Cousteau’s favourite dive sites

Many dive sites close to Cousteau’s own heart had since become world-renowned. But which were the great explorer’s top 10 favourites?

  1. Shaab Rumi, Sudan
  2. Sipadan, Malaysia
  3. Cocos Island, Costa Rica
  4. Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand
  5. Aliwal Shoal, South Africa
  6. Vancouver Island, Canada
  7. Blue Hole, Belize
  8. Cozumel, Mexico
  9. Heron Island, Australia
  10. Richelieu Rock, Thailand

It is no surprise that Sudan’s Shaab Rumi made the list, after all, great experiences, and exciting work and discoveries connect him to this site. Marvellous diving and an Academy Award. Jacques Cousteau, also known as the father of scuba diving, not only loved diving in this region of the Red Sea, but he had made several discoveries as well.

Jacques Cousteau, or Captain Cousteau to many, was a world-famous marine explorer who dedicated his entire life to marine discoveries. His main fields of interest bore not only great significance to science, but they also raised the curiosity of the general public. He garnered absolute fame with his underwater experiments he conducted in the beginning of the 1960s. Can man live underwater for a prolonged period of time? As part of his Precontinent II experiment, he spent a month living underwater, which they documented in a film. The film, titled “World Without Sun”, was awarded the Oscar in the category of Best Documentary Feature. It says a lot that of all the seas in the world, he chose the Sudanese Red Sea for his experiment. Though to those who had been to Sudan before, this is a no-brainer. One thing is for certain – Captain Cousteau had definitely managed to place Sudan into the psyche of divers.

Anybody who had dived in Egypt before knows that the Red Sea is an amazing and excellent place for scuba diving. Yet, one cannot simply think that if they had dived in Egypt, they saw everything the Red Sea has to offer. Far from the truth, since the Sudanese Red Sea is exceptional and incomparable. While you dive in the same Red Sea in both countries, the two experiences could not be any different. In Egypt hundreds of liveaboards sail the waters, but in Sudan this number barely reaches ten. The result of which may be that during a liveaboard trip, you see no other boat in sight. Sudan hides the most gorgeous and most pristine coral reefs in the Red Sea that shelter an feed its entire marine life.

This is where you will find the Red Sea’s marine life at its most abundant. Sudan’s warm and crystal clear waters support over 400 species of corals, and over 1,500 species of fish, turtles, and sharks. Large fish live here in large numbers, many of which are rare and even endangered. Here you will always see barracudas, spotted rays, morays, and giant parrotfish, to name a few. The coastal waters of Sudan are also ranked among the top sites for shark lovers. You will encounter grey reef, silky, hammerhead, white-tip, and whale sharks in this region.

If you had a diving bucket list, what would you include? If Sudan is up there, then…

… you should know that the most ideal time for diving in Sudan is between February and May. During these months water temperatures are around 25-28C, and this is when the marine life is at its best and richest. Dive with us on one of our trips:

And now would be a good time to mention that you can visit more of Cousteau’s favourite sites with us, like Mexico (Socorro and Guadalupe).

We are happy to send you further details. Send your inquiries to: info@cassiopeiasafari.com

LAST MINUTE SOCORRO!

Visit Mexico’s world-famous Revillagigedo islands in 2019! Spend a week onboard M/Y Cassiopeia and dive the awesome sites of Socorro, Roca Partida and San Benedicto!

Tour date: January 15-22, 2019

Original Price: 3 400 USD

Last Minute Offer: 2 990 USD / person + Free Nitrox 

Socorro Island is well-known for its manta rays and hammerhead sharks. It is also one of the most famous places in the world to swim with humpback whales. Socorro is the largest of the four volcanic islands in the vast Pacific that form the Revillagigedo Archipelago.

The Revillagigedo Islands are four volcanic islands that form an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, which are under Mexican federal jurisdiction and are part of the Mexican state of Colima. San Benedicto Island, the island closest to mainland shores, lies about 550km from the Mexican state of Jalisco, and about 400km from the tip of the Baja California Peninsula.

Most of the islands’ surface is of volcanic origins with some sandy shores, with no source of fresh water (except for Socorro where a smaller reservoir can be found). Climate is very hot but not arid. On lower-lying areas of Socorro Island, for instance, the average annual precipitation is about 600mm, and on higher grounds it can reach up to 1,200mm as well. Most precipitation falls in the summer months, and the rest of the year (from February until May) is very dry. Water temperatures in this part of the ocean are around 25°C, and the salt content of the water is the lowest in the world here, at 28‰. Prevailing wind direction is from the Northeast.

