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Deep South Dive Sites

Image - Deep South Dive Sites

THE GREAT SOUTH, SOUTH COAST

Whilst strong currents, choppy seas and the fact that night diving is prohibited conspire to make diving sites in the south less popular, these sites do offer a host of new challenges for more adventurous divers. Located in southern territorial waters in the centre of the Red Sea, the most desirable diving spots are clustered around Zabargad Island, Rocky Island and Saint John’s Reef. However, when atmospheric conditions are favourable, you will be treated to the sight of spectacular coral reefs, some of them still virgin, plus the most extraordinary marine fauna – though this rare experience is only for the most able divers.


DIVING ABILITY
EXPERIENCED DIVERS – MUST HAVE COMPLETED A MINIMUM OF 50 DIVES.

MARINE LIFE
Many species of shark: bigeye thresher sharks, whitetip sharks, hammerhead sharks, grey reef sharks and pelagic fish.

UNMISSABLE DIVES

  • St John’s Reef for the black
  • coral
  • Zabargad Island
  • Rocky Island

Live- Aboards and the Far South

The reefs of the deep south lie beyond the range of most dive packages and these remote reefs of the Red Sea are in pristine condition. You will need a well-equipped live-aboard to reach the dive sites which are located beyond El Quseir, the southernmost dive base in Egypt.

Dive Highlights

There are hundreds of totally untouched reefs offshore which are a total paradise for adventurous divers. The coral gardens attract a brilliant diversity of large and small fish. The Brothers are isolated towers of pristine coral rising from the depths and shrouded in schools of sharks. Zabargad and Rocky Island are infamous sites for superb Egyptian offshore diving, with sheer walls and coral gardens.

Dive Facilities and Operators

Boats operating on the deep south sites range in quality from the extremely basic to the luxurious. The standard of service and facilities is reflected in the price of the trip, and a week on the most luxurious of these boats will cost you more than a month of shore-based diving in the north.

Rocky Island - East Coast

The site ranges from inshore coral playgrounds to sheer walls and open plateaux exposed to raging currents, and inhabited by a huge variety of small reef fish to large hammerhead sharks. Rocky’s southeast corner in particular is the setting for some incredible big fish encounters.

At 25m (80ft), a shelf juts from the reef wall, forming a natural shark theatre. Hovering over this shelf, you have an excellent chance to see sharks of all species.

Coral growth here is dense and varied, and in a pristine state. Soft corals and delicate branching forms are particularly profuse in the inshore shallows near to the southeast corner. Throughout the site there are plate and cabbage corals, Acropora and fire coral, and Xeniid and Dendronephthya soft corals.
Location: The east and southeast sides of Rocky Island.
Access: By live-aboard
Conditions: Strong current
Average depth: 25m (80ft)
Maximum depth: 50m+ (164ft+)
Average visibility: 20m (65ft)

Rocky Island - North Coast

The northern coast of Rocky Island is exposed to the prevailing north wind and swell, making the surf zone along the shoreline rough, boat pickups are often impossible along the north coast. The dive is suitable for experienced divers only. Strong currents can make this a fast drift dive, and a strong surge can often be felt even at 25m (80ft) or more.

The reef composition is generally stony, with good coral cover The upper 20m (65ft) is particularly dense, and the entire north reef wall is covered in soft corals, making it perhaps the best soft coral site on the island. Fish life is rich and varied, especially among the schooling species. Reef fishes are also well represented with large groupers and Napoleon wrasse, and sharks are frequently present.
Location: The northern coast of Rocky Island, 5.5km (3 nautical miles) southeast of Zabargad
Access: By live-aboard.
Conditions: Very big surge and swell and strong currents can make this a dive for advanced divers only.
Average depth: 20m (65ft)
Maximum depth: 50m+ (64ft+)
Average visibility: 20m (65ft)

Rocky Island - South Coast

Coral The south coast of Rocky Island is the most sheltered site, and offers some of the best coral and most varied fish life on the island. The site is marked at all depths by numerous bays, fissures and inlets. The reef has a vertical profile which is broken up by a series of ledges and overhangs.

Corals range from Acropora to massive Favites and extensive cabbage coral patches. The reef shallows are particularly well covered with soft corals. Fish of all shapes and sizes are found here, from large grouper to lionfish.
Location: The south coast of Rocky Island, 5.5km (3 nautical miles) southeast of Zabargad.
Access: By live-aboard.
Conditions: Some current is possible.
Average depth: 18m (60ft)
Maximum depth: 50m+ (164ft+)
Average visibility: 20m (65ft)

The Brothers - Little Brother

This site, the smaller companion of Big Brother, is inferior in size only. The soft coral growth here is incredibly rich and the upper 30m (100ft) is a psychedelic pattern of colour.

The schooling fish that merely blanket Big Brother are so dense here as to block out the light. Surgeonfish, unicorns and snapper swim by in schools so big you cannot see where they begin or end and these are joined by any other reefimaginable.

