Overview of some of the more important dive sites in Sudan:
This reef lies 48km from Port Sudan and surrounds a gorgeous lagoon which can be accessed through a narrow strait having been blasted by Cousteau himself. Outside of the lagoon, just 100m from its entrance is where in 1963, Cousteau built Precontinent II – his futuristic world. Here he conducted his underwater experiments and today the Precontinent provides an insight into the lives of those who had lived under the water in futuristic looking buildings and conducted research on marine life. The cages used for shark feedings still lie where they used to in Cousteau’s time. Sharks still come here as they did decades ago.
The wreck of Umbria
Since Port Sudan used to be one of the most important ports in the world, there are numerous exciting wrecks waiting to be discovered. One of them is Umbria, a large Italian vessel that lies on the sea bottom about 1 ½km from Port Sudan. She lies at 25m at about a 45-degree angle and in low tide the tips of her two masts even peek out of the water for an easy dive. About 18 tons of ammunition and explosives lie still in her cargo holdings along with half a million of Maria Teresa coins. Originally she was on her way to Eritrea with her cargo but she happened to set anchor in Sudan when Italy proclaimed war with the country. So the Sudanese occupied the boat and they were about to order the Italians off Umbria when they got the news that she was sinking.
It is exciting to discover all the rooms and cargo spaces, some of which have remained completely intact like the bakery and the engine room. Fiat Lagunas, bottled wine and ammunition are lined up in the cargo hulls. Lots of snapper fish and sea lilies found home under the giant rudder by the stern. Lots of tiny comical cleaning crabs live near the collapsed funnel on one of the gangways which start to clean our hands if we put them on the bridge. Around the wreck we can run into barracudas, butterflyfish, spiny fish and schools of tiny red fish. On the right side of the boat corals bloom like bunches of rosehip bushes.
The Sanganeb National Park is made up of 124 coral reefs. Its lighthouse, resembling a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower, emerges in the middle of the sea. A few Sudanese soldiers are always on duty here for 3-4 months at a time, welcoming every visitor with joy. Upon descending, as if an Asian temple city had sunken to the bottom of the sea with sprawling vines in multitude of colours over its ruins. Vertical gorges slice through the rocks and lush colt corals spread out like blooming plants in the rainforest. Scores of fish swim among the rocks and grooves as schools of sharks glide by peacefully.
The name means ”Mother of Sharks” in the local language and it is deserving as grey reef sharks regularly turn up along the outer walls. The tip of the reef lies 10m beneath the water surface and it is made up of 2 plateaus, one at 25m and the other at 45m where mantas swim in the deep and barracudas swirl above the plateaus.