Early June saw a strong contingent of Swanwick Divers travel to Egypt on a joint trip with Old Harbour Dive Centre, Weymouth, to dive the world famous wrecks and reefs of the northern Red Sea.
After a long 5 hour flight from Gatwick to Hurghada, with dive bags all safely collected, we arrived at our home for the week, the liveaboard vessel Whirlwind. Safety briefing, qualification checks and kit set up, followed by dinner and a few beers saw us all hit the bunks early, all of us eagerly anticipating the diving in the week ahead.
After a good breakfast, we sailed to Sha’ab El-Erg, also known as Dolphin House, for a check dive on the reef. The clear visibility (20m+) and warm waters (250C +) were a refreshing change from the temperate waters of the UK as we enjoyed a nice shallow dive on the reef, making sure our equipment was functioning as it should.
After the dive, Whirlwind took us to the island of Abu Nuhas, where we would moor up till the next day. Our 2nd dive of the trip was on the Carnatic, one of the oldest wrecks of the Red Sea and famous for its beautiful school of glass fish inside the bow section of the wreck. This was followed by a night dive on the local reef to end the first day of diving.
A 5am wake up (which is a regular occurrence throughout the week), saw us make our first dive of the day on the Chrisoula-K (the tile wreck) before breakfast. Its abundant cargo of granite tiles made it an interesting wreck dive. The second dive was on the Giannis-D, with its iconic superstructure and mind boggling penetration through the listing hull made it one of the more challenging dives of the week.
Post lunch saw us travel to a nearby island, where we dived the wreck of the Ulysses, followed by a night dive on The Barge. An abundance of marine life, including rays, eels, hard and soft corals and many species of fish made it one of the highlights of the week.
Another early wake up and briefing saw us all jump in the water to dive the Rosalie Moller, the sister ship of the SS Thistlegorm. The wreck itself rested upright at 50m on the silty seabed, with the deck level at 35m. Despite the relatively ‘poorer’ vis (still > 10m+), an enjoyable yet challenging dive was had by all divers.
After breakfast we travelled north to the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, and dived Shark and Yolanda Reef at the Ras Mohammed National Marine Park. Though we saw no sharks on the reef, it was nice to see the abundance of marine life that thrived in the area. The mass of ceramic toilets from the Yolanda wreck was an interesting feature on this dive.
With everyone back on board followed by lunch, we sailed to the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba, just off the coast of Sharm El Sheikh, and moored up off Tiran Island. Here we completed our days diving on Thomas Reef, and a night dive on Gordon Reef.
Staying at Tiran Island, we completed two dives on Jackson Reef and Woodhouse reef respectively. We then sailed southwest just past Sharm El Sheikh port, where we dived one of the least known wreck sites of the Red Sea. These were a series of Bren Carriers left by the Israeli military during the Arab-Israel conflict in the 1950s. They now rest at depths ranging from 35m to 5m near a cliff face.
After this interesting dive we sailed up the Strait of Gubal and moored up at Beacon Rock to complete a night dive, accompanied by its vast abundance of eels, stonefish and lion fish on the hunt. An early night was had by all in much anticipation of diving a world famous wreck the following day…….
After an early morning dive on the Kingstone wreck, we sailed to Sha’ab Ali to dive the ‘big one’, the SS Thistlegorm!
The captain of the Whirlwind expertly manoeuvred the vessel to get us the best possible position on top of the wreck to ease our ascent and descent from our dives. A thorough dive briefing from the dive guides followed, including the history and layout of the wreck, as well as the best routes to follow.
We dived the Thistlegorm three times today. The first dive was around the outside of the wreck, second dive was a penetration through the holds, and lastly a night dive. With so much to see, it is no surprise that this is one of the best wreck dives in the world, and is on every divers bucket list.
On our last day of diving, we completed a final early morning dive on the Thistlegorm. It was a great privilege to have the entire wreck to ourselves so we could explore every last part of it and marvel in its greatness one last time.
Our final dive of the trip was back where it all started, at Sha’ab El-Erg, where a nice relaxing dive was had by all to complete a fantastic week of diving.
Many thanks to the wonderful crew and captain of the Whirlwind, and the amazing guides who gave us the best briefings, and also everyone from Swanwick Divers and Old Harbour Dive Centre for making it such a special week. Looking forward to the next one!
James is one of our dive managers. He is a PADI Divemaster and IANTD Advanced Recreational Trimix diver. He has dived all over the world, including the Philippines, Hong Kong, the Maldives and the Red Sea, but is very much at home in the temperate waters of the UK, whether it’s a dive on a shallow reef or a deep wreck.