The area either side of the Straits of Gubal is mainly the preserve of liveaboards. Flanked in the west be the islands of Gubal and Shedwan and in the east by the reef systems of Shab Ali and Shab Mahmoud, it is well beyond the day boat range of either Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada although some boats do make the 12-14 hour day trip from Sharm to reach the world famous wreck of the Thistlegorm. Crossing the straits can be rough and sometimes downright impossible in all but the largest ships. The areas around Shedwan Island are closed to diving as this is a military area.
Shab El ErgThe most northerly site for day boats out of Hurghada. A huge horseshoe shaped reef there are many dive sites on all sides. The north point is home to Mantas in season. The lagoon is dotted with ergs and is renowned for sightings of the resident dolphin community, divers have spent up to 30 minutes with dolphin pod here.
Gota Shab El Ergnearby is a little known site but well worth a visit. The whole area teems with life, unicorns, scorpion fish, groupers, morays, emperor angel fish, blue spotted rays and underneath the table corals look out for white tips resting in the sand. In the sandy channel between the main reef and the gota you will find cone shells, and flatfish.
Shab Abu NugarmThis “T” shaped reef has a shallow plateau to the west with numerous small ergs and two small sub reefs Gota Abu Nigar and Shab Iris. Some parts of this reef system are positively dull while others are stunning. If you can dive the stem of the “T” on the north side you will find three small ergs and the diving there is almost virginal. You will find broom tail wrasse here as well as parrot fish and unicorn fish.
Umm GammarThis offshore Island is surrounded by good diving on all sides. The south end has a shallow plateau where the moorings are located this location is the most used. For first timers at Umm Gamar the dive will take place from the plateau, moving eastwards to the drop off then north along the wall. After a short swim against the current you reach three pinnacles close together, chimneys reach through the pinnacles toward the surface. After exploring this area you take advantage of the light current to drift back to the corner of the plateau where three small ergs are found, covered in glass fish. Finish the dive on the plateau exploring the numerous coral heads and reef fish. The plateau is home to Napoleons, Emperor Angels and free swimming Morays. The east and west side have awesome drift dives and the northern tip or “halg” has a magnificent coral garden but is only accessible in very good weather. Big groupers and lots of sweepers live in the multiple caves found along the eastern and western walls and drop offs of this tiny island’s fringing reef.
Shaab Ruhr Umm GamarLiterally the reef of Umm Gamar, this reef lies 1km south of Umm Gamar and is the tip of an undersea mountain. The reef wall drops to around 15m on the west side, and is peppered with many caves and overhangs, home for sweepers and glass fish, here the sandy plateau slopes away gently to 30m with the drop off beyond. On the east side the slope is much steeper and drops quickly to the depths, the diving here is superb and can be most often done as a drift. This whole area offers superb wall diving with possibilities of encountering grey reef sharks and good-sized groupers as well as morays, big tuna, and blue spotted rays. On the south east slope lies the wreck of an Egyptian patrol boat which is well worth a visit.
Careless ReefAn offshore reef Carless has two large ergs rising from a shallow plateau surrounded by sheer walls rising from the deep. The area is unprotected and the reef can only be reached in good weather. The current at the surface is usually from the north but below it can be from any direction. To the north the drop off is a forest of coral to the south the plateau slope gently away with small pinnacles of coral. The whole area swarms with fish of all types there are numerous giant morays encountered here, as well as the white tip reef sharks and schooling reef fish as well as huge groupers and the occasional hammerhead in the early morning.
Torfa Fanus (East)This narrow reef creates a huge calm lagoon, a great place to stop for lunch and catch the sun before the second dive of the day. The lagoon itself and the enclosing reef wall is relatively uninteresting and naturally lifeless but on the seaward side the area bursts with all manner of sea creatures. Swim through the gap between the first erg and the reef wall and head across the coral garden to the second erg, home to hordes of glass fish and the very occasional frog fish. Continue with the reef wall on your left to see the gorgonians on the corner of the reef where it turns west, if you have enough air continue along the north face where the corals are pristine, if not return with the reef on your right and explore the first erg before returning to the boat. Dolphins are often encountered anywhere around this reef so keep an eye out.
Fanus WestThe other end (west) of the Fanus reef has two main ergs and several smaller pinnacles off its west end. You can follow the reef wall round and explore the reef face and coral gardens which is full of marauding jacks or if you feel energetic you can swim the 50m to the furthest erg which is well worth a visit, explore the remaining erg and pinnacles on the way back. Again watch out for dolphins at anytime during the dive as they are frequent visitors.
Wreck of the El Minya (Harbour Wreck)An Egyptian minesweeper sunk by Israeli fighters, while lying at anchor, in 1969, the wreck lies in 30m on a rock sea bed. The current here can be strong from the north and the visibility poor. There is a large debris field which contains a lot of ‘LIVE” munitions, worth a look but carefully. The wreck is only 70m long so there is plenty of time to explore everything including the blast hole on the starboard side, which can be penetrated. Penetration is not recommended elsewhere on this wreck. There is not much in the way of coral growth on the wreck but it does have its resident fish life, the blast hole gives shelter to shoals of glassfish and a lone anemone and resident clownfish are also in this area. Above the wreck are shoals of jacks and small barracuda.