The four islands were discovered on four different dates. First, Socorro Island was spotted on December 19, 1533 by Spanish sailors led by Hernando de Grijalva. A few days later, on December 28, 1533 they officially recorded the sighting of another island, San Benedicto Island. The first sighting of Roca Partida was recorded by the Spanish expedition of Ruy Lopez de Villalobis in November, 1542, and later that year, Clarion Island also came out of anonymity thanks to the same expedition.

 

10-day diving program:

Dive sites

1.) Roca Partida Island

The smallest of the four islands, Roca Partida (“Split Rock”) is essentially two barren peaks that rise out of the ocean and are split by a low-lying rock area, hence the name. The island is about 91m long and 45m wide, and its taller peak ends at 34m. Of the four islands, this one lies in the middle. Clarion is 290km south-southwest, Socorro is 110km east-southeast, and San Benedicto is 135km east-northeast.

Beneath it, the sea teems with rich marine life. Divers have branded this spot one of the most magnificent diving experiences in the world, and no wonder. The rich eco system is home to large schools of jackfish and tuna, and  schools of hammerhead, white-tip, whale and Galapagos sharks that patrol the area. Playful dolphins and majestic mantas dance in the great blue while some silver-tip sharks take refuge in the caves.

 

2.) San Benedicto Island

This is the easternmost island of the group and closest to the mainland. It is 4.4km long and its widest part runs 2.3km. Its surface area is less than 10km2. It boasts two prominent peaks, the taller one (about 300m), on the southwestern part of the island, actually forming a volcanic crater. The smaller one lies on the northeastern part of the island. On the eastern side there is a spot for mooring.

The secret of the island is The Boiler, home to giant Pacific manta rays, some with a wingspan of up to 8m. These gentle creatures meet and greet divers, curiously playing and dancing around them. The encounters with such magnificent giants leave divers with ever-lasting memories. The Canyon surprises with large schools of hammerhead, Galapagos, silky, dusky, and white-tip sharks appearing out of the deep blue.

 

3.) Socorro Island

With an area of 132km2Socorro is the largest island in the archipelago. Originally Santo Tomas, it is named after Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Virgen del Perpetuo Socorro). The island is a volcano (Mount Evermann) that rises out of the ocean to a height of 1,050m above the surface, making it the tallest of the four islands. There is a small naval station on the western side of the island and a small village where the staff and their families are stationed. The village is served by a dock, a medical centre, a school, a church, and a canteen. There is a small fresh-water spring and also a distillation system for producing drinking water. The steep western shore walls hide numerous caves that had been carved out by the force of the ocean.

The island serves up delightful dive spots for adventure seekers like Cabo Pearce with its playful dolphins. The show of black and chevron mantas, silky sharks, and humpback whales whizzing by in the strong currents can be enjoyed from the protection of the boulders. Punta Costa’s medley of corals and gorgeous tropical fish shine in brilliant colours. The mysterious tiger shark makes its presence known while dolphins and torpedo rays provide lively entertainment. Roca O’Neil is home to a large school of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Silk, silver-tip, Galapagos, and grey reef sharks round out the eclectic mix with various species of tropical fish hovering over the reef. Diamond sting rays majestically fly in the blue, always ready for a chance encounter.

Cultural Programs in Mexico:

While in Mexico, expand your cultural experience and stop in Mexico City! Enjoy an additional day or two in Mexico and visit some grand sights, for example:

The ancient city of ruins Teotihuacan, lies in the northeastern part of the Valley of Mexico in the state of Mexico (about 40km from Mexico City). Its Mesoamerican pyramids are not the only attractions. The expansive residential quarters, the Avenue of the Dead, and the well-preserved colourful murals all bear anthropological significance.

The mere size of this ancient city makes it an impressive sight. Its name roughly means “The place of those who have the road of the Gods” (Thelma D. Sullivan). The history of the city is not clear but one thing is for sure—the Aztecs “inherited” this magical place way after it had already been completed (but already in some ruins). The two prominent features of the city are the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of the Moon. The ancient city’s original area covered about 20km2. The section of the Avenue of the Dead (starting from the Pyramid of the Moon), that had been uncovered to this date, is also kilometres long. While the buildings in Teotihuacan are not very decorated, it is these dark and blackish colours and the echo reverberating among the buildings that make it so eerie. And when standing at the foot of the Pyramid of the Sun, you have the same feeling, and with reason, just like the Aztecs did, that this structure was not created by man. It is the third largest known pyramid in the world. According to archaeologists’ measurements and calculations, the base area of the Pyramid of the Sun is believed to be the exact size of the Great Pyramid of Giza’s base area. The top of this pyramid provides the best view onto the entire city.

