" which used to perch on an old light frame which was visible in the early 1990's on the southern reef. At very low tide these birds can still be seen sitting atop protruding bits of reef.

The Kingston is a very old wreck, built in the early 1870's and you will often here her referred to as the Sara H, or Sarah H. This label actually came about in the absence of correct identification in the late 1980's, early 1990's. One of the largest safari boats to see in this area in the early 90's was a dark blue vessel by the name of "Sea Surveyor". On board was a Dive Guide, Sarah Hillel and so the wreck was named after her.

The Kingston is a twin mast steamship, 80 metres in length with a beam of 10m and she ran into the reef at shag rock on Feb 22nd 1881. As with many of the wrecks in the Red Sea she did not sink immediately and it took 2 days for her to finally accept her fate before she settled upright in only 18m of water (at the stern) on the gently sloping reef wall.

The wreck is fairly intact, although her twin masts and funnel have long since gone. The prop makes for some great photographs with the sunlight penetrating the relatively shallow waters. Amidships there is a second prop which for some reason was being transported along with her cargo of coal. Despite her shallow location diving the Kingston can be challenging. Her position on the edge of the Gubal Straights means that the area can experience extremely strong currents. Dive boats will often moor around the southern side of Shag Rock after dropping divers to the north of the wreck. If the dive vessel has a tender (RIB) this can be used to ferry divers to the wreck site. If the current is running it will normally be north to south.  The belly of the wreck is very open and as the wreck lies perpendicular to the normal currents you can dive inside the wreck or along the starboard side and seek effective protection from the current - allowing plenty of time to explore. Then simply drift of the wreck and head south (reef to left shoulder) along the coral encrusted gentle slope. The stony corals here are stunning with layer upon layer of acropora table corals covering the southeast corner. The Kingston is an ideal second or third dive of the day, after a visit to the Thistlegorm and for those wreck enthusiasts there is also another shallow wreck - The Carina - located a short distance north, on the northern side of the second reef at Shag Rock

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!

Bluff Point / Gubal Barge Wrecks: Bluff point is a steep wall dive that follows the coastline. There are plenty of small passages and inlets in the rock that hide away life. The reef is full of glassfish, butterflyfish, crocodilefish and a flat-headed scorpionfish. The wreck itself isn't much to look at, but it serves as an attraction for sealife. Keep an eye out for turtles.