Supersonic diving safari offers in the Red Sea

Aside from the political unrest in Egypt in the past few months, the diving industry kept ploughing ahead but with fewer divers in August and in September than usual. Most old-timers could not have been persuaded to stay away despite many European countries issuing warnings against travelling to Egypt.

However by the end of September most countries have eased or lifted their travel restrictions and deemed certain areas such as the resort towns and the Cairo airport safe for travel.

Clown fish Red Sea
Taking a breather for these few weeks definitely had a positive impact on the corals and marine life. They had a chance to regenerate and we were able to cruise the Red Sea virtually by ourselves, to the delight of the divers onboard, while most of the diving boats stood idle in the harbours.

We barely needed to jump into the water, there was so much to see. Dolphins circled around our boat and we could barely keep count of the turtles popping their heads out of the water for air. We saw mantas, up to 30 hammerheads at a time, oceanic white-tip sharks and lots of other marvels we thought now only existed in the marine life encyclopedia.

Red Sea dolphin
Life has returned to normal in Egypt in the past couple of weeks. Charter companies have resumed their flights, tourists and divers are arriving in great numbers again to the Red Sea! Many are still trying to catch a few good diving weeks left in the season but there are fewer and fewer available places.

The goldfish turns white without adequate sunshine and we are the same. Sometimes we just must pull up the shades and get that Vitamin D! Diving, good eats, relaxation, sunshine, let’s go!

Our supersonic diving safari offers in the Red Sea:

November 3-10, Brothers+Elphinstone safari with Andromeda
November 10-17, Brothers+Deadalus+Elphinstone safari with Cassiopeia

What we are offering: 27-degree waters, unparalleled diving, mouth-watering meals and simple relaxation. Don’t hesitate, book your trip here: online@cassiopeiasafari.com

Salem Express

THE STORY OF THE SINKING:

egypt_wreck_salem_15

“Salem Express”, an Egyptian ferry, left the port of Jeddah on December 16, 1991, carrying hundreds of passengers, mostly pilgrims, and vehicles. Based in Port Safaga, she used to provide ferry services between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

As night fell, the weather turned extremely windy. Trying to ease the substantial discomfort of the passengers, the captain navigated the boat northward close to the shore, reaching the area between the shore and the Hyndman Reefs by midnight, a treacherous route even in calm weather. They were only about 10km from their destination of Port Safaga. It was impossible to see the reefs ahead and the boat struck one of the southern reefs.

The impact created a huge rip, about 10m long, in the forward hull and opened the hatch to the car deck, allowing tremendous amounts of water to rush into the vessel through not one but two entry points. It took only 20 minutes for the ferry to give in and sink. There was no time to even deploy the life rafts. Many people perished while others tried to swim to safety in the brutal weather. What helped was that the currents were actually carrying them toward the shore. From the 650 persons (official record), 180 survived. The captain, who could have provided answers as to what had really happened, lost his life along with most of the passengers.
Efforts were made to remove the remaining bodies from the wreckage but once the operation had become too dangerous, the wreck was sealed by the navy from further entry. To this day, dive guides do not permit divers to enter the wreck as it is considered to be a cemetery of sort.

DIVING AT THE WRECK:


egypt_wreck_salemIn size she almost mirrors the Thistlegorm and she is one of the larger wrecks in the Egyptian Red Sea. She rests at about 30m on the seabed on her starboard side. It is easy to swim around the large wreck and investigate the superstructure. The infamous hatch to the car deck still lies open as if waiting to load and unload vehicles.

The upper port side of the wreck is at about 10m. Many doors are visible that used to allow entry to the inside which are now sealed. There is a chance to look inside the wreck through the windows of the bridge though there is not much to see as all moveable items had fallen onto the starboard side, which is now the bottom. The portside propeller is an awesome sight. It has not been colonised yet by the usual sea organisms one can find on older wrecks. However the starboard propeller, under the hull, has become home to beautiful red corals.
The dive is more exciting over the railings, on the port side. The main deck is in very good condition and it provides an impressive view, especially in the morning light of the sun. When swimming down the starboard side into the deeper waters, a few life boats are visible on the seabed, still attached to the boat by ropes. From here the two huge funnels, connected by a stabiliser, are also visible with their large “S” marks.
The aft deck, where deck passengers were stationed, used to be shaded from the sun by corrugated iron roofing the remains of which now lie scattered on the seabed.
The wreck is already covered by beautiful hard corals and is home to a large colony of fish. Shoals of sweet lips swim around the stern section keeping company with angelfish, butterfly fish and goatfish. In the sand blue-spotted stingrays slither around.

