Six flew directly from Gatwick to Sharm El Sheik from MSAC on Sunday 4th Sept and another joined us from Berlin arriving later the same night. Steve R organised the trip, which was postponed from 2020 twice, joined by Hugh, Jamie, James, Pete, Mike W and Sue (joining us from Berlin). Our live-aboard boat for a week was ‘Whirlwind’, part of the Tornado Fleet and booked through Scuba Travel. The trip was called ‘Northern Red Sea Wrecks and Reefs’. A late night arrival was followed by de-kitting suitcases to dive positions then dinner before bed.
Our checkout dive at ‘The Temple’ saw us arrayed in 3mm full length wetsuits, 3mm shorty wetsuits, some in T-shirts and swimmer shorts. It was ‘only’ 28°C to 30°C for the whole week!
The Red Sea requires about 1Kg extra on weight belts due to the extra saltiness of the sea water. That resulted in some lightweights, some heavyweights and Jamie preaching about the dangers of being overweighted…. (which everyone ignored). That was before breakfast!
After food we set off south, arriving at Jackfish Alley at the tip of Ras Mohamed just after lunch. Both gentle dives so far and part of acclimatisation. However to those who had not been to the Red Sea before we were already scoring high marks out of 10 for the diversity of fish and reef life. An overnight anchoring at nearby Beacon Rock to do a night dive required strong torches. The day life disappears into the reef corals and the predatory night hunters come out, like Lion Fish, Octopus and large Trevally, some of these hunted via our diver’s torchlight . This was dare-devil territory for the un-initiated but good fun and exciting for all.
After a very early boat relocation we had a 6am wake-up call and a 6.30am dive briefing at a wreck called the Dunraven.
A classic wreck of this area lying on the Shab Mahmoud reef at a maximum depth of 30M….. but it was upside down after it sunk in 1876. Should the Captain have looked where he was going?
Then a further move to the Abu Nuhas reef, the site of no less than 4 famous wrecks to be explored thanks to these careless Captains (or was it insurance claims?)
We dived the Chrisoula-K first; sunk in 1981 carrying a cargo of ceramic Tiles. It is sometimes called the Tile Wreck or The Marcus lying up the reef at max 27M.
A nice wreck with swim throughs of the holds with guess what… millions of tiles
After lunch the dive was The Ghiannis-D, I suffer a camera failure however thanks to the dive guides support I have a full record. Sank in 1983, Max depth 30M.
A photographers delight and very entertaining with a long coral encrusted promontory mast on the Port side. On most of these wrecks we were picked up on Zodiac RIBs
There was also a night dive on the reef here and an overnight mooring
Some lovely swimthroughs at the stern with glass fish (and ambushing Lionfishes). Then a long swim to the bow with more glass fish and wine bottles. However the long swim bit across the middle was entertained by a huge grouper that insisted in greeting everyone in turn. I suspect previous divers had fed it and it was investigating the probability of a free meal
Weds 7th Sept
The first dive today was on the Carnatic which perhaps was the loveliest, lying on its port side since 1869 with a max depth of 26M. It was rumoured that gold coins were aboard.
We sailed to Gubal Island
We were first to dive The Barge. Well broken but so much life including huge Moray Eels.
The second dive was a drift the other way to Bluff point. The return current was so strong so we were picked up on the Zodiac RIBs. However beware of the huge Fire Coral beds.
Then we relocated to the Shab Ali reef where the mighty Thistlegorm rests and after a good briefing we went on a night dive to the outer surfaces of this iconic wreck, There were rays, crocodile fish and with the aid of good torches we could see into the holds with motorbikes and jeeps…… but we were told no deep penetration tonight. Then dinner and overnight mooring here as we had a good location almost directly over it. Roll on tomorrow!
Today had a tad rougher seas with stronger winds. We had to grapple alongside of Whirlwind by a rope connecter to the main descent shot line A. It’s still one of the best wreck dives in the Red Sea so well worth it. I’d dived it 11 times before and would again.
This time we navigated the centre and stern of the wreck. Some went off to see the railway engine on the port side. There were upturned army tanks and scattered ammunition. Then, to the stern to see the huge props half buried in the sand. Alas time runs out (and gas !) so back up shot line A.
After breakfast we returned but down shotline B. Those suitable qualified were going inside the holds. There were 3 levels but the middle one was only a metre and a half deep so somewhat narrow. Here we found all the interesting items in the photos below, eventually arriving at the bow to do our Titanic impersonation.
No one went into deco during the whole tour but we always managed 45 mins to one hour dives thanks to most of us using Nitrox 32%.
Following lunch, our 4th and final afternoon dive was via shotline C but we could do whatever route we wanted. Most did a whistle stop tour of the whole ship eventually coming up via shotline B. These are truly memorable dives. It was time to move on and we relocated to nearby Beacon Rock to dive and moor up overnight.
Back to Ras Mohamed for our first dive of the day at Shark Reef and the wreck of the Yolanda. This is renowned for its cargo of bathroom ceramics which was shed as it sunk. Of course everyone has to sit on a toilet seat for a photo pose.
Then off again even further north to the Tiran Straits stopping at Thomas Reef (one of my favourites) and later Gordon Reef. These were lovely reefs with so many different fishes and corals. We did our night dive here at Gordon Reef but in shallower water.
Before breakfast, first day’s dive was at nearby Jackson reef. A lovely reef with so many different fishes, corals, shoals of Banner Fish and a close up Turtle. First we dived the south side and after breakfast the north side. Lots of Anemone and Clown fish.
(but there’s a twist in the tale but you’ll have to wait for that…)
Later, that afternoon we sailed to Ras Ghozlani reef in Ras Mohamed which was our last dive. Pleasant but not as spectacular as some.
Then it was a fast ride back to Sharm El Sheik Port, our mooring for the night. While we washed our kit free of salt water and hung it out to dry the crew were turning the vessel round and getting new supplies on board for the next trip.
Of course we also had a few beers to celebrate.
Now, on purpose I have not given the history of the wrecks we visited. This is for you if you want to research it. There is lots of information on the Internet.
Up early as usual and packed our kit away. Breakfast and then at 9.30am our coach arrives to take us to what we were told was a good hotel but not that it was a 5 Star All Inclusive one. And it was very good! We had a lunch voucher before our airport transfer later that evening.
Now here’s the twist in the tail. When we arrived we were told our flight was cancelled. But not to worry, TUI told us to enjoy the hotel for all meals and to sleep here tonight and more details would be given tomorrow. So, we enjoyed the food, facilities, the pools and it turned out to be good all-inclusive time that evening without us having to spend even an Egyptian Pound.
The next day we were picked up after lunch and the TUI flight was earlier than the day before getting us back to Gatwick at a reasonable time to share cars and get home
Rating this live-aboard holiday we said it was a bit of a ‘tired old ship’ but the itinerary was brilliant and the guides excellent. 22 dives were possible and what are we doing next year.
Watch this space…..