Umm Dom (Stoney Beach)Here the steep cliff of the north east side of Giftun Kebira island plunges into the depths and continues into the abyss, the reef wall drops to about 12m and then there is a steep, tumbling slope to the top of the drop off at about 27m. Most of the life here is above 15m as the lower slope and top the drop off are sometimes swept by strong currents coming through the straits, stunting the growth of the coral and giving a lunar appearance. Half way down the slope you will find a lettuce leaf coral, in the blue you will find fusiliers, and triggers, maybe sharks and turtles. At the top of the slope you will find morays, scorpion fish, barracuda and clouds of antheas. Whale sharks have been spotted at this site on occasions.
Shab SabrinaThe reef here pokes out from the east side of Giftun Kebira island and has a coral garden extending 300-400m north of it. This best way to dive this site is on the drift dropping 300m out and using the gently current to make your way back to the boat mooring. The area is known for its beautiful coral landscape rather than its fish life.
Small GiftunSeveral good dives are found on the reefs around this island, the most famous the drift dive on the giant fan coral forest at the eastern fringing reefs wall. Napoleon fish.
Abu Ramada IslandReally two small islands surrounded by a single reef. Good drift dive along the steep eastern wall, with big fan corals, overhangs and swim throughs. Big groupers.
Gota Abu RamadaLiterally “piece of Abu Ramada”, A 1km long mid-sea reef sitting on a shallow plateau about 12-15m deep great diving is found on the east, west and north side with abundant hard and soft coral and schools of butterflies, banners and snappers here found swimming around the mountains of coral gardens. Just off the west end are three large ergs which are well worth a visit.
El ArukA cluster of a dozen or so ergs laying in 10m – 15m of water, sometimes swept by a strong current, It is easy to get lost here so count the ergs and take your compass along. The whole are is home to sweetlips under the ledges, blue spotted sting rays in the sandy patches and glassfish and basslets swarm on the erg wall. One erg of note is El Aruk Macroom (the split erg) which has a grotto through it filled with glassfish and attendant re mouth grouper and numerous lion fish.
Ras DishaThe fringing reef, which surrounds this cape, offers a good shallow dive on the hard coral garden found north of the lighthouse with schooling barracuda, napoleon fish and groupers. Garden eels.
Abu HashishA shallow erg field lays on the south side of the island where lots of blue spotted stingrays, puffer fishes and morays are found swimming through a pinnacle landscape. A dramatic drift dive can be made along the eastern wall with the chance of big fish out in the blue.
GUBAL STRAITSThe area either side of the Straits of Gubal is mainly the preserve of liveaboards. Flanked in the west be the islands of Gubal and Shedwan and in the east by the reef systems of Shab Ali and Shab Mahmoud. Most of these wrecks are covered during liveaboard trips however, Colona Sharm El Sheikh runs regular day trips to the wrecks of the Dunraven and of the Thistlegorm. Crossing the straits can be rough and sometimes downright impossible in all but the largest ships. The areas around Shedwan Island are closed to diving as this is a military area.
The AlternativesAbout 30 minutes north west of Ras Mohammed is 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. ‘Stingray Station’ lies at the western extremity of the Alternatives; this is an irregular reef and owes its name to the gathering of stingrays in March and April. The whole area is known as home to large groupers, turtles and leopard shark.
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.
The Wreck of the DunravenAt the southern extreme of ‘Shab Mahmoud’, a series of shallow reefs and lagoons among which lies the wreck of the 72m English steamer sunk in 1876 on its from Bombay to England loaded with timber and spices. The hull lies upside down and is totally covered in corals (max. depth 29m), the prop and rudder lies at 19m. The wreck is home to a wide variety of marine life, morays, napoleon, groupers and schools of glass fish and goat fish inside the wreck.
Wreck of the ThistlegormThis World War II wreck is famous around the world. In October 1941 she was at anchor behind Shab Ali and awaiting orders to move up through the Suez canal to deliver a cargo of munitions to the British troops in north Africa when German aircraft bombed the 129m British freighter. The cargo is still virtually intact and includes railway locomotives, bren gun carriers, trucks motorcycles and a host of ammunition of all sizes. You need to do at least two dives on this wreck to even get a feel for the site. Dive the deeper stern section first and the bow for the second dive of the day. The wreck is home to bat fish, jacks, barracudas, surgeon fish, nudibranchs and rabbit fish graze the hull. The current here can be strong and the visibility reduced so ensure a full briefing from you dive guide and enjoy your visit to this part of British history.
Shag RockBeing 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, sweet lips abound here and the area regularly patrolled by grey reef sharks.