Playing with wild dolphins

Let’s face it, Shaab El Erg is not the most beautiful or the most famous diving spot in the Red Sea. It is only one of the hundreds of reefs alike. This week we have had a few beginner divers in our group, so we had decided on this protected bay to be the site of the first dive. The 8-10m depth is perfect for a check dive.

Playing with wild dolphins in the egyptian Red Sea
After jumping into the water, the usual Red Sea marine life was waiting for us – tiny red fish near the reef, black and yellow angelfish in pairs and on the sea bottom, barbels were digging for food in the sand. Blue-spotted ray – check. Murena underneath the reef – check. We were about halfway into our dive when dolphins showed up unexpectedly. Their familiar whistles and the gentle easy with which they glided through the water took our breath away. They circled us a few times, took a closer look at us and then as quickly as they came, they disappeared. Once onboard, we were all excited to share our experiences with the dolphins. Can you imagine what an unforgettable joy it is for someone to meet with dolphins on their first ever dive in the sea!

On the following dive, two of the more advanced divers decided to explore the rest of the reef with underwater scooters. But they had to can the idea because as soon as they entered the water, the dolphins showed up again. They were behaving a bit odd, moving their heads up and down, swimming on their backs and taking a closer look at us but they were even more interested in the scooters. Once the divers had realised this, a happy game began to play out between them and the dolphins but let the video say it all:

I have been diving for more than 10 years and have almost 600 dives but I have never experienced anything this exciting! Don’t miss this place when you are in Egypt!

Text and video: Istvan Sulyok
Photo: Daniel Selmeczi

Ghiannis D

THE STORY OF THE SINKING:

Ghiannis D9She was launched in 1969 from a Japanese shipyard as the “Shoyo Maru”. She was a general cargo vessel of 2,932 gross tonnes and a length of almost 100m.

She was equipped with a Japanese-made 6-cylinder diesel engine capable of producing 3,000 bhp and a top speed of 12 knots.

In 1980 the ship was sold to the Dumarc Shipping and Trading Corporation of Piraeus, Greece and she was re-named Ghiannis D, the “D” standing for Dumarc and it was painted onto her funnel.

 

DIVING AT THE WRECK:

Ghiannis D1Once she struck the reef and sank, she was declared unsalvageable. She remained on the reef for six weeks during which time her structure was badly damaged and eventually she broke into two and sank. The bow section remained a bit longer and then it also sank. Now she is found in three separate parts on the seafloor.

It is a very photogenic wreck and a relatively easy dive. It is best to start the dive at the stern section as this is the deepest part of the wreck at 23-34m, and move on upward from there. This part of the wreck lies on her portside and you can see the starboard screw and its blades that had been twisted by the power of the collision. The great anchor chain is coiled on the reef.

There is still a ladder on the starboard side and below is the propeller partially buried in the sand. Above is visible the huge funnel with the famous “D” on it. Access into the engine room is easy and provides some excitement deep into the heart of the ship. It teems with tiny glassfish. The bridge section is large and wide open with plenty of light. Here can be found the command bridge and the residential quarters as well to be discovered.

In the midsection where the ship broke into two there are still some rotted remains of the cargo of softwood she was carrying. Large groupers are the usual residents here along with snappers, jackfish, eagle rays and even sharks. This section of the wreck is abundant in parrotfish.

The bow section rests on its port side with the decks facing away from the reef and the main mast lies parallel to the sand now without touching the ground. Hard and soft corals colonise this part of the wreck and lots of reef fish make it their home. A large Napoleon wrasse is often seen around here.