TGI Sharm el Sheikh Dive Sites
Thistlegorm – Shaab Ali
The “Thistlegorm” was built in 1940, at the yards of J.L. Thompson and Sons in Sunderland. 131 meter long and a net tonnage of 4898 tons. She was powered by triple-expansion steam engines that could generate 365 nominal horsepower. Her final journey started in Glasgow, bound for Egypt, in September 1941. She was delivering desperately needed war supplies for the British 8th Army in North Africa. She was laden with all kinds of military equipment, including Bedford gun carriers, vehicle spares, aircraft and aircraft parts, motorbikes, gun carriers, radios, guns, railway stock, rubber boots, and an abundance of ammunition. At this crucial time of the war, Germans and Italians virtually controlled the seas and skies of the Mediterranean. Consequently, it was far too dangerous for Allied merchant ships to take the shortest, fastest route to Egypt. So the Thistlegorm had to make a 12,000 mile diversion around South Africa to Suez from where she would go up the Suez Canal to reach Alexandria The voyage, to what would become her final resting place, was a long one. However, the ship made excellent time and stopped off at Capetown in South Africa where she picked up her escort, the cruiser H.M.S. Carlisle, for the remainder of the voyage. By the 4th of October, they were in the Red Sea and only a day out from Suez, and on the 5th, they entered the calm zone alongside Shaab Ali to wait for orders to move up the canal.In the early morning hours of October 6, the Thistlegorm was discovered by a long-range German bomber based in Crete. A pair of German Heinkel bombers were deployed from Crete and headed south-east towards Egypt. As the bombers approached the Shaab Ali area, they saw that there were several ships in the anchorage and so they quickly armed their bombs. Because they were low on fuel, they had to choose the first target they came across. Unfortunately, that target was the Thistlegorm. Two of the four bombs released landed close together and penetrated the aft of the ship, one directly on the cover of the ship’s fourth hold which was where the ammunition had been stowed. The resultant explosion ripped away the stern section, and set the ship ablaze. The fire reached the lower holds and the ammunition stored there exploded. The subsequent explosion blew the entire stern midsection of the ship apart and her bow and stern pointed skywards before she sank to her underwater grave. Nine of the crew members met their fates as well that early October morning. The surviving crew members were picked up and transported to Port Tewfick, just outside the Suez Canal. For many years after the sinking of the Thistlegorm, British navy vessels passing that spot would lower their flags in respect to those who had lost their lives. The Thistlegorm laid undisturbed until the early fifties when a young explorer name Jacques Cousteau found her. He raised several items from the wreck including a motorbike, the Captain’s safe and the ship’s bell. He published a book, and in doing so, published the wrong coordinates for her position. Again time passed the wreck by until early 1990’s, when a group of divers found themselves on the bridge of the Thistlegorm. Once word got around as to the magnificence of this dive site, it seemed as though the whole world was flocking to this “World War II museum”. This wreck dive has almost legendary status among Red Sea divers. While the site is suitable for all but the most inexperienced divers in calm conditions, the level of expertise required definitely increases as conditions deteriorate, and they do so regularly. Check for current, when and wave action, and decide whether the conditions match your skill level.The Thistlegorm lies at 30m (100ft), her largely intact forward section sitting almost upright on the sandy bottom. The midsection where the epicenter of the blast that sunk the Thistlegorm is badly damaged. The stern section, its huge propeller clearly visible, boasts crew quarters, the main anti-aircraft gun and a 32.5 inch (39mm) gun on deck. Off the port side of the ship, a railway locomotive lies at 33m (108ft), thrown from its place on deck as the ship sank.The wreck of the Thistlegorm is like a gigantic, submerged army surplus store. But there are strict penalties for wreck-stripping, so do not help yourself to souvenirs.Among other attractions, you can visit the captain’s bathroom where tubeworms grow from the silt-filled bathtub like flowers in a window box. The site is fairly well colonized by fish and corals, including lots of big jacks, big schools of snapper, bannerfish and huge grouper. There is quite a bit of soft coral growth throughout.Dives generally begin at the bow deck, where downlines will be secured. Descents and ascents should always be made along the line to avoid being swept of by frequently tricky currents.Diver overload along with looting and vandalism have taken their toll on the Thistlegorm, and in all likelihood, the Egyptian authorities may soon ban diving on her altogether in order to protect the well-being of this “World War II time capsule”. Yet, it is still considered a vital hub of wreck-diving in the Red Sea, and to the diver is conceived as one of the most sought after wreck-dives in the world. Truly, the Thistlegorm must be one of the best dive sites ever known.
This wreck is located at Beacon rock to the north of Ras Mohamed National Park.She is a Steam ship constructed in 1870 in England, 82 meters long and 10meters wide. Now she lies upside down on the seabed between 18 and 30 meters. Although the wreck by herself is not as spectacular as some of the other red sea wrecks the life that is on and around her is stunning. She is completely encrusted in hard and soft corals of all colors. Inside certain parts of the wreck thousands of glass fish circulate, shrimps have made their homes inside small crevices, and a whole host of reef fish live around the wreck. It is also not uncommon to see reef sharks near the wreck, an on occasions an oceanic white tip shark has also been spotted here.
from the drop off point descend onto the Plateau that stretches from 15 meters out to 20 meters then drops off. Along the plateau there are four smaller coral pillars covered with gargonia and soft corals. All around this plateau you can usually find large fish such as grouper being cleaned by cleaner wrasse and shrimps, the cleaners are also sometimes found serviceing large sting rays or even leopard sharks. Apart from being a cleaning station it is also packed with reef fish.
