Red Sea November 2023
We’ve just completed a brilliant week in the Red Sea, diving with Blue O2: good company, lovely diving, good food and nice weather.
There were 17 of us in our dive group (22 divers total on the boat) of which 13 were iDive members. We dived 18 times on 11 different sites and the iDive divers did a total of 212 dives.
The dive sites were great: 30m+ Viz at times, the water temp was about 27˚ C and we generally had light winds and calm conditions.
For me, the standout dives were Elphinstone, the Numidia wreck on Big Brother, and Nemo City on Daedalus Reef. The wreck of the Salem Express was very good too, but it was sobering diving on a wreck where 100s of people lost their lives 😢.
I saw, for the first time: thresher sharks, white-tipped oceanic sharks, and a manta ray 👍. In addition to all the beautiful reef fish I notably saw Napoleon wrasse, some large moray eels, barracuda, large tuna, octopus, squid, and, at night, lovely basket, and feather stars.
Blue O2 called this itinerary ‘Simply the Best’ and it was great. I’ve been to the Red Sea a few times but never visited so many different dive sites in one week or travelled so far. I’ll be back.
Congratulations to both Ali Sutor and Jim Spurling who completed their 40m depth progression dives with Martin Royal (thanks Martin) their instructor.
Firstly, I would like to thank Alan for arranging the Red Sea trip. As he mentioned there were 17 of us in our group, 12 men and 5 women, and the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable. The other 5 divers were also very friendly and joined in with us from the start.
We had three night dives during the trip and, in my opinion, the first at Gotta Abu Ramada was the best. We observed several large moray eels out hunting and 3 octopuses that gave us a great display of their colour changing and contortion abilities. There were also many large trevallies tearing about hunting.
The wreck of the Numidia at Big Brother was stunning, and I would like to have spent more time on her, happily forsaking some dive time. She was absolutely covered in life. We also spotted a thresher shark and an oceanic white-tipped shark there. The white tip cruised past us in 2m of water as we returned to the boat at the end of a dive.
The manta ray at Daedalus was the highlight of the trip for me. During the same dive, we saw a pure white scorpion fish with just a few pale pink specks on his fins. Beautiful.
I particularly enjoyed the sites with numerous aquarium-like pinnacles. As well as their beauty, they allowed divers to take different routes, reducing diver congestion.
We observed so many fish species, far too many to list here, and there were a multitude of truly beautiful soft corals, pulsating in the currents. These were mesmerizing and have enthused me to obtain my own underwater camera.
There were on occasion 15+ liveaboards moored at these sites so there were rather a lot of bubbles at times and a lot of underwater noise from the many zodiacs. We spotted a turtle between the boats on one occasion which was a concern.
This was my first liveaboard experience and I would certainly do it again. It was great to visit some new sites that cannot be reached by day boats. The crew were very helpful with kitting and de-kitting, and I liked the fact that my BCD remained on my tank for the week with overhead filling apparatus. The food was also very good considering the size of the kitchen. The pitch-black night skies were a treat for star gazing and several shooting stars were seen.
The last time John and I were in the Red Sea was back in 2019 and that time we did the Northern Red Sea reefs and wrecks. Then Covid came along, and we didn’t do much diving for 2 years so when Alan Beaumont organised this trip, we jumped at the chance of diving The Brothers, Daedalus Reef, Elphinstone Reef amongst others on the more Southern dive sites.
Water temperature was 27-29C in early November which was like the temperatures encountered diving the Similan Islands in Thailand in February this year. We wore 5mm wetsuits but could have got away with a 3mm one.
At Big Brother
An inquisitive Napoleon Wrasse swam past us and touched a giant moray eel’s head with its rubbery thick lips. On another dive, as we were making our ascent to 5m for the safety stop an Oceanic white tip shark with its entourage of pilot fish swam past but too quickly for John to take a photo.
At Daedalus Reef
This is a very popular dive site and we saw at least 18 liveaboard dive boats in the morning so technically not a highlight but mentioned because it caused a bit of confusion with following our dive guide Mohamed with so many divers from different boats underwater at the same time. After a while we couldn’t see the guide, so we had a self-guided dive which is our preference anyway. The dive brief mentioned sharks but with the numerous divers blowing bubbles we didn’t see any.
However, watching Great Barracuda being cleaned by cleaner wrasse gave John the opportunity to take a photo up close.
Another highlight was being shadowed by a pair of Needle fish which used us as camouflage. One swam just above John’s back and the other was by my side. They followed us a considerable distance and occasionally darted forward to snatch at prey. This was observed by several divers in our group.
At Elphinstone Reef:
This is a lovely reef with sheer vertical reef walls plunging down to 65m plus and covered in hard and soft corals. We were glad our dive guide Mohamed took us to one end of the reef as we’d never previously done this, and we had a gentle drift dive. There can be strong currents off Elphinstone which makes for an exhilarating drift dive and in the past, we’ve done just that.
At Marsa Shouna
A highlight was watching Orbicular Spade fish both on the reef and under the boat.
At Ras Abu Sawmah
Several pinnacles in shallow water are covered in hard and soft corals providing a habitat for moray eels, lionfish, schools of anthias, sergeant majors, damsel fish and soldierfish to mention a few. Lovely to swim from one pinnacle to another.
At Little Giftun
The highlight of this site are the enormous gorgonian sea fans on the reef wall, their size dwarfing the divers who swam past.
At Arouk Towael
Recently sunk ex-military tanks provide interest to divers on this shallow sandy bottom dive site. We watched shrimp gobies guarding the excavated holes in the sand made by blind shrimps. The blind shrimps get a warning of predators when the shrimp goby darts into the hole and the goby has a hole to hide from predators thus making theirs a symbiotic relationship. This was the very last dive of the trip.
Wrecks visited included the Namidia and the Salem Express, the latter was a somewhat bittersweet dive as many lives were lost when it sank. We didn’t see much of the Namidia wreck as most of the interesting bits were too deep but three of the rebreather divers in our group, Dave, Martin, and Paul had the advantage over us.
John and I did 16 dives out of a total of 18 as we did only one of the three night dives offered. The boat crew were friendly and very helpful, and the food catering was fine with the chef baking marbled cakes, pastries etc. on top of the three main meals daily and taking note of food intolerances and preferences. Overall, it was a great dive trip and all thanks to Alan for organising the holiday. We’d also like to thank our fellow divers for the company and shared enjoyment of the sport.