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Dive trip report, Amorina, Red Sea, Sudan

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Boat      : Amorina
Dates     : 30:Th of June to 16:Th July 1998
Dives     : 44

Masked Butterfly fish (27721 bytes)I took this trip because it was going to Sudan and all I have read so far about Sudan and scuba diving has been very good, people like Hans Hass and Cousteau who 'discovered' the Red Sea knew what they where talking about when they said Sudan was the best part of the Red Sea, I agree with them!

The reefs in Sudan where better than Egypt's in the 50's and 60's according to Cousteau and the mass tourism in Egypt has not improved the reefs in Egypt since then, but Sudan have had very little diving tourism so the reefs and the fishes living on them are much better preserved than Egypt's.

There are not many liveaboards that sail in Sudan, there is one from Sweden called Amorina that have a few trips there every year and I had been in Egypt with that boat before so I decided that I would take it. I know that there are some Italian boats that sail in Sudan but as far as I know not many other boats. We only saw 1 other diveboat on the whole trip in Sudan and that was in Port Sudan, we where alone at all reefs all the time, in Egypt we had 2 - 5 other boats on the same reef we where diving at, maybe not diving at the same time as us and maybe dropping divers on a different spot but they where always there.

Grey reef shark at SanganebAmorina was not handled as good as last time. That was due to a number of reasons, the captain ( bad communication with the passengers ), Sudan is not the normal area for Amorina so they don't know which reefs to dive and where on those reefs to drop the divers, much of the crew was very new on the boat, this time there where about 25 divers on the boat not 13 as last time, the diving was not handled as good if this was due to more passengers or new crew or other dive master I don't know but last time I felt more safe diving and I knew that someone was making sure that I was out of the water, this time that didn't work as well.

This time we had only 1 non dive day, due to the long distance from Egypt to Sudan we had to fill up more fuel and water in Port Sudan ( it was a 17 day cruise ), we did have one extra day in Port Sudan due to the fact that our captain ( the least experienced diver on the boat ) got the bends due to some VERY stupid diving, we used that extra day to dive many times on Umbria and Wingate reef ( no excuse or explanation was ever given by the captain, and yes he is OK with no visible harm done to him, he did run the ship just 3 or 4 days after his accident ). On this trip we started at Hurughada, that is because Amorina normally does trips in the Egyptian parts of the Red sea and also Sudan is not such a safe country to travel in. We dived our way down into Sudan and then back up into Egypt again.Map of sivesites in Sudan (5263 bytes)

DIVING

We did all the famous dive sites in Sudan, Conshelf/Precontinent II, Sanganeb, Umbria, Shab Rumi, Abington, Angarosh and more, we did not dive South Suakin, we where supposed to but not allowed because Eritrea had recently taken back some of the islands there. My favourite dive sight is Sanganeb, we did 5 day dives and 1 night dive there and on ALL day dives we saw 3-5 Gray reef sharks circling on the south east tip of the south plateau, I have never seen sharks behave like that, we where 20++ divers at a space of 30x30 meters (100x100 feet) and we stayed there for 25-30 minutes each dive (23-27meters, 70-90 feet deep) and the sharks didn't go away. At least one diver from the boat saw scalloped hammer head out deeper in the blue water at every dive ( I did on 2 dives, have 1 really bad picture of one!! ). I have seen films of shark feedings and these sharks came almost as close but they where not in a feeding frenzy, it was a fantastic experience! 

All dive sites ( except Wingate reef see below ) was in very good shape, it depend much on luck and time of day which is considered best, all have the potential for mantas, gray reef sharks, eagle rays, turtles and all have lots and lots of smaller reef fish and lots of nice hard and soft corals. I saw manta rays 2 times ( and had one, 1 meter ( 3 feet ) from me that I never saw, tunnel vision!!!! ) and many of the other divers saw many more mantas than I did. The diving is more drop-off and wall than coral gardens and sandy patches that is more common in Egypt. Many of the good reefs are pinnacles with depths of 300 meters ( 900 feet ) or much more. This make big fish more common, we saw many schools of jacks and barracudas. The visibility was not as good as in Egypt, sometimes as 'low' as 10-15 meters ( 45-60 feet ) but normally 20-25. The visibility was said to be better earlier in the year.

Jacks at Abington (14028 bytes)We saw all the common reef fishes from Egypt, blue spotted sting ray, red tooth trigger fish, titan trigger fish, white tipped reef sharks, masked butterfly fish, two banded anmonfish, but I think that all fishes where larger and they had more of them in Sudan than what you seen in Egypt. I only saw one destroyed reef, Wingate reef in port Sudan, I did one dive there because I wanted to dive reefs instead of diving the wreck of Umbria for the forth time.

Talking of wrecks, I guess I should mention Umbria a bit more for you wreck lovers. It is a very nice wreck to dive, said to be the best recreational wreck in the world, but so is Thistlegorm and many others. It is nice dive with lots of relatively easy penetration. The wreck is very well preserved and shallow. All my dives was between 10 and 20 meters ( 30 and 60 feet ) expect for 1 dip down under the wreck and to see the propeller at 26 meters ( 78 feet ). I think it is a better wreck than Thistlegorm, definately less destroyed. It is not as big but still large enough for multiple dives. Blue bell is a much more advanced wreck to dive, the only way to penetrate it starts at 35 meters ( 105 feet ) and it goes down to 80 meters ( 240 feet ) or so, but it has some Toyota trucks spread out on the coral at 25 meters ( 75 feet ) and up for us non nitrogen addicts, it is not a wreck I would dive again with all the nice coral near by and not a wreck I would recomend to anyone to penetrate unless using trimix..

Blackspotted Sweetlips at Shab Rumi (15333 bytes)The temperature in the water was very high, the lowest temperature in Sudan was 27 degrees centigrade (81F) ( 24C (75F) in Egypt).  The surface water temperature was sometimes as high as 38C (100F) I didn't use a wet suit in Sudan and most passengers stopped using theirs also.  The air temperature was also high, 35C (95 F) or more, highest in Port Sudan which had 48C (118 F)!! in the shade and 64C (147F) in the sun, phew.

Recommendation:

If you want the best in diving go to Sudan. Amorina could have been handled better but I will try to go again next year on her! 

Highlights:

Diving with gray reef sharks at Sanganeb, first manta, first eagle ray, first Oceanic white tipped shark at Elphin stone, many good photo opportunities.

Map of divesites in egypt (4447 bytes)Disappointments:

Bad organisation on boat, see above.

Related links:

More of my underwater pictures from Sudan
Amorina home page
Other tripreports from Sudan

Dive sites visited:

In Egypt going to Sudan: Shab Shear,Shab Sharm, Shaab Mansur.

In Sudan: Elba reef *3, Pfeiffer Reef *2, Abington Reef *2, Angarosh, Shaab Rumi south tip *2 !, Wreck of Umbria *3, Wingate reef, Sanganeb *6 !!, Hindigidir *2, Barra Hūsa Qebir *2, Protector Reef, Shab Anbar, Shab Rumi East Conshelf 2(Precontinent 2), Wreck of Blue Bell, Qita El Banna !, Shaab Abu Fendera *2.

In Egypt on the way back: Caves ( Fury shoal ) *3, Elphin Stone *3 !, Abu Kafan, Middle Reef, Panoram, Seven Towers. 

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