In the north of Mexico City is where you will find the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most important pilgrimage site in North America for Christians. It is also called La Villa or La Villa de Guadalupe as it has several other buildings and three magnificent churches.

 

For more information, write to us: info@cassiopeiasafari.com

We look forward to welcoming you onboard M/Y Cassiopeia in Mexico too!

YOUR LITTLE BLACK BOOK ON SUDAN DIVING – OR EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DIVING IN SUDAN

The word “Sudan” is often enough to ward off visitors, who are relatively scarce in numbers, to a country whose name conjures up such a scary image. Yet, who does travel here, will surely experience one of the greatest journeys of their lives, and with reason. Prior to 2011, Sudan was the largest country in Africa but after the separation of Sudan and South Sudan, the country has lost substantial land area, becoming the third largest country on the continent.

For average divers, Sudan is a relatively unknown and not a very popular destination. Sadly the media mostly focuses on the tumult between the two countries, and rarely highlights the beauty of the country, the lives of its people, and all it has to offer. Perhaps, when it comes to Sudan’s sights, the best known fact may be that it has more pyramids than Egypt, though fewer have been excavated.

When it comes to divers, Sudan is one of those destinations where you simply must dive, if only once in your lifetime. The marine life beneath the Sudanese Red Sea blows away even the most travelled and experienced divers! These waters amaze even hammerhead, reef shark, barracuda, and wreck lovers. Anyone who has dived in Sudan, never left disappointed. This is an awesome dive spot in the lesser known areas of the Red Sea. While in Egypt hundreds of dive boats coast the waters, this number in Sudan is close to only ten. This in turn promises sailing when for days there would be no other boats in sight.

 

  • Diving season: From February until May. The weather is still cooler and windy until February, and by the end of May both air and water temperatures become too hot for man and animal, and most of the large fish migrate to the south.
  • Marine life: Hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, schools of barracuda, turtles, countless soft and hard corals, large schools of fish in the form of colourful giant balls, mantas, dolphins, and the list just goes on…
  • Wrecks: Umbria, Precontinent II (Conshelf, scooter hangar, multi-level cylinder-shaped station, deep cabin at 30m, and at 10m, a starfish-shaped house).
  • Routes: Classic North, North, Ultimate Sudan, South, 1-week Deep South, 2-week Deep South.
  • Most famous dive sites: Shaab Rumi, Shaab Rumi south plateau, wreck of Umbria, Sanganeb, Shaab Jibna, Shaab Ambar.
  • Travelling there: From your country of residence – via Dubai – to Port Sudan.
  • Sudanese visa: May be arranged at the Sudanese Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence, or through our office in Port Sudan.

 

To divers who have not been to Sudan before, first we recommend the North route and the Ultimate tour the second time around. The Deep South route is recommended for divers who have been returning to Sudan regularly, who are experienced, and who are ready for a genuine underwater adventure. Now let us talk about the itineraries in more detail!

CLASSIC NORTH TOUR – TO SHAAB SUEDI

What makes this tour interesting is that with relatively little sailing time, you are able to enjoy some of the grandest dive spots in the Red Sea. A good example is Shaab Rumi where you can spend several days exploring the reef. This is a perfect route for those who are visiting the Sudanese Red Sea for the first time. The beautiful lagoon, surrounded by the reef, can be accessed through a narrow passageway that Cousteau himself blew into the reef. Outside of the lagoon is Cousteau’s famous underwater world, the Precontinent II, that is a testament to how man is capable of living under the water. The land strip stretching into the open sea at the southernmost point of Shaab Rumi promises an exciting dive with its steep drop-offs and amazing species of fish such as grey reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, barracuda, tuna, batfish, and coral groupers.

Possible dive sites: Shaab Rumi, Shaab Rumi south plateau, wreck of Umbria, Sanganeb

FAR NORTH TOUR – TO ANGAROSH OR ABINGTON

This special route is offered by only a handful of liveaboards, so it is a favourite among divers who prefer to dive away from the crowds. This peaceful “neighbourhood” is also home to most of the sharks in these parts. This itinerary covers a large area and includes excellent dive sites all the way as far north as Angarosh or Abington. Hundreds of barracuda swarm amongst the brilliant cherry- and purple-coloured gorgonians (sea whip corals) alongside of a colourful array of fish, and of course, hammerheads. One of the sites on this route is Umbria, the wreck of an Italian cargo ship that lies at 25 metres on the sea floor, still laden with close to 18 tons of ammunition and explosives. She is home to schools of barracuda, spiny fish species, butterflyfish, and myriads of red tropical coral fish.

