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The Red Sea | Northern Egypt | Southern Egypt | The Sudan
 
The Sudanese Red Sea
 

Truly one of diving’s Holy Grails, The Sudan has always been fraught with travel problems. Recently, however, things have improved and flights appear to work on schedule (famous last words!) and with this in mind we are delighted to be able to offer the live-aboard Royal Emperor in these fabled waters. A 29m all steel boat with accommodation for just 16 passengers 8 spacious en suite cabins, each with individually controllable air-conditioning, Royal Emperor is the kind of boat that The Sudan deserves! Her air-conditioned saloon/dining room has a fully stocked bar, TV & video. Her sundeck has both shaded and open areas for you to relax between dives, and a gas BBQ for al fresco dining.

The dive deck has a powerful Nitrox compressor, and O2 can be pumped to 200 bar. The water level dive platform offers easy entry and exit, though ordinarily diving is done from the two twin-engined RIBs.

Royal Emperor offers two weekly cruise itineraries. Sudan Discovery departing from Port Sudan and visiting Wingate Reef to dive the Umbria, Sanganeb Reef, Sha’ab Rumi (site of Cousteau’s Conshelf experiment) ands Sha’ab Su’adi; Sudan Expedition diving the aforementioned reefs as well as Angarosh, Abington, Merlo and Ma’Sharriff.

Wingate Reef lies only half an hour from Port Sudan, and is location of the finest wreck in the red Sea, the 500ft Italian freighter Umbria. Scuttled by her own crew in 1940 to avoid capture by the British, and lying in 15-130ft of water on her port side, her superstructure has collapsed over time and lies in pieces on the sea floor next to her hull. Her cargo consisted of some 350,000 shells that sit in huge, neatly stacked assemblages in her holds. You can also see tyres, 3 Fiat 1100 Lunga automobiles and hundreds of wine bottles. Her starboard propeller sits proud of the reef and offers fabulous photo opportunities in 60ft of water. The whole ship is covered in soft and hard corals, and is home to a myriad of fish. Spanish Dancers, crustaceans and octopuses are often seen at night. Umbria is an essential part of a Sudanese dive cruise, and despite being so close to Port Sudan is still in remarkably good condition for a wreck of such age.

90 minutes by boat north of Wingate Reef is Sanganeb Reef, one of the most famous reefs in The Sudan. A 200ft British built lighthouse, built on a concrete base in the middle of the lagoon, acts as a handy beacon for the Royal Emperor to home in on the reef that surrounds this rugged little outcrop in the middle of the ocean; a 288 step “stroll” up the lighthouse offers commanding views of the reef laid out below. Except for a small area to the south-west of the island, the reef almost sheer into 2500ft of brilliant blue sea. Here on soft coral encrusted walls can be found many varieties of sharks, including hammerheads, silkies and oceanic white tips. Mantas and eagle rays are also commonly sighted. Swim-throughs and caves filled with glassfish cut deep into the reef walls. The SW plateau is the cherry on the cake that is Sanganeb. On average about 60ft deep, it is dotted with stunning coral heads bedecked with soft corals, sea fans and shimmering schools of anthias, basslets and other small tropicals. Here too can be found huge aggregations of barracuda, jacks, snapper and bass. The clear, shallow waters make for endless photographic opportunities. Between dives you can enjoy a snorkel with the friendly pod of dolphins that often frequent the island. Sanganeb is worthy of at least 2 days worth of diving because, despite it’s relatively small size, the sheer brilliance of the underwater spectacle makes it hard to beat anywhere in the Red Sea!

Sha’ab Rumi, some 25 miles to the north of Port Sudan, would be a worthy title holder for most famous dive site in the Red Sea. It was here in 1963 that Jacques Cousteau built his Conshelf II underwater living experiment; divers were to “live” under water for extended periods of time to study the effects of such activity and to see whether long term underwater habitation was at all possible. While Sha’ab Rumi reef is itself a vast and largely unexplored reef, the area where Conshelf is situated is relatively small; a plateau in about 25ft of water with a small wall up to the shallows on one side and a deep wall to the ocean side, slipping into the depths. There are 5 main structures to be found at Conshelf. 2 small shark cages at about 100ft on the outer wall, a large shark structure on the edge of the main wall, an equipment shed (now of little interest!) and the main “garage” that was built for the Soucoupe Plongeante, a flying saucer like underwater sledge that was to be used to travel larger distances underwater than was possible with conventional fins. Resembling a large garlic bulb on 3 legs, the structure is now dotted with hard corals and home to numerous fish. As a “wreck” it is of only minor interest – it is the history behind it that makes this place so special! Along the wall you can expect to see the usual host of reef dwellers and pelagics. A visit to Sha’ab Rumi would not be complete without a dive at South point, the most southerly tip of the reef; here a plateau at 60ft is covered in a mind boggling array of soft corals and sea whips, leading to a sheer wall that plays host to hammerhead sharks. Strong currents sweeping over the reef flat make this a challenging and advanced dive.

15 mile to the north of Sha’ab Rumi lies Sha’ab Su’adi reef, and the wreck of the Blue Bell (or Blue Belt, as some call it!). A cargo ship that missed its passage through the winding reef systems along the coast of Sudan, the Blue Bell hit Sha’ab Sa’udi reef in December 1977 and now lies upside down and at right angles to the reef, her bow in 60ft of water and her stern in more than 230ft. A dip in the reef allows you to swim underneath her hull from one side to the next and admire the remains of her superstructure, now coated in delicate soft corals. In the shallows near her bow, and down towards her bridge, can be found numerous cars, trucks and other vehicles, part of her (allegedly illegal!) cargo of Toyota automobiles. They make for excellent photo opportunities, as they are compact in size.

Further north still from Sha’ab Su’adi can be found Abington, Angarosh, Merlo and Ma'Sharriff Reefs. These reefs predominantly offer wall dives, covered in soft corals, sea fans and whips. Schooling barracuda, jacks and tuna, plus many species of shark can also bee spotted. Angarosh and Ma'Sharriff both offer excellent chances of spotting manta rays, particularly between March and May. Merlo Reef is the location of the wreck of the live-aboard Freedom, that sank in 1999 due to poor navigation on the part of the skipper. Whoops! Almost anything of value was stripped from the boat by local fisherman, but it is slowly becoming encrusted with corals and will undoubtedly make a pretty and interesting wreck dive in time! These reefs are largely unexplored, and new dive sites will be opened up in time.

The Sudan offers huge opportunities for divers looking for that spirit of adventure. The reefs to the south of Port Sudan have largely been ignored by divers, and even the more popular sites to the north still hold many secrets. Royal Emperor is the perfect platform from which to explore these amazing reefs, and she is without a doubt the best live-aboard in The Sudan!


 
 

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