In the deep blue, there is an incredible diversity of pelagics including numerous sharks: grey reefs, whitetip reefs, hammerheads, tigers, and even whale sharks and oceanic whitetip have been seen.
Location: Just southeast of Big Brother, 67km (36 nautical miles) off El Quseir.
Access: By live-aboard.
Conditions: As with Big Brother, exposed to any rough weather.
Average depth: 25m (80ft)
Maximum depth: 70m+ (230ft)
Average visibility: 20m (65ft)

Elphinstone Reef

This long, finger-like reef runs from north to south in the open Red Sea. Steep walls drop to the depths on the reef’s east and west sides, reaching 70m (230ft) or more, while the north and south ends of the reef are marked by submerged plateaux. The northern plateau is very shallow, offering some superb snorkelling possibilities; the southern plateau is much deeper, with a drop-off at 30m (100ft) leading down to the depths.

A large underwater arch can be found here, between 50—70m (164—230ft). This lies beyond the range of most sports divers, but has a fascinating story attached to it. Legend has it that the sarcophagus of an unknown pharaoh lies beneath the arch, and there is the outline of a rectangular, coral-encrusted mass in the depths at around 60m (197ft).

Coral coverage is dense with a full range of hard and soft corals on all sides. The east side in particular has some beautiful soft coral growth. A massive number of reef species lends still more colour to the already dazzling walls, with a ready supply of big solitary and schooling pelagics to observe.
Location: 12km (6.5 nautical miles) off Marsa Abu Dabab on the south Egyptian coast
Access: By live-aboard.
Conditions: Site offers no shelter in rough seas.
Average depth: 20m (65ft)
Maximum depth: 70m+ (230ft+)
Average visibility: 20m (65ft)

Sataya/Dolphin Reef

This horseshoe-shaped reef lies in open water to the northeast of Ras Banas and the good shelter provided by the reef makes this an excellent stop for live-aboards. The eastern side of the reef has a steeply sloping wall profile, giving way to a sandy slope scattered with coral heads and pinnacles toward the reef’s southeast corner, with the best coral growth occurring in the top 10m (33ft). The southern pinnacles are especially rich, with a wide variety of coral types throughout.

Fish life here is excellent. Schooling fish and reef-dwellers of all types are seen in large numbers. Cuttlefish and shrimps put in an appearance for the invertebrates, and bluespotted and blackspotted stingrays are common. Sharks of several types can also frequently be spotted here, and there are regular reports of dolphins along the reef or inside the lagoon.
Location: The main reef of Fury Shoal, 28km (15 nautical miles) north-northwest of Ras Banas.
Access: By live-aboard.
Conditions: Generally fine, with shelter from most weathers.
Average depth: 18m (60ft)
Maximum depth: 50m+ (1 64ft+)
Average visibility: 20m (65ft)

Zabargad

This site lies on the south side of Zabargad Island, the only large island in this stretch of the Red Sea. It is commonly used as a base for exploring nearby Rocky Island, and the excellent shelter make this a popular overnight stop for live-aboards. Zabargad offers an excellent range of reef features in relatively shallow water, so the site is often used by operators for night dives.

A sand slope stretches out from the island’s southern shore, absolutely covered with an amazing concentration of coral pinnacles, stepping away down the slope to 25m (80ft). Each pinnacle forms a micro-habitat for tiny reef fishes and larger reef fish cruise through the pinnacles. The sand between them is favoured by bluespotted and blackspotted stingrays and crocodilefish.

Fish life ranges from tiny anthias to huge grouper. Morays are also seen. Plenty of invertebrates, such as cuttlefish, squid, octopus, and nudibranchs are most prominent at night when the site takes on a completely different character.
Location: In the open Red Sea, 46km (25 nautical miles) southeast of Ras Banas.
Access: By live-aboard.
Conditions: Some mild currents, but sheltered from most weathers.
Average depth: 18m (60ft)
Maximum depth: 25m+ (80ft+)
Average visibility: 20m (65ft)

The Brothers - Big Brother

The Brothers are the exposed tips of two massive reef pillars. They are the only significant reefs in the area, and as such attract any pelagic and reef fishes. They support an incredibly dense and diverse coral population, with almost overwhelmingly profuse soft coral growth on all sides.

Big Brother, the larger of the two, lies about 1km (0.6 miles) north of its sibling. It is an oblong landmass some 400m (1312ft) long, easily identified by its Victorian stone lighthouse.

A narrow reef table round the island’s shore gives way almost immediately to a sheer vertical wall, dropping well past the limits of sport diving. Absolutely fantastic coral growth begins at the surface and continues unabated into the depths.The fish life here ranges from the tiniest anthias in the shallows to impressive sharks in the depths offshore.

Big Brother also boasts a wreck, the Aida, on its northwest side, lying fairly deep. The bow is at 30m (100ft) and the stern is at least 40m (130ft) deeper. The wreck sits upright on the steep slope and is covered with soft coral.

Less than 100m (330ft) north of the Aida, a second, much older wreck lies in shallow water. The ship descends from the shallows to a maximum depth of 40m (l30ft) where the hull is split.

The stern section is said to lie still further below. She sits more or less upright and is completely covered in a gorgeous array of soft corals.This is one of the most spectacular dives in the Red Sea. The reef’s isolated position makes it a rare treat for a privileged few divers.
Location: In the central Red Sea, about 67km (36 nautical miles) east of El Quseir.
Access: By live-aboard.
Conditions: Isolated position makes this site vulnerable to any adverse weather.
Average depth: 25m (80ft)
Maximum depth: 70m+ (230ft+)
Average visibility: 20m (65ft)

Last Updated on Sunday 16th January 2011

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