Possible dive sites: Gurna, Angarosh, Merlo Reef, Shambaia, Gotta el Bana, Shaab Rumi, Shaab Rumi south plateau, Sanganeb, wreck of Umbria

ULTIMATE OR BEST OF SUDAN TOUR

This itinerary promises and delivers an utterly perfect experience with the exciting combination of dive sites from the northern and southern parts. This is the perfect route for those who have not dived in Sudan before because they can sample the best of both regions. Sanganeb, Sudan’s first national park, boasts an abundant marine life that includes over 120 coral species. Shaab Jibna (sometimes spelled Jumna) is a quaint dive site with caves and reef walls where fish dart through the crevices with hammerhead sharks cruising nearby. Cousteau conducted his underwater experiments at Shaab Rumi which is a shallow reef with steep walls. It promises an exciting adventure of discovering the tools and buildings that were left behind and still offer a glimpse into the lives of men living here decades ago. Shaab Rumi is especially famous for its various shark species, and this is the best place to meet up with hammerhead sharks during the spring season. The wreck of Umbria is protected by Wingate Reef. The Italian cargo ship is over 150m long and she is still harbouring her military cargo (bombs, ammunition, detonators) from WWII. While near Port Sudan and learning of Italy having officially declared war, she was scuttled by her own crew to prevent the precious cargo getting into the hands of the British.

Possible dive sites: Sanganeb, Shaab Jibna, Shaab Ambar, Shaab Rumi, Shaab Rumi south plateau, wreck of Umbria

SOUTH TOUR

This itinerary is for advanced divers who are up for a challenge. We visit the best of the southern sites, promising an unforgettable experience. Most islands and reefs are actually peaks of deep underwater structures that provide a perfect location for various species of sharks, tuna, and barracuda. Shaab Jibna, Shaab Ambar, Keary Reef and Protector Reef entice with spectacular dives.

Possible dive sites: Shaab Jibna, Shaab Ambar, Pinnacle, Keary Reef, Logan Reef, Pender Reef, Protector, Preserver Reef, Burkut Island, Hidi Gidir, wreck of Umbria

2-WEEK DEEP SOUTH TOUR

We recommend this route to divers who have been to Sudan before and would like to see even more of her, as well as to those advanced and experienced divers who would like to be part of a true adventure. During this very unique tour we sail southward all the way to Dahrait Abid, close to the Eritrean border, and we visit sites like Masamirit, Barra Mussa, the reefs of Keary, Pender, Logan and Protector, Shaab Ambar, and Umbria, among the many. The pristine waters and the mostly undiscovered sites hide a wondrous marine life and astounding shark sightings. Only a couple of liveaboards dare to attempt to sail this route, making this a truly one-of-a-kind diving trip. We only recommend it to advanced divers.

Possible dive sites: Shaab Jibna, Shaab Ambar, Keary Reef, Logan Reef, Protector Reef, Preserver Reef, Barra Musa Saghir, Karam Masamirit, Ghab Abi Island, Dahrat Qab Island, Qab Miyum, Dahrat Abid, Dahrat Ed Dak Hilat, Ed Domesh Shesh Island, Shaab Loka, Barra Musa Kebir, Shaab Tawil, Nakhalat Pinnacle, Pender Reef, wreck of Umbria

Available places in 2019

If you have already dived in the Egyptian Red Sea and you are looking for something new, or you just want to do something extraordinary, travel to Sudan and join one of M/Y Andromeda’s trips! In 2019 we have scheduled the following departures:

 

  • February 15 – February 22 (North)
  • February 22 – March 1 (FULL)
  • March 1 – March 8 (North)
  • March 8 – March 15 (North)
  • March 15 – March 22 (FULL)
  • March 22 – March 29 (Ultimate)
  • April 1 – April 8 (Ultimate)
  • April 8 – April 22 (2-week Ultimate)
  • April 22 – May 6 (2 weeks, Ultimate + Deep South) (with a short stop between)
  • May 6 – May 13 (North)
  • May 13 – May 19 (FULL)

 

Diving in the Sudanese Red Sea is an experience that promises wonderful coral reefs, giant balls of colourful tropical fish, and an unparalleled variety of shark, fish and manta species that take diving to the next level.

Man also played an important role in elevating Sudan to be a divers’ Paradise. Numerous wreckages lie beneath the sea, Umbria being one of them, the world-famous and awe-inspiring wreck. Shaab Rumi has been sheltering for decades the remnants of Precontinent II (including the favourite Conshelf), the ambitious underwater experiment of Cousteau’s. In 1963 he and his team conducted experiments on whether it was possible for man to live underwater for extended periods of time. You can learn some more about this in one of our earlier articles.