Always present groups of trevally and barracuda, wonderful This site is situated on the extreme south tip of the Sinai, where the two Gulfs (Suez and Aqaba) meet, this causes some currents which make this are a very rich in marine life including barracuda, unicorn fish, turtles, eagle rays, jack fish and of course every divers dream: sharks. There is a small sandy plateau which separates the two reefs but you can do both reefs in only one dive. Shark reef is on the east side and has a wall which reaches to almost 800 meters and is covered by soft corals, normally made as a drift dive. Swimming to the west at 30 meters there is a small plateau which is covered by coral and signals the start of the Yolanda Reef. This reef is completely different from Shark Reef, here you can see table corals, large gorgonias, morays and quite often turtles. In 1980 a container ship sank here which is where the reef received its name, although it is not possible to visit the wreck (it lies at 200 meters) you can find many items of her cargo including toilets, baths, sinks and tubes. All are still in excellent condition. You can also see rays, triggerfish, bluefish, morays, jackfish and tuna.
Many anemones together with the clownfish and their cleaner shrimps. This dive is normally done as a combination with Shark and Yolanda reefs or if a strong current is present just with Shark Observatory. The dive begins on the wall at Aneomne city, then taking a compass heading swim out into the blue, the water is more than 700meters deep here, so wherever you look there is only blue, after a short swim the huge pinakle that is shark reef begins to come into view. It is quite common to meet schools of tuna and Baracuda or even a shark in the blue.
The walls are so deep here it is often difficult to find your position in the water as they seem to go on forever. The walls are covered in soft coral and gorgonias, there are also caves with millions of glassfish, lion and scorpion fish. Also there are canyons where you can sometimes see the leopard grouper. As with all the dives in Ras Mohammed it is made as a drift and the direction of the current differs from day to day. On the southern side of the dive, we pass quite close to Anemone City where the life changes rapidly and you have a vast coral garden where you can see turtles. Keep looking into the blue here as it is common to see large pelagic fish passing by.
This dive site is within the National park area of Ras Mohamed. Near to the start point of the dive there is a huge coral block with 2 large open caves running through it, which make for some exiting photo opportunities, with their schools of glassfish and large lionfsh, or in the early hours of the morning maybe even a sleeping white tip shark. Further along the reef most days you can find the large schools of Jackfish which have given the dive site its name, along with a whole host of reef fish and colorful corals.
This dive site is within the National park area of Ras mohamed, and is a beatiful and colourful drift dive along a plateau covered with small coral blocks and sea fans. All kinds of reef fish can be seen here in large numbers in particular masked butterfly fish and fusilliers, and it is not uncomon to see large schools of jackfish or Tuna, or even a Turtle or a white tip reef shark.
The best place for turtles and in summer sharks. The most northerly reef of a group of 4 characterised by currents which can be quite strong. There are 2 possible dives which are always made as a drift, one inside the reef and the other outside. This is the best place in Sharm to have the chance to see the Hammerhead shark during the summer season, the walls are covered with many types of coral including large gorgonias and the north side gives you the chance of seeing turtles almost every dive.
It is one of the places where it is not always possible to dive due to the waves as there is no protection from the reef. There is a vortice on the north side caused by the currents found here called the â€œwashing machineâ€ which can transportthe divers into the blue where they can see large deep water fish, certainly a dive for experienced divers.
Turtle, pelagic fish and sharks can be seen on this small reef. Practically a circular reef, on the east side there is a small plateau ending in a canyon from which the reef takes its name. Here the canyon is so deep that the divers have to be very careful not to exceed recreational dive limits The dive is made from the south to north and you will find a wonderful variety of colours and many pelagic fish. The normal ending point of the dive is on the plateau where you find a pinnacle surrounded by gorgonias, masses of fish and good chances to see turtles
This is the most southerly reef of the Tiran reefs, made famous by the wreck â€œLoulliaâ€ which hit the north end of the reef 20 years ago and today is still perched on top. The east part of the site has a plateau with many coral pinnacles with a maximum depth of 30 meters. The south east side has a large sandy plateau which is approx 150 meters away from the main reef called â€œthe shark poolâ€ due to the fact that there are usually some white tip reef sharks resting here.
Descending from the usual drop off point you reach a plateau from 15meters next to the reef till 30 meters after this it drops off into the blue. All along the plateau reef fish form schools around the vibrantly colored hard and soft corals Occasionaly glance out into the blue and you may be rewarded with the sighting of a grey reef shark or a passing school of baraccuda. At the end of the dive the boat will be waining in the lagoon formed at the saddle between this reef and Jackson reef at a depth of about 10 meters.
