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 !

 

 

The Ultimate Diving Packing List

Taking a diving liveboard trip?

What if you forget something?  No worries.  Just tick and pack, and you are done! 

  • Check the passport/visa requirements for your destination. Does your passport need to be valid 3-6 months following your departure date or have a certain number of blank pages? Do you need a visa? 
  • Check outbound/inbound airline and airport requirements. Determine how long you need to arrive before your flight. 
  • Baggage allowance, the weight and size of your diving equipment and bag are important factors to consider.
  • Make sure you have travel and dive insurance. Determine where the nearest hyperbaric chamber is.
  • Make photocopies of all your travel documents in case of emergency.
  • Read up on the location’s culture and etiquette (Do you need to tip? )  Do you need to dress conservatively (Sudan)?
  • Set automatic out-of-office-replay in your mail system.
  • Make sure you have plenty of room on your camera’s memory card.
  • Leave an extra house key with a family member or friend.
  • When you travel you shouldn’t forget anything important back home (personal medicines, special food if it is needed).
  • Use our ultimate scuba trip checklist to prepare for your next scuba trip.

 

SUDAN IS A DIVERS’ MECCA WHERE WE ARE GREETED BY THE PAST AND THE PRESENT AT ONCE

THE PAST TELLS STORIES OF OLD TIMES, EXPERIMENTS AND WARS

 

Sanganeb boasts the tallest lighthouse in the Red Sea. The 50m-tall tower was built by the British between 1958 and 1964. A mere 268 steps lead all the way up to the look-out where a 360° view awaits us onto the marvelous Red Sea, as far as the eye can see.

 

The Umbria is one of the most famous wrecks in the world. She is easy to dive and she is in an exceptionally well preserved wreck with a length of 150m. She lies in calm waters, void of currents, and protected by the Wingate Reef not far from the harbour of Port Sudan.

 

Her demise was not caused by surging seas but rather was the result of war-time conspiracy, that is, she sank at the hands of her own captain. The Umbria does not lie deep at all, since her deepest point is only at 36m, and the tops of some of its davits even peek out of the water. The parts of the wreck lying at a higher depth can even be dived without scuba equipment. Thanks to plenty of light getting through and to excellent visibility, the virtually intact hull that is overgrown by colourful corals and crustaceans, can be accessed on the inside and on the outside in her entire length.

 About 18 tons of ammunition and explosives still lie in her cargo holdings along with half a million of Maria Teresa coins. One compartment in the bow still holds aerial bombs, airplane tires, storage jars wrapped in straw, rolls of electric cables, and not-yet opened wooden boxes. The bags of cement in the third holding block have now solidified and turned into cement blocks. And right above them are the very much recognizable remnants of three Fiat 100cc Lunga motorcars.

Originally the boat was on her way to Eritrea with her cargo but she happened to set anchor in Sudan when Italy proclaimed war on the country. The Sudanese occupied the boat but then news came that she was sinking.

If you would like to dive the wreck, you can still join us this spring.

 The Precontinent II (Conshell II) is an underwater station at the Reef of Shaab Rumi. To this day it is a favourite dive spot.

Can man live underwater for an extended period of time? The filming of this attempt took place in 1964 at Shaab Rumi when the movie World without Sun was shot. The film was awarded the Oscar for best documentary.

Of the science station, built in the 1960s, only the cone shell and the scooter garage remain at the dive spot. All other elements had been removed from the sea.

 

In March of 2015, Cousteau’s grandson, Fabien and his colleagues came to Sudan to spend a week with us onboard Andromeda, and to dive the same sites that Cousteau did some 50 years earlier.

 AND THE PRESENT…

 … is a wonderful ecosystem, wrecks alive with abundant marine life, and coral reefs that today are part of the world’s most species-rich living systems. Its waters are teeming with hammerhead and reef sharks, dolphins, turtles, barracuda and jackfish, just to name a few!

 

Our weeks with availability:

19/03/2018 – 26/03/2018, North tour

30/04/2018 – 07/05/2018, Best of Sudan (Ultimate) tour

07/05/2018 – 14/05/2018, Deep South tour

 

Air temperatures: 30-35-40C

Water temperatures: 28-29-30C

Visibility: 20-40m

Travel: home – Cairo or Dubai – Port Sudan

 

For our special offers, contact us by e-mail: info@cassiopeiasafari.com !