This November saw HDC make the trip to Egypt to once again impose themselves upon a Scuba Travel liveaboard in the Red Sea. Fifteen of our regular HDC members hung up their work clothes for a week and flew, in class via EasyJet, to Hurghada where we donned our fins and boarded ‘Mistral’, where we set up home for the week.
The ‘Northern Wrecks and Reefs’ dive itinerary saw the club members travelling from the Hurghada area across the Red Sea to a number of famous dive sites around large reef clusters and national parks. Across twenty-one dives we were lucky enough to see sharks, lots of dolphin pods, turtles, rays and fantastic reefs and wrecks, all of which made the week a really exciting and varied experience.
We started our trip in the Abu Nuhas region, which has one of the best concentrations of wreck diving in the Red Sea. This submerged reef has had its share of bad luck over the years with numerous ships inadvertently sinking after unknowingly sailing over the reef and hitting it. We dived the Giannis D, Carnatic and the Chrisoula K (Tiles wreck) across one day. These wrecks range from old to more modern (earliest sunk was the Carnatic in 1869) and all are resplendent with marine life after becoming a habitat for fish and coral after decades under the water.
We then visited Gubal island to the north of Abu Nuhas. One of the most marine-life occupied wreck dives can be had here. ‘The Barge’, with its humongous resident morays ‘George’ and ‘Georgina’, scorpion fish, crocodile fish and Stonefish made an excellent night and day dive. Many of the divers went to visit the Ulysses wreck, a smaller but similar aged vessel to the Carnatic at Abu Nuhas.
Around the Thistlegorm
The Thistlegorm, a wreck that sunk during the 2nd World War, was laden with munitions and we spent several dives (including a night dive) exploring the holds and various decks. In the day, you can spend a dive penetrating the wreck to see numerous armoured trucks, motorbikes and cars still lined up within or spend some time outside admiring the batfish and taking a swim out to one of two trains that were blown clear from the main ship as a result of the blast that sunk the vessel. At night the Thistlegorm feels like a completely different place, with Blue Spotted Rays, Lionfish and a number of coral species that only reveal themselves at night. A huge resident turtle sleeps in one of the holds and doesn’t appear at all phased by its numerous human spectators. It’s easy to see why this wreck ranks as one of Egypt’s top dives, in fact it’s usually ranked in the top five dives in the world.
We visited some of Ras Mohammed’s great dive sites. Shark & Yolanda, two islands close to one another provided some fantastic reef diving. At the end of the dive on Yolanda Island, we saw lots of toilet seats that were being carried by the wreck of the Yolanda when she sank (quite an unusual site!). A fun dive through Jackfish Alley saw us discovering rays, eels and barracudas.
Jackson and Thomas reefs are two of the four reefs that make up the Tiran system. Jackson reef has some of Egypt’s best coral gardens, including some impressive coral fans. Thomas reef is famous for its deep canyon, which we did not go into, but did enjoy as we passed across it. I really enjoyed the shallow inlets on Jackson Reef, which were full of marine life and soft and hard corals. There was quite a strong current on this dive, which made it challenging, but the payoff of what we were able to see was well worth it!
Time to go home…
On the final night, we had a lovely dinner on the boat and afterwards held an HDC awards ceremony to mark some of the fun times we had during the week. Some of the awards included Most Improved Diver (to appreciate the hard work one of our new divers has put in to improving by passing his Nitrox and Wreck courses during the trip), best dressed, diver who missed the most dives during the week and also a celebration of some of the funnier mistakes some of the divers had made on the boat (we all made at least a couple)! We also celebrated some special milestones and congratulated Katie Jellis, Nikki Pitman, Andy Woo and Pete Harris on their 100th dives during the trip.
All in all, the trip was a fantastic experience and I would go again tomorrow (if I could afford it!). It was an opportunity to spend time with those we know well and to meet and get to know new members. For some this was their first trip to Egypt but others have been visiting for over 20 years; a testament to how impressive the diving is in the Red Sea. It’s also another example of how great and well organised the Scuba Travel trips have been, at least in the past couple of years in my experience. If you’re looking for an opportunity to see diverse and plentiful marine life at its best, diving in the Red Sea is definitely for you. I will be going back as soon as I can!