Eagle rays, manta rays can be seen. Located at the end of the Tiran strait of the Sinai peninsular composed of a small bay with a depth of 5 or 6 meters which then drops off to 60 meters. The best depth of the dive is between 12 and 15 meters where you can find small caves, tunnels and passages. As this is a small peninsular it is quite easy to find yourself swimming against the current which can be quite strong at times. It is possible to see large groups of pelagic fish and sometimes mantas. Occasionally there are whale sharks here.
An impressive wall, tuna and jackfish are normally seen here. Takes its name from a fossilised tower which is located to the south of the bay. It is characterised by a small canyon and caves full of glassfish. There are also many brown and spotted groupers to be found here. In the blue you can see many blue fusillers and their predators including jackfish and barracudas. There are also some gorgonias on the south side, the visibility is usually great and you can choose your maximum depth depening on your certification level.
Manta rays can also be seen here at certain times of the year. A typical dive of Sharm El Sheikh, with gorgonias, many types of coral, barracudas, napoleon fish. All these things can be seen reaching down past 30 meters. At one part of this dive there is a large plateau with many coral towers which are extremely rich in small fish such as trigger fish, puffer fish and crocodile fish, sometimes a strong current is present here.
This is the place where you can find the most simple canyon formations of the Sinai coast. Starting at only 10 meters and continuing down to 32 meters during the dive you will dive in a coral garden until you reach a plateau with a sandy bottom where you will see sand eels. Finally you reach a location which is very rich in plankton and is a good source of food to manta rays which can be found here all year.
This dive site is close to Naama bay, and can also be dived from the shore as well as by boat, the reef slopes slowly down from the surface to 30 meters before dropping off, close to the start point there are a series of four pinnacles the first one in 10 meters and the other three slowly deeper, the last is on the edge of the drop off at around 25 meters, around these pinnacles there are many sea fans and soft corals, schools of Baraccuda often pass by, as well as thousands of fusilleres. This dive site is also a popular haunt for Napolean fish, and is often chosen as the sight for a night dive, where beggining the dive at sunset you can watch the complete transformation from day to night on the reef.
There are many pinnacles which reach up all the way the surface, the best way to do the dive is to start at 25 meters keeping the reef on the left looking out to the blue on the right, ascending slowly to 10 or 12 meters where you will find a lot of small caves full of glassfish and many pinnacles to investigate on your way back to the boat, it is a good place to see jack fish, napoleons and moray eels. Sometimes eagle rays have alos been seen here.
also makes a relaxing dive for more experienced divers. Although the name shark bay would suggest an abundance of sharks this is not necessarily the case. Here you enter the water form the beach, and can immediately begin your dive in the shallow water, and descend slowly along the bottom. The reef here is frequented by large groups of sweetlips , butterfly fish masked banner fish to name but a few. The sheltered bay make for a calm dive perfect for beginners and also for night diving. By starting a nightdive at sunset you will have the chance to watch the reef transform from day to night as the daytime dwellers take find sheltered spots away from the night hunters such as octops, Lion fish and Lobsters.
This dive site has to be one of the most talked about dive spots on the red sea, and is deffinatly a must for every divers log book. This dive is normally done in conjunction with ‘The Bells’ after a scenic drive from Sharm, you will arrive at a small bedowin camp/ bar restaurant. From here you get kited up and then begin the dive at ‘The Bells’ from there swimming with the sheer reef wall covered with corals, on you right hand side, slowly ascending until you find a large archway between 7 and 15 meters which is the entrance to the Blue hole, pass into the whole and you can make a circuit around until you reach the exit point, inside the hole schools of juvenile fish take shelter and sea fans cover the walls.
A short walk along the waters edge from the gearing area you pass by memorial plaques for divers who pushed the limits too far at th blue hole. After this you reach the entry point to sitting at the waters edge you can put you fins on and lower youself into the blue pool in the reef top, a maximum of two divers can enter at a time, descend down and you will find yourself in a large cavern or ‘bell’ with a crack wide enough to swim out of, inside the cavern you can find shrimps and morays hiding in small crevices, after this you can descend into the second ‘bell’ where similar life also dwells after taking time to look around the bells you can exit through the crack and keeping the wall on your right hand side swim in the directio Blue Hole which will be your exit point. The reef wall has a wide variety of life hard and soft corals and always a chance to see a reef shark, on occasion Hammerhead sharks have also been seen here.
Back along the dirt road in the direction of the town you can find the entry point for this dive, enter the water into a small lagoon, then cross over the reef top at around 3 meters then begin your descent keeping the reef on your left side at around 12 meters you will find the entrnce into a large crack in the reef which is the canyon, you can choose to enter and desend on the canyon, or descend from outside and chose your entry point into the large canyon. The canyon drops well beyond 30meters, but there are three easy exit/entry points between 28metes and the top of the canyon. Inside glassfish school and Lion fish cruise around, there are also great photo opportunities. After you have finished exploring the canyon itself take time around the reef to look at the small coral blocks all surrounded by reef fish before making your way back to the entry/exit point.