 

We look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions or you are ready to come onboard. Write to us at info@cassiopeiasafari.com!

photos by Daniel Selmeczi

MEETING UP WITH GREAT WHITE SHARKS ON M/Y CASSIOPEIA!

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Guadalupe is a volcanic island in Mexico, about 240km west of the Baja California Peninsula. The island’s population is just over 200, and that includes fishermen, some farmers and navy personnel. One of the most prevalent animals of the island are seals. Their population counts over 10,000 individually registered animals. The island’s elephant seals attract hungry great white sharks like magnet, and in return, these predators become the main attraction for brave divers who travel here to observe these magnificent creatures in crystal clear waters.

Guadalupe is not your average diving site. You will not see colourful corals or huge schools of fish here, and you will not be able to take macro shots of the marine life either. You will not even need fins. Guadalupe is about diving with great white sharks – in cages.

Huge great white shark population

There are 242! individual great white shark specimens that had been identified in the bay where divers are lowered into the ocean from the boat in cages. This is one of the best sites in the world to encounter these fantastic predators, from the safety of cages. There are only a handful of sites on Earth where you can see great whites in such huge numbers and Guadalupe is one of them. Cage diving at this island could not be any better. The pristine waters promise visibility of up to 40m or more!

Diving in cages

This explains why divers who love sharks travel to this site, for example to photograph great whites from up close. You do not even have to be a diver to live through this unforgettable experience. Non-divers will be lowered into the water inside the cages just to below the surface, breathing through hookah diving hoses with surface air supply, while divers will descend to 12m deep and marvel at the empire of the great white shark.

Why is the great white shark so special?

It is one of the largest predators in the world. It grows to an average length of 4.6m but 6m-long specimens are not rare either. They are capable of swimming at speeds of up to 60km/h. The 300 sharp, triangular teeth grow in 7 rows in the animals’ jaws. They spend most of their time close to the water surface, and close to their prey which are lion seals, fur seals, whales, and other species of sharks. They are known to be loners and always on the move. At times they will peek out of the water with their heads above the surface to check out their surroundings, a rare behaviour that is representative of very few shark species. They are capable of leaping out of the water partially or even with their entire body as they cruise under the water at great speeds. This behaviour can be best observed when they are on the hunt for fur seals.

Your boat: M/Y Cassiopeia

Great white shark season at Guadalupe Island: August – November

Location: Guadalupe Island, Mexico

Program

(Exact timetable will be sent to passengers.)

Arrival day: arrival in hotels
Day 1: pick-up from hotels at 08:00 and 09:00, transfer to the boat, embarkation, sailing out at 13:00
Day 2: first dive at 08:00
Day 3: diving
Day 4: diving
Departure day: arrival in Ensenada at 11:00, disembarkation at 13:00

Diving

The number of dives per day is not limited but divers must take turns to give everyone equal water dive. Water temperatures may be a bit cool, around 17-22C (63-72F), and it is a good idea to take breaks between dives to warm up. All dives are performed in groups of 3-4. The vessel is equipped with 4 diving cages. The length of dives is usually about 30-40 minutes. Hookah air supply (surface-supplied air) is used for the dives. There are no night dives on this itinerary. Usually the cages are immersed in the water to a maximum diving depth at around 12m (39feet) or divers may stay in the cage at the surface. Waters are crystal clear and visibility is excellent, more than 40m (131 feet). Currents are not very prevalent but may occur. Snorkelling is not allowed on this itinerary. Passengers will be briefed by the guides before each dive.

Tour price: USD 3,300 / person

The price includes:

  • Full-board accommodations onboard in double cabins
  • All meals, snacks, drinks (beer and wine in limited quantities)
  • Transfers between boat and Holiday Inn Express in San Diego, CA and Hotel Palacio Azteca  in Tijuana, Mexico
  • Cage diving
  • Dive guide services
  • Bed linens and towel use, beach towel use

 

The price does not include:

  • Flight tickets
  • Transfers between airports and boat
  • Visa
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Single-cabin surcharge: 75% of the price
  • Non-diver discount: 30% off the price
  • Children’s rate: 70% of the price
  • Marine park and port fees: $78/person (payable on site in cash)
  • Equipment rental: $60/wet suit
  • Satellite phone use: $3.50/minute
  • Gratuities for crew and dive guides ($250/person recommended)
  • Personal expenses
  • Touristic programs
  • Diving and travel insurance
  • All other expenses not mentioned above

 

For further details, contact us at info@cassiopeiasafari.com !