Wreck of the Rosalie MollerThis wreck lies in the channel north of Gubal island and is a dive only for the more experienced as the visibility can be reduced and the wreck swept by strong currents on occassions. She was on her way to Alexandria with a cargo of coal when she was sunk by German aircraft on the 7th October 1941, just two days after the Thistlegorm. Originally named the Francis she was launched in 1910, she was then purchased by the Moller Line in 1931 and renamed after the grandchild of one of the company directors. The wreck is in pristine condition,and home to prolific fish life and a magnificent array of hard and soft corals, she is 108mts long and sits upright on an even keel with the bow at 39mts and the keel in 50mts. The top of the mast is at 17mts. She is rarely dived due to her position and can only be accessed in the best of weather.
Bluff PointAt the gate of the Straits of Gubal, ‘Bluff Point’ draws its name from the turbulence created by strong currents that beat the eastern most wall of the island. Huge fan corals cover an impressive drop off with caves and glass fish. Sightings of turtles and napoleon fish are not uncommon. An unknown wreck lies on the reef 300m north of the lighthouse, starting at 5m depth and sloping to 25m. Rumor has it that this is the wreck of an Egyptian patrol boat sunk in the 6 day war.
Abu NuhasAlso known as the ‘Ships Graveyard’, this reef is dangerously positioned close to the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Suez. This reef has claimed more ships than any other in the area. On the north side are four wrecks laying on a sandy seafloor at the bottom of a steep sloping reef layered with table corals. The wrecks are sometimes inaccessible in anything other than a RIB or inflatable due to the heavy swell driving down the length of the gulf. On the south side is a safe anchorage for liveaboards and two beautiful ergs, known as Yellow fish reef that make an excellent third dive or night dive or an alternative if the weather is extremely bad.
Giannus DThis Greek freighter hit the reef in April 1983 and over the course of two weeks slowly broke in two and sank. She is the most dived wreck here, Laying in 28m and leaning to port with a fully intact stern section and an impressive engine room packed with glass fish. Locally known as the ’wood’ wreck for the cargo it was carrying when it sank. The bow is also very interesting but is a long swim out. She is a great wreck for penetration but beware of disorientation due to the angle at which she lays. Be weary of the many lion fish and scorpion fish that call this wreck home. and watch out strong surges in and around the wreck in rough weather.
CarnaticA British P & O steamer which struck the reef in 1869. and sank the next day as the weather worsened. She was a passenger and mail ship and is sometimes known as the ‘wine’ wreck for the numerous bottles once found in the holds, sadly not many now remain to be seen. Rumor has it that she sank with forty thousand pounds sterling of gold bullion, much of which was never recovered. She lays in 29m and now the whole hull is draped in multicoloured soft corals and the inner areas are full of glass fish complete with red mouthed grouper sentinel. One davit supports a beautiful table coral. The wreck is now home to large grouper, octopus and morays and jacks and tuna cruise overhead.
Chrisoula KAnother Greek ship which sank in 1976, now laying in 30m is fully laden with stone floor tiles and sometimes called the ‘tile’ wreck for obvious reasons. Early morning divers may find a white tip reef shark sleeping under the rudder at the stern. Be weary of very limited and small entry/exit points into the engine room, however, penetration of the wreck is not recommended due to the unstable nature of the wreck.
OldenNot a lot is known about this wreck except that it struck the reef in 1981 and is locally known as the ‘lentil’ wreck for the cargo she carried. Lying in 31m and completely on its starboard side exposing its huge hull on one side and gaping cargo holds on the other. Growth on the hull is fairly sparse due to the position and current. Large morays live in the scattered remains of wreckage on the starboard side and bat fish circle the topside. Most of the fish in the vacinity of the wreck are overweight from dining on the lentils leaching from the sacks once contained in her holds.
Shab Umm UskA large horseshoe shaped reef that shelters a shallow lagoon and offers good shallow diving on coral gardens at either point. Further around the southern reef exterior provides a steep coral encrusted wall sloping to 40+m. Playful bottlenose dolphins are found inside the lagoon at times.
Blind ReefAn Isolated reef south of Siyul Island, with good diving on its north side. Soft coral, sea whips, many ergs home to glass fish and turtles can often be found here.
Siyul KebiraThis reef extends around the Island of Big Siyul and has a varied profile, in some areas sand chutes (wadis) split the reef face, in others there are overhangs and gullies to explore. The coral growth is abundant as is the fish life. Most diving here is in swift currents on the drift but the north eastern point offers a plateau which slopes gently from 10m to 30+m. Sharks and large rays are often sighted in the deeper water, with schools of sweet lips and masked butterflies in the shallows.
Siyul SeghiraDespite it Arabic name Little (seghira) Siyul is the largest reef in the area at over 4km long. It is usually dived as a drift due to the strong currents along the sloping reef. The depth range is 20-25m, the corals are lush and vibrant and the fish life is dense and varied. The best dive here is along the north side but can only be done in moderate weather due to the exposed